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“The Strain” – The Battle Of Good, Evil And Realistic Vampires

BY: Marjorie Galas, Editor

Speaking with Guillermo del Toro about “The Strain” isn’t for those with a weak stomach. It’s probably not something for morning conversation, either. Del Toro has a rabid passion for vampires that began when he was a teenager. Obsessed with studying the portrayal of blood sucker lore, he took notes as he researched vampire incarnations found the world over, from Asia, India, and throughout Eastern Europe. Before writing the novels “The Strain” with co-author Chuck Hogan, del Toro explored vampires in his films “Cronos” and “Blade.” The current television adaptation of “The Strain” on FX has allowed del Toro to fully realize the mythological and biological aspects of the creatures.

“I wanted you to see right away they are brutal parasites. They drain and kill you and discard you, like the burger wrapper you throw away,” said del Toro. “They are not here to develop romantic feelings or talk about how lonely they are.”

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A great deal of biological research went into the vampires that drain victims in “The Strain.” Del Toro’s fascination with anatomy and biology predates his vampire fixation. As an eight year old boy he studied his family’s encyclopedias of medicine and became well versed on every physiological response known to man. For every project he’s involved with, he creates his creatures from the inside out and incorporates as much medical and biological fact into them as possible. The vampires in “The Strain” are streamlined like lower forms of organisms (such as amphibians and reptiles); they have no sex organs and have a cloaca – a single orifice in their bodies that expels all waste products.

“The idea is so efficient. A tick or mosquito is drinking your blood and leaving excrement on your skin at the same time,” said del Toro.

For co-writer Hogan, combining the stories that unfold over multiple books into the series was one of the most appealing aspects of bringing the “The Strain” to television.

“It was cool to get back into that world. Other writers told me to be cautious with the experience but I didn’t sign up to bring the same story to the screen,” said Hogan. “Finding ways to twist and change it were great.”

Working off del Toro and Hogan’s vision, show runner Carlton Cuse was excited to bring the adaptation to television. His interpretation of the stories found in the book was of an adventurous journey akin to “Indiana Jones.” Pulling different elements of the books together, “The Strain” became an epic “struggle between good and evil,” and one man’s determination to save humanity.

“I really responded to the material because there are wonderful cross over areas,” said Cuse. “Del Toro saw how I found it – an adventure movie with horror elements. We’ve had a complimentary collaboration. It’s a gold standard for a summer popcorn series.”

The actors involved with the series have appreciated the complexities of their characters. Both Richard Sammel and David Bradley feel their characters balance both righteousness and evil. Sammel sees his character as an individual who believes in the values of his system while others perceive him to have evil motives.

“It’s the epic battle of class, of two visions of how the world should go,” said Sammel. “Both ways of running the world have reasons for them to be sustained.”

Corey Stoll who plays the man bent on saving the world Ephraim Goodweather, was excited to jump on board and be part of a Guillermo del Toro project. After reading the script, he was even more enthusiastic. He enjoyed having the opportunity to be involved in a story with a lot of action sequences while playing a character undergoing great personal struggles during a world-wide crisis.

“The pilot starts with a huge body count. It’s sorrowful. The character may not have the tools to combat it, but he has the life experience of being a winner,” said Stoll. “While he keeps loosing, the habit of winning is still there. He will never give up.”

Del Toro’s greatest contributions to “The Strain” lay in pre – and post – production. He oversees all aesthetic elements of the show; working with the art and costume departments he’s created two distinct color palettes for day (gold) and night (cayenne and blue). He’s also worked to ensure red does not appear.

“There is no red – only if it is blood or appears in the real world, like a fire extinguisher or the light on a police car,” said del Toro.

He maintains the final appearance of the show’s look in post, working with the VFX crew and color timing.

“I am the Shepard of the art, ensuring the uniformity of design,” said del Toro, directly after explaining why the vampire’s blood is white not red (they don’t have lungs that provide the air red cells need to live.)

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