Guillermo del Toro Talks THE STRAIN Season 2, What He’s Directing Himself, FRANKENSTEIN, DARK UNIVERSE, and More

     December 1, 2014

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You watched The Strain on FX this summer, right?  If not, according to show creator and executive producer Guillermo del Toro, you missed out on a very “gazpacho” show because, as del Toro explained, “a good gazpacho is a perfect summer refreshing concoction,” and I’d have to agree.  It’s good fun trying to track the spread of the infection after the “dead plane” lands at JFK and an absolute blast to watch our heroes do what they can to stop vampires from sucking New York City dry using projectile stingers.

But just because The Strain really is kind of like gazpacho in the summer doesn’t mean it can’t be a good winter binge watch as well.  The Strain season 1 hits DVD and Blu-ray on Tuesday, December 2nd and soon after that, we’ll all get a little holiday vacation time, so why not use it to play catch-up before The Strain returns next summer?  If that sounds like a good plan and you haven’t watched the show yet, it might be best to do that before reading this interview because del Toro did drop quite a few hints regarding what’s to come in season 2.  Check out what he told me about where Eph (Corey Stoll), Eldritch Palmer (Jonathan Hyde) and more are heading after the jump.  And just in case you missed it, click here for what del Toro had to say about Pacific Rim 2 as well.  [Last Warning: There are season 1 spoilers in this interview!]

the-strain-season-1-blu-rayQuestion: First off, can you just give me a little update on season 2 and tell me how far along you guys are right now?

GUILLERMO DEL TORO: We started shooting last week.  We’ve been prepping for about two months.  I’m going to, god willing, direct the prologue of the first episode and some second unit and direct the black and white Mexican wrestler B-movie pictures that appear in the season, because one of our characters is a masked Mexican wrestler [laughs], so it will be a lot of fun for me.  The pilot is being directed by Gregory Hoblit whom I admire and loved his work for many decades.  We start, I think, with a really great episode.  We’re about two days away from being done, second and third are in the pipeline, the sets are looking fantastic, we’re doing a lot of new makeup effects, we’re doing a lot of surprises.  We’re going a little more off book this season than the last season.  The last season went quite a bit off book on the last third, but this season we are introducing new characters even to the books and some characters are going to have really interesting arcs.  Eph is going to a much darker place after losing Kelly.  It’s a really interesting new world.  And it’s great to be back on the show and see everybody back, like a family reunion.

How’d you feel about the reception of season 1?  Was there anything that viewers were responding to that surprised you?

DEL TORO: Yeah, people like a lot of the same things that I liked in creating the characters originally.  To me, what I think people respond to that is great is that Setrakian in the series is an even better character than Setrakian in the books.  In the books he’s sort of a wise man, but in the series he’s a really hardcore badass.  This is something Carlton [Cuse] brought into the character.  He said Setrakian should be the most charming sociopath.  He’s not giving up.  He’s capable of sacrificing family and friends at the drop of a hat if that means to kill The Master, and he doesn’t hesitate about losing his own life.  That is something that I love that people responded to, and people responding to Eichorst, The Master, Fet, all the characters that are a lot of fun to write or to watch.  That’s really rewarding.

I’m a big Fet fan.  I’m drinking from a The Strain Pest Control coffee mug right now actually.

DEL TORO: [Laughs] Wash it thoroughly!

the-strain-kevin-durand[Laughs] I do, every day!  How about where everything left off in season 1?  I’m sure you had some sort of timeline in mind before you even started shooting season 1, but TV is a different medium and people digest information at a different rate, so did you find that viewers were asking the right questions when the first season wrapped up?

DEL TORO: We knew where we were going and a lot of that required things that needed to sort of try the patience – some of the pacing – things that we knew we wanted to pay off started the season in ways that made them look like something else.  For example, Gus is going to grow into a really badass vampire hunter, but we needed to meet him just as a thug in the beginning of the season and then grow him and grow his family’s story until the very poignant moment where he finds his mother alive and turned hidden in the closet, and he decides not to kill her.  That’s the beginning of his journey really, and that happened in the last third of the season.  But for the longest time in the season you needed to follow him just as a very hardcore henchman with his own really strange set of principles.  I think that’s what I thought was interesting to track with the viewers’ response.  They would, for example, think that Eph having marital problems was just a trait of a character, sort of a trope, but what is great is in episode 10 and onwards you actually turned Kelly and it becomes really a poignant coda to that custody battle.  It becomes a horrifying custody battle [laughs], so to speak.  Those are things that needed time and investment from the viewers.  Fortunately, for us, we had an incredibly, amazingly loyal viewership.

That’s for sure.  I reviewed the entire season and half the fun of reviewing every episode was the conversation and the back and forth in the comments section after. 

DEL TORO: Yeah, I think that with a little bit of luck and a lot of work, if we manage to pull off where the books take the characters, there’s going to be a massive, massive third act for the series, you know?  We know where we’re heading.  Those who read the books know where we’re heading.  It’s not going to get pretty.  It’s not going to get comfortable.  You’re going to see characters that are meant to do well, do terrible things.  I think Eph goes to really dark places.  One of the characters that I find is going to have a really interesting turn in the second season, for example, is Eldritch Palmer.

the-strain-jonathan-hydeHe’s fantastic!

DEL TORO: He has a really interesting turn now that he found a little bit of rejuvenation and he’s a little friskier and testier, and he’s not just a willing accomplice of The Master.  The second season gives us a lot of possibilities for that.

Before we wrap up, I was hoping to get your opinion on something I’ve been writing about a lot lately.  There’s so much talk about shared cinematic universes right now.  I just wrote about something James Gunn posted on Facebook where he calls it putting the cart before the horse and a bad business model.  During the Crimson Peak set visit you mentioned that you spoke to Donna Langley about possibly doing Frankenstein and that’s part of the Universal monster movie shared universe, so I was wondering what your take on it is.

DEL TORO: I haven’t followed up with Frankenstein so I really have very little to add to that.  Right now the only sort of shared universe project I’m working on is Dark Universe for Warners, you know, for DC, which is Swamp Thing, Demon, Deadman, Zatanna.  It’s a very different universe.  As to the plans to the other one, I wish I had an inside track right now.

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