“The Strain” certainly contains no shortage of pressure, and CDC leader Ephraim “Eph” Goodweather — played by Corey Stoll, recently seen on the big screen as the villainous Darren Cross in “Ant-Man” — is beginning to crack under it.
The vampire epidemic spreading through New York City — the center concept of “The Strain,” created by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan and executive produced by Carlton Cuse — has claimed his loved ones and friends, and as a result, Eph has turned to excessive drinking in order to cope with the disturbing events. Yet with the vampire threat beginning to expand outside the Big Apple, Eph’s rag-tag team of survivors need him now more than ever.
Earlier this year on the Toronto set of FX’s supernatural thriller, currently in the midst of its second season, Stoll sat down with reporters including SPINOFF Online to discuss Eph’s alcohol consumption, bioweapons and his undead ex-wife, Kelly (played by Natalie Brown).
Several people have made reference to how much Ephraim is drinking this season. How bad is he?
Corey Stoll: You know, he can hold his liquor really well, but he’s drinking a lot. And it’s medicinal. But it’s fun because I think one thing that I, when I was able to see the first season all cut together, I could see how it’s hard not to fall into a very sort of somber mode where the stakes are high and all the awful things that happen to my character. It’s actually sort of nice to have a device that enables me to have some distance and to have a little bit more of a sense of humor in the midst of all this craziness.
So he’s a funny drunk.
Yeah. He’s a happy drunk.
How does his drinking affect his relationship with his son (Zach, played by Max Charles in season two)?
He’s a terrible dad. He is really trying and this is something that’s been part of his character from the pilot — that he’s very quick to make promises that he can’t uphold. So he’s continuing in that, and finally, towards the end of the season, Zach is getting hip to that and sort of calls him on it, That’s been a fun sort of change to the dynamic with Zach, is that it’s becoming much more adversarial and not quite so lovey-dovey.
Well, we know that you’re developing this bioweapon to use against the vampires. Is Eph’s mission to wipe them out in order to stop the plague, or is it more of a mission of vengeance?
It’s to stop the plague. Obviously he has very personal feeling towards The Master, the strigoi conspiracy, and Palmer, but in the end he does feel that it’s his responsibility that he didn’t stop the plague before it happened. And that is his driving force.
As he’s working on the weapon, how effective is he able to be with the drinking? Is he being trusted by the team?
I think he’s not an obvious leader when he’s drinking. And the team is a lot less sort of cohesive than it was. It seemed like in the last season, once episode eight came around and the gas station, it was sort of like we’re a team. And now it’s sort of splintered again. You know we come together, and we go off, but I’m not the leader that I was sort of sold as being at the very beginning, and I’ve definitely lost a lot of people’s trust.
The first season definitely seemed to have a clear division between good and evil. Is it the same in Season 2 or is there some grey area with what some of the characters go through on either side?
Yeah, definitely. I mean, right off the bat, in the first few episodes of this season, Nora and myself are doing very questionable things in the goal of creating this bioweapon. We’re definitely not following the Hippocratic Oath.
Was there ever an issue with resources? Do they struggle to get weaponry?
That happens very early in the season and we come across Setrakian’s motherlode cache of weapons, so very quickly weapons is not a problem, at least hand-to-hand combat. But definitely getting the supplies to make this bioweapon is a huge part of the season — both the supplies and the sort of tactical support and governmental support to implement them.
Would you say his relationship with Nora becomes more emotionally connected? They definitely connected in Season 1, but has that changed or does it kind of stay the course?
It goes all over the map. There was a lot more politeness in the first season, if you can believe that. Everybody’s just a little afraid and, for me, yeah, she really gets a great chance to show her strength and that she’s not just going to be pushed around. She definitely pushes back pretty hard.
What has this whole thing done to his sort of scientific belief system? Last year, Eph wouldn’t say “vampires” for almost the entire season. Now that he has to accept all this stuff that was outside of his purview before, what does that mean for him as a man of science?
He has sort of selective blindness in terms of that. He still very much thinks of himself as a man of science and he happens to have opened up the boundaries of what’s possible. In his worldview, he assumes there are scientific answers for them and they just don’t have them yet. The great thing about playing the character, too, is that he’s so forward-moving. He’s all about solutions. So he understand there’s a lot of things he doesn’t understand, but he can just sort of put those things aside and focus on what he does.
Is he still holding out hope that there could be a cure for Kelly at this point?
I mean I think…. No. He believes that it is a terminal condition and so the only way to stop the spread is to kill all the strigoi. And a lot of the back-and-forth tension between Zach and Eph is about getting Zach to understand that she’s gone, and to really accept that. And it takes a while. He’s really stubborn.
Does The Master see you or Abraham more as the threat to contend with right now?
I think Abraham, definitely. It seems that my relationship throughout the season with The Master is much more about Kelly. There’s a lot in this season about The Master choosing different strigoi to give more sentience or power to, and for whatever reason he’s chosen Kelly. Maybe because I am a threat. But she seems a lot more sort of self-empowered in that sense, and so the stuff between Kelly and myself and Zach seems to be much more about the family unit.
“The Silver Angel,” episode four of “The Strain” season two, airs 10 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 2 on FX.
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