Carlton Cuse Talks THE STRAIN, Vampires, Modifying the Creatures’ Appearance, Setting the Show Apart from Others, and the Plan to Run Three to Five Seasons

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From filmmaker Guillermo del Toro and showrunner Carlton Cuse, The Strain tells the story of an epic battle for survival between man and vampire, and will premiere on FX in July.  The show stars Corey Stoll, David Bradley, Mia Maestro, Sean Astin, Jonathan Hyde and Richard Sammel.

While at the FX portion of the TCA Press Tour, executive producer Carlton Cuse talked about what attracted him to The Strain, the very scary creatures these vampires are, what makes this story different from others of its type, that they’re looking to do a closed-ended series that will run from three to five seasons, and how they’d had to make some changes and modifications in the appearance of the vampires.  Check out what he had to say after the jump. 

carlton-cuse-the-strainQuestion:  What was it that attracted you to The Strain? 

CARLTON CUSE:  I bought the first of the three novels when it was published in 2009.  I put it on my stack of books that I intended to read when Lost was finished, and when Lost was finished, I read the first of the three books, and I loved it, just as a fan.  And so, cut to May of 2012, and I got a call saying, “Would you be interested in sitting down and talking to Guillermo del Toro about turning The Strain trilogy into a television series?”  And I said, “Yes.”  So, I sat down with Guillermo, and it began a very wonderful and fruitful collaboration, taking this property from one literary form to another.  I’m immensely grateful, as is Guillermo, to FX, who gave us the resources and the time to really prepare this show like a movie.  We’ve been working on it for 18 months, and I think when you ultimately see it, you will see that it shows.  

It’s an incredibly epic and cinematic experience.  It was fantastic working with Guillermo, who is really a visionary filmmaker.  The thing that I really responded to in the story, and I think that once you see it, you will agree, is that you will never look at vampires the same way again.  These are not sparkly, brooding dudes with fangs and romantic problems.  These vampires, or to use the Romanian word, “strigoi,” are really scary creatures.  This is a really original re-imagining of vampire lore, and it also says some things about the precariousness of our modern world.  I think there’s really an interesting intersection in the story between empiricism and religion.  What I love about this story is that I think it’s a really great yarn and it’s exciting, but it’s also about something more, at the same time.   

For people who haven’t read the book, can you set up the story you’re telling with the show?

CUSE:  Basically, the show opens with the arrival of an airplane that lands at John F. Kennedy.  It rolls to a stop, and everyone on the airplane appears to be dead.  The plane, as it turns out, is carrying a mysterious cargo, which is the way in which this strain of vampirism will spread throughout New York City, and ultimately the world.  Corey Stoll plays the leader of the Canary Team, from the Center of Disease Control, and he’s the leader of a group of epidemiologists who are trying to stop the spread of this disease.  Ultimately, he picks up a lot of other interesting characters along the way, including David Bradley, who plays Abraham Setrakian, who is a guy that we very soon discover has had encounters with these creatures before.  It’s this wonderful, complicated mosaic of life in New York, as it’s upended by this virulent disease.  

the-strain-guillermo-del-toro-book-coverWhat makes The Strain different from other stories of its type?

CUSE:  One of the reasons I really wanted to collaborate with Guillermo on this project is that he’s a real visionary, when it comes to creating monsters and fantasy worlds.  These creatures, as imagined by Guillermo, are really compelling, interesting and different than what you’ve seen before.  I don’t really want to say too much about them because I don’t want to spoil the reveal of them, but not unlike Pan’s Labyrinth, I feel like Guillermo has brought real vision to the way these creatures have been realized, that I think audiences will find really compelling.  

How long are you looking to have this series run for, with three books in this story?  

CUSE:  It is between three and five seasons.  There are three books.  The first season is the first book, so the question really is, “Does each of the other two books lend itself to one season or two seasons?”  Like anything, a television series is an organic entity.  I think that once we’ve seen how this season plays out, once we’ve watched it and once we start breaking the second season, we will have a better sense of how many episodes we can get out of it.  I love the fact that it is a closed-ended show.  The Strain trilogy is a story with a beginning, middle and end, and we are moving towards that ending.  It’s a question of just exactly how many episodes it will be. 

This book is very cinematic.  How closely will you follow it, in terms of structure?

CUSE:  We’re taking this book and turning it into 13 hours of television, so we’ve actually added a lot of new stuff.  We’ve gotten deeper into our characters.  We’ve invented new situations.  The books are well represented in the show, but I think the series is a deeper and richer experience.  

How much of the book’s biological specificity, regarding what these creatures are and how they act, have you been able to really realize with FX?

the-strain-poster-TVCUSE:  One of the amazing things is that Guillermo and Chuck, in their books, didn’t just say, “Let’s invent our version of the vampires.”  It was something that was engineered, all the way down to the actual biological systems.  I spent a lot of time discussing with Guillermo the fact that these vampires feed and shit at the same time, and they have this incredibly elaborate biology.  It’s a biological mechanism that overtakes the regular human biology, and all that is detailed pretty thoroughly in the show. 

Are you sticking to the physical appearance of the vampires that’s described in the books? 

CUSE:  The books provide a general description of what they look like, but obviously, in translating that to the actual creatures, as they appear in the show, there have been some changes and modifications.  I’m really pleased with how they have come out, and it’s a really interesting vision of the vampires.  The other thing which I think is also great is that there’s a wonderful mythology about these vampires and their backstories and their sentience.  It’s a very layered force of antagonism that our characters are up against in this story, which also differentiates it from other shows in the genre. 

The Strain premieres on FX in July.

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  • Armond White is my master now

    I get it: all the vampires in the plane were dead and the island was the Purgatory, yeah?

    • varagor

      Get a life, troll.

  • varagor

    I have pretty high hopes for this show. Del Toro imagined the Strain as a TV show before he wrote the books, so their structure and writing really lend themselves to an adaptation.
    I also think that Corey Stoll is a spot on choice to play the protagonist. Let’s just hope they don’t screw it up somehow.

  • ʝoe ßloggs

    Carlton Cuse! WOOT!
    So looking forward to this show!

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