What the 'Dark Tower' TV Series Needs for Its Young Roland

Idris Elba's version of the character is "basically a guy with PTSD," while in the past he had "this innocence and freshness," says film director Nikolaj Arcel.
Roy Rochlin/Getty Images (Arcel); Courtesy of Universal Pictures (Elba)
Idris Elba's version of the character is "basically a guy with PTSD," while in the past he had "this innocence and freshness," says film director Nikolaj Arcel.

What's more intimidating than stepping into the shoes of an iconic character? How about stepping into the shoes of an iconic character that Idris Elba has already shown quite a knack for?

That's the task that will face a young actor who will play the Gunslinger Roland Deschain in a planned Dark Tower TV series. The Walking Dead's Glen Mazzara has been tapped as showrunner, and the series will follow the adventures of Roland as a young man, in the days back before Mid-World moved on and the Gunslingers fell. The show is the next step in a planned sprawling universe launching with this weekend's movie based on the Stephen King novels, one in which the TV series and movie universes would largely operate separately

The Dark Tower director Nikolaj Arcel, who has been involved with how the franchise would move forward on TV, but is not officially attached to the small-screen effort, has a few ideas for what qualities he'd like to see in the actor portraying a young Roland.

"The cool thing about young Roland in the TV show and in the novels, The Wizard and Glass and parts of The Gunslinger, is that Roland is very different when he's older because he's gone through a hell of a lot of things. He's been traumatized. Basically he's a guy with PTSD," Arcel tells Heat Vision. "He still has this innocence and freshness and is hopeful that his life will turn out to be happy and fun and nice and he will be with his friends and his father will protect him."

The 1997 novel features Roland finally telling his ka-tet (his group of fellow travelers on the road to the Dark Tower) a tragic, formative tale of his youth, with most of the novel taking place as a flashback. It tells how at 14, Roland has been named the youngest Gunslinger in history, and is sent on a journey with his two closest friends. He ends up falling in love with Susan Delgado — and it's not a spoiler to say that by the time we see Roland in The Dark Tower film, none of these people are around anymore. 

"When we show Roland in his youth, he won't be like Idris Elba is now. Idris is playing a man who has lost everything and everybody is dead. He's alone. He's the only gunslinger in the world," says Arcel. "When we meet him when he was young, there were a lot of gunslingers. It was like Knights of the Roundtable."

Elba is slated to appear in the show as Roland, with Dennis Haysbert (Roland's father, Steven Deschain) and young Tom Taylor (Jake Chambers) also on the docket.

"He had a community, he had friends, he had parents," Arcel says of the young Roland. "Obviously a lot of bad things happened in his youth, but it's a different Roland at least when the series begins."

Check out more of our chat with Arcel here.