Turn and face the second season of The Strain, with Tara Bennett as your guide
Previewing the vampire show’s second season.
The city that never sleeps is being overrun by bloodsuckers and humanity is facing extinction. That’s the chilling premise of FX’s horror hit The Strain, an adaptation of the book trilogy penned by director Guillermo del Toro and writer Chuck Hogan. The show’s first season documented the outbreak of a virulent strain of vampirism originating at JFK International Airport. CDC ( Centre for Disease Control) scientist Dr Ephraim “Eph” Goodweather ( Corey Stoll) and his colleague Dr Nora Martinez ( Mia Maestro) discovered that the wormy, parasitic carriers found in a coffin in a plane’s cargo hold originated from an uber vampire known as the Master. By season’s end it was clear the ancient one had arrived to take over the world, starting with the Big Apple…
Del Toro and executive producer/ showrunner Carlton Cuse and del Toro ended that first season on a serious cliffhanger. With Eph’s estranged wife turned vampire, humanity knows of the infestation due to a viral video. More crucially, a plan by Professor Abraham Setrakian ( David Bradley) to expose the Master to a potentially lethal dose of sunbeams was a shocking fail.
Cuse says season two picks up with all of the ensuing chaos. “It’s really a mosaic of New York in crisis,” the showrunner tells SFX. “The different responses and the different groups of characters who have to fight this plague. We are watching the demise of New York. In a lot of genre shows, the situation is a pre- condition. In The Walking Dead, the series opens with the dead already walking the Earth. But our show is really all about walking characters through the world. We are watching the city fall over the course of the season. The question is can
NEW YORK CITY IS DOOMED
people fight back? It’s not a one- sided battle this season. The motto is fight or die.”
EXPANDING THE STORY
Loosely based on the narrative of The Fall, the second book in the trilogy, Cuse says the show has necessarily broadened what del Toro and Hogan charted in their novels. “Guillermo and I have always said the first season was the first book. The second book is season two and three and the third book will be seasons four and five. But in order to sustain the storytelling for two seasons, we needed to do a lot of invention.
“We follow the general narrative arc of the book,” Cuse continues. “You could read the book and have a great experience but then watch the show and not feel like it’s repetitive. When translating a story to a different medium, you have to find the best version of the story for that medium. Chuck Hogan is even one of the writers on the series. They have been extremely open about the process of invention. I think the television show is its own unique, rich tapestry. There are lots of characters and storylines that are in the book that we follow using the same general narrative but specifically, the show is its own thing. And it’s been fun to enhance stories in this world and take cool kernels from the book and expand them. It’s better than the first season and pretty kick ass.”
One big question that motivates this season is how do you kill a vampire that isn’t felled by sunshine, a tried and true trope of almost every vampire story out there? Cuse chuckles. “Certainly the important take away is that the Master not getting fried in sunlight has consequences and they play out right at the beginning of our season in the first six episodes. The good news is that Setrakian feels like he failed because he didn’t kill the Master but his actions have significant consequences and that’s a fun part of the storytelling to see how that plays out.
“The two major missions for our protagonists are that Eph and Nora are on the [ epidemiology trail], and Fet ( Kevin Durand) and Setrakian are trying to get the Lumen, this book. There’s a lot of mystery and lore about the book. First, does it exist? Secondly if it does exist, is it what it is purported to be – an actual manual that will allow you to kill the Master? So Setrakian is very actively engaged in trying to find that book and get his hands on it.”
Eph has the CDC supporting his efforts now, but he’s still got a son, Zach ( recast this season with actor
Max Charles) to
"GUILLERMO DID A MASTERFUL JOB BRINGING THE CREATURES TO LIFE"
protect from his vampire mother and a dire global crisis on his shoulders. No wonder he’s slipping off the wagon trying to deal with it all… “Alcohol is the way of him dealing with some of [ his demons]. It becomes a factor in some of his decision- making this season and there are consequences to that. His personal behaviour resonates into the show.
“But more important than anything is that we do make some changes with his hair,” Cuse laughs, alluding to the audience’s vocal negative reaction to naturally bald actor Corey Stoll’s hairpiece. “It was like ‘ Hair- gate’,” Cuse says. “Everybody got crazy about his hair! From the beginning, Guillermo and I talked about how it’s a construct of how the character will evolve. So you’ll see how it pays off this season. Hopefully the millions upon millions of people who are waiting on that will be happy with the resolution of that story,” the showrunner laughs.
Not so amusing is the way this season will up the ante with the ever- evolving turned – or Strigoi as they’re known in the show’s mythology. “One of the things that attracted me to the property was that it had this great multi- level mythology and all different forces of antagonism,” Cuse says. “Narratively, I wanted to unleash more and different forces of antagonism in the second season and Guillermo and I were very much in line with that. He did a masterful job bringing some of these creatures to life.”
Cuse teases that there will be a brand new evolution of vampires that will scare the hell out of viewers. And he confirms that “This vampire thing is spreading exponentially, so there are a lot more vampires.” As they learn to evade their human enemies, they will only get more dangerous, crafty and terrible, it seems. Cuse promises there will be no de- fanging of their vampires as the season unfolds. “One of the critical elements of the books was this idea of taking vampires back to their origin and to their roots. The world doesn’t need another version of sparkling, romantic, brooding dudes, you know? Vampires with girl problems,” he
chuckles. “We’ve turned this into something special and cool that feels different, like it has its own unique place in the genre landscape.”
Cunning as the Strigoi and company may be, Cuse says a huge component of the story will be showing how humanity steps up their game trying to save its city and species. Aside from Goodweather, Setrakian and Fet, other familiar faces like “Gus” Elizalde ( who unwittingly helped transport the Master’s coffin into the city last year) and Dutch Velders ( Ruta Gedmintas) will be back to fight. Also look for new characters like Samantha Mathis’s Justine Feraldo, a councillor who uses her political and police connections to fight the plague.
Cuse describes the different factions all over the city fighting the good fight as a mosaic of characters and storylines that expands The
Strain into more epic, yet personal storytelling. “I think what was interesting to me about this entire story and one of the things that I loved about Guillermo and Chuck’s books was that it was these different characters in New York experiencing this apocalyptic event. It felt like something that we needed to retain in turning it into a TV show. So there are crossovers with a lot of our main characters co- existing but we are following a lot of different storylines.”
And don’t fear for humanity just yet. We’re fighting back. “The idea in seasons two and three is that this is not a story where vampires simply overrun the world and win. This is a story where human ingenuity rises to meet the challenge. It turns into a fair fight on a lot of levels. A very epic fight.”
As to how the rest of America views New York City, Cuse says that’s also addressed this year. “There is a window on more of what’s going on in the country. We get some sense of how New York stands relative to the rest of the country but the focus of the story is really what is going on in [ the city].”
As to the long- range goals of the series, Cuse is clear they want five seasons to tell their story, admitting they’ve planned out their narrative with that destination in mind.
“There are certain landmarks that Guillermo and I have discussed, like where we are 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. Also what, in general, will comprise the other two seasons of the show.” But even with a vampire apocalypse, Cuse says he likes to leave some room for surprise. “It’s a little like taking a road trip and you know you’re going to go from here to Los Angeles and you’re going to visit certain cities along the way. But you give yourself latitude to some days take the interstate and some days take the back roads…”
The Strain airs on Watch ( UK) and FX ( US).
No, we haven’t accidentally printed a pic from Saw…
Corey Stoll rocking one fine hairpiece.
David Bradley as vampire hunter Abraham Setrakian.
There’s nowt like this on Casualty…
“Get out of my darkroom!”