the strain

Turn and face the sec­ond sea­son of The Strain, with Tara Ben­nett as your guide

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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


peo­ple fight back? It’s not a one- sided bat­tle this sea­son. The motto is fight or die.”


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


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!”

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