The FX original series The Strain was the most watched new cable show of 2014. Tonight, the series returns with its highly anticipated season two premiere. Nerdist visited the set of the hit show and sat down with series co-creator Guillermo del Toro and showrunner Carlton Cuse. The two previewed some exciting bits about the new episodes including the path to the apocalypse, the differences that fans can expect from the books to the series and why they like their vampires gnarly.
While on set, it’s very clear that del Toro, genre master and busiest guy in Hollywood, is involved in the show even if he isn’t behind the camera directing full episodes. He did tease one of two small pieces of the series that he did direct this season, the first of which will be featured in the premiere airing tonight. “…it’s a brief prologue,” he revealed. “It’s about nine minutes and it’s just the origin of the master. We were going to shoot it as part of the pilot originally, but we found that the pilot was already heavy – we were 70-something minutes, and we said ‘Let’s save it for season 2’.” The director continued, explaining, “There is a very important moment of transfer of the master to a new body, and we see the body that he was before Sardu. This season, as anybody that read the books knows, he changes bodies again. So we need to see how he does it. And how he does it is not very pleasant. [Laughs] It’s really disgusting how he does it. We call it the worm transfer, so go figure it out.”
The Strain is, of course, based on the successful trilogy of novels penned by del Toro and Chuck Hogan. And while season one was mostly faithful to the source material, season two definitely strays from the novels, something that del Toro was well aware of from the start. “We agreed from the beginning that we would try to hit the big notes,” he explained. “But if you do a change that you think is good that ripples through, then you ripple it through. As long as they’re working, the episodes, and Carlton is happy with the development of that I think it’s an organic process.”
Cuse elaborated, saying, “I would say somewhere around 80% of the creative material in the show this season is invented. It follows the spine of the book but what I think is great there’s two very different experiences: you can read the books, which are one wonderful storytelling experience, and then the adaptation into the show is a different one. We have lots of different storylines, different characters, lots of stuff that we’ve added, rearranged, invented and I think that’s given us the ability to make the show last five seasons.”
“…there are certain landmarks we’ve talked about, that Guillermo and I have discussed, like where we’re going to end. I know where we’re going to end season three and what the components are going to be between now and then and then what, in general, will comprise the other two seasons of the show…”
The pair also teased that while the season one finale saw the effects of the virus only slightly advanced, larger scale destruction was potentially on its way. “It will get there,” del Toro said.
Cuse continued, “Eventually. I mean, I think what’s interesting about the show is that we’re actually showing the demise of the city as a result of this apocalyptic event. A lot of times in this genre storytelling you jump ahead to the state of apocalypse. If you think of World War Z or The Walking Dead or 28 Days Later, you kind of skip the process of demise and that’s what we’re actually illustrating in the show which is really interesting and the second and third season are about that demise.”
For genre fans, the vampires on The Strain are some of the most brutal and, well, disgusting on television. According to del Toro and Cuse, don’t expect to see their creatures glittering anytime soon. “From the beginning I was interested only in the parasitic form of vampirism,” del Toro revealed. “I was not interested in the gentlemanly, forlorn, pale lover. It was the intention to show there’s two things that are really horrible in the myth for me as a kid, is the parasitic fact that it’s a body inhabited by another will. And that was the origin in Eastern Europe, is vampires are possessed corpses. They don’t retain the will of their original owner. And that was really interesting for me, reading that lore as a kid. I’d never seen it. I’d never seen that version of vampirism. And then, [with] I Am Legend Richard Matheson gives birth to the living dead. Romero has admitted said, ‘I was trying to do I Am Legend without buying the rights to I Am Legend.’ And that’s why the zombie and the vampire are so close. They ultimately, Romero came up with the idea of them eating flesh out of sort of semi vampiric quality. That’s the one I was interested in.”
Cuse echoed that sentiment, adding, “For me, I would never have gotten involved with this project if it wasn’t for that key idea. I think it was one of the kind of critical elements of the books, which was this idea of kind of taking vampires back to their origin and to their roots… The world does not need another version of sparkling, romantic, brooding dudes, you know, vampires with girl problems…”
Season two of The Strain premieres tonight on FX!