The cast and producers of FX Network’s The Strain appeared for press roundtable discussions on Sunday at Comic-Con International in San Diego. Series creators Chuck Hogan, Carlton Cuse and Guillermo del Toro provided insight into the origin of the show while the cast discussed their respective roles.
Cast on hand included Corey Stoll (House of Cards), Mia Maestro (Frida), David Bradley (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban), Jack Kesy (Morgan), Sean Astin (The Lord of the Rings), Richard Sammel (Inglorious Basterds), Kevin Durand (Lost), Natalie Brown (Dawn of the Dead) and Ben Hyland (House of Cards).
The series follows the mysterious outbreak of a vampiric plague in New York City. Del Toro wrote the book with Hogan. “I’ve been collection vampire lore since I was a teenager,” del Toro said. “I have read an obscene amount of books about vampire lore and mythology. Sad as it may be, I can have an educated discussion on the vampires of India, Asia, America, Europe, Eastern Europe, Western Europe.”
Del Toro also fostered an obsession with biology. “I design my monsters normally from the inside out,” del Toro said. “I’ve been obsessed about biology since I was a kid,” he continued, describing himself one of the world’s youngest hypochondriacs.
The vampires in the series, complete with their long, stinger-like suckers, are based on the biology of mosquitoes. “In creating these vampires, some of my notes over the years made it to Cronos, my first movie, some of them made it to Blade II, which was made in America,” he continued, “and most of my notes made it to the novel which I co-wrote with Chuck Hogan.” These monsters are detailed down to their lack of genitals. “They lose their sexual organs and a new thing forms … called a cloaca,” he said. “Lower forms of organisms dispose of urine and feces through the same opening.”
“I want you to see them (the vampires) and understand very quick that they’re not there to take you on a journey of self-discovery, or sexual awakening. They’re going to drain you and kill you,” del Toro said. “My rationale is this: When you finish your Diet Coke, what do you do? You crush it.”
Del Toro’s vision of the monsters remained roughly the same from the novels to the screen. But Cuse promises that other key elements of the story will deviate from the novels.
“You can’t count on the book to be a literal guide to the series,” Cuse said. “It’s called an adaptation because you’re really trying to remake it.” He elaborated that both the characters Thomas Eichorst (Samell) and Jim Kent (Astin) are radically changed from the novels.
The novel’s co-writer, Hogan, said viewers can expect changes from the page to the screen. The writing staff, he said, “chewed up a lot of the first book in the pilot, so we had to get really creative, especially downwind.” Neither he nor del Toro attempted to protect the sanctity of the books. Hogan, however, did clarify that they hope to shoot five seasons of the show and use the books as the basis for them. “The end is the same. I just think that’s a good plan, you have to have something to write to,” he said.
Both cast and writers see an advantage in a limited series. “It does have a distinct beginning, middle and an end,” Stoll said. He also said that it’s an “adventure story as much as a horror story.”
Viewers can expect to see Stoll, as Centers for Disease Control investigator Ephraim Goodweather, get beaten repeatedly. “It’s such a sorrowful and sad story,” he said. “He is used to winning, and he’s just starting to lose.” Goodweather’s misfortune extends beyond poor luck with vampires and goes to his family and career.
Goodweather receives some guidance from the mysterious Abraham Setrakian, a pawnshop owner with a mysterious past. Setrakian will recruit Goodweather and his coworkers in the fight against the vampires. But “he isn’t an angel,” Bradley said of his character.
Setrakian will face his old nemesis, Thomas Eichorst, played by Sammel. And the two engage in the “epic and classic fight between good and bad,” Sammel said. About the struggle between the vampires and humans, Sammel said “it’s the Cold War, the Berlin Wall.” Both Setrakian and Eichorst believe their side of the fight is the right one, that they deserve to win. For Eichorst, the vampires have waited long enough to claim their throne.
Stoll and Hogan agreed that the battle becomes explosive in Episode 8, which takes place in a convenience store. tI was originally written to be a contained, “bottle” episode, but it soon blossomed into a series of street fights. “It’s like it’s own mini-action movie,” Stoll said.
The Strain airs Sundays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on FX.