FX’s vampire drama The Strain has been a mainstay at San Diego Comic-Con for the past few years, and 2016 was no different. With the premiere of Season 3 more than a month away, the cast and crew didn’t bring much in the way of new footage – instead, they dropped a hilarious music video featuring cast members Kevin Durand, Miguel Gomez and David Bradley, which was met with raucous enthusiasm.
A few hours before the Comic-Con 2016 panel for The Strain, we caught up with showrunner Carlton Cuse and some of the cast members to discuss the harrowing events of Season 2, and to see if we could get them to reveal any secrets about Season 3.
You can check out the highlights from each interview below, or use the video embed to view each chat in its entirety – including some hilarious interaction between Miguel Gomez and Kevin Durand, and the revelation of “a longtime Comic-Con secret.”
With The Strain, you have this really great source material to draw from. But as the showrunner, you get to sort of play in this sandbox and move the pieces around: you get to bring in characters that didn’t exit in the novels, and you get to do different things with existing characters. How much fun is that for you, as a creator?
Carlton Cuse: It’s a lot of fun. I think it would be really boring to just try to be really literal in adapting something, and to be static. It doesn’t give any credit to all the collaborative voices that are in the landscape when you make a television show. So as the showrunner, I feed so much on what actors do and what kind of relationships develop, how they play off each other, and that really informs how the show unfolds. You start to see chemistry between these two characters, so you put them together and create another storyline for them.
You also recognize there are certain things that work well in the novels that don’t translate perfectly to the screen, and there are other ideas that writers have in the room where you say “wow, that would make a great addition.” In concert with Guillermo and Chuck, who wrote the books, we’ve moved the show quite a bit away from where the books are, but I think that’s great: you can read the books and get one experience, and then you can watch the show and get another one.
Season 2 went to some very, very dark places. Is this just the tip of the iceberg? Do you guys have some designs on going even further with some of that material?
Carlton Cuse: It’s kind of the tip of the iceberg, yeah. I’d like to think that there’s heart and humanity and humor in The Strain, but the story is evolving and heading in a very dark direction as the stregoi get more powerful. And this year is really a full-tilt war. So yeah, it goes to some dark places, but I think some pretty compelling places, too.
As the person behind the scenes and pulling all the strings, is there a character that’s your personal favorite?
Carlton Cuse: Oh my gosh, that shifts all the time. It’s like saying “do you have a favorite child?” I love all the characters, but I would say in this particular season I really enjoyed the stuff that we did with Gus, and also with Dutch. Those two characters have really big roles this year, and really cool stuff.
You had to shoot some very difficult material last season: not only difficult, as a viewer, to watch, but from an emotional level I’m sure it was difficult for you to film some of those scenes. How do you mentally prepare for something that’s so strong and so heavy?
Ruta Gedmintas: You have to find something you can relate to, but something that is not going to destroy you. In between scenes we would play with each other, we would laugh and joke because the subject matter was so dark and so intense that we had to do that in order to give a good performance, and to know that it wasn’t real.
There were many times that we would just burst out laughing. There was one time that I was lying on the floor, and he comes in and says “take off your pants” and I was just like “I can’t.” [laughs]
So where is Dutch’s headspace now? She had this love triangle going on, and that’s sort of broken all apart. Is she focused on putting some of those piece back together, or is she focused on revenge at this point?
Ruta Gedmintas: I think she knows that she’s obliterated quite a few relationships, and revenge is definitely where she begins the season. She’s traumatized, she’s a mess, she’s turning to alcohol for help. I think the first couple of episodes, she’s just trying to figure out how she’s going to survive. The world is different now, there’s nothing else but survival, so that’s what she focuses on. And anything else that comes out of that is a spoiler! [laughs]
Eichorst has labored for years and years under the Master, and he’s always had this sort of expectation of where things would go. In this past season, we saw that things didn’t play out the way he wanted, so does he still feel that same kind of loyalty to the Master, or is he out for his own personal gain at this point?
Richard Sammel: I’ve always felt that Eichorst is the perfect general: he’s not a leader, but he’s the perfect follower, and might be the highest degree follower of an ideology or of another person or of the dark force. I think in difficult times, as well as good times, he sticks to his ideology. He’s framed like that, and he’s built and conditioned like that, so I think when things get worse, he’ll get worse too: he’ll just be meaner and more aggressive. I think he’s able to die for his idea, you know? He’s going for it, he’s able to give it all up in order to realize what his dream of the world is.
At the end of the last season, Eichorst was given a very specific task to accomplish, and he failed. He did not get the book. So how much trouble is he in?
Richard Sammel: Oh, he’s definitely in a lot of trouble, but everybody is in a lot of trouble. The Master is in a lot of trouble, the bad guys are in a lot of trouble and the good guys are in a lot of trouble too. And I think one of the intelligent [things about] this show and the writers is to write that way. The good guys are not heroes that have mastered their human relationships and lived the perfect love story – no, they fuck it up. The just fuck it up.
Ruta Gedmintas: Saying it like it is. [laughs]
Richard Sammel: They can’t live together in a perfect way, how they think they should. They can’t live how they know they should live. And for the bad guys, it’s the same thing: it’s not as easy as they thought it would be, so you have to deal with problems.
Gus has had a very interesting arc over the past season: you joined up with Quinlan and did all this training, but when push came to shove, Gus didn’t do what he was told to do. Where do you think that’s going to leave the relationship between Gus and Quinlan, going forward?
Miguel Gomez: First of all, he doesn’t trust these vampires. He was kidnapped by Von and them, and that’s the same sort of sickness that killed his loved ones. So he’s trying to find the people that can actually do something about it, and where ever the best moves are, and the people that are gonna help him get to where he has to get to, that’s who he’s gonna join. As far as Quinlan, we’ll see what happens.
I think it says a lot about Fet as a person, after he goes through this situation with Dutch where he obviously cares for her very much, and she leaves him high and dry, he still goes back to rescue her. I think a lesser person would have just abandoned her, so that tells us a lot about the kind of person Fet is. Going forward, where does that relationship go? Obviously, she’s not with the rest of the team at the end of Season 2, so are we going to see Fet try to rekindle some of that fire, or is that all in the past?
Kevin Durand: I don’t wanna give anything away. We definitely see where it evolves to. Whether it be somewhere you think is expected or unexpected, we will soon find out. Fet actually ends up in a relationship with Gus. No, he doesn’t.
That would’ve been unexpected.
Kevin Durand: That would be the most badass couple that you could imagine. No, the third season veers down so many avenues that you would never expect, which is really exciting because we didn’t know where the heck it was going. I would’ve made assumptions off the end of the second one, I would’ve thought “oh, this is definitely gonna happen,” but a lot of stuff just went the other way, which made it more exciting for us playing it, and it’ll be more exciting for you watching it.
The Strain returns for Season 3 on August 28, exclusively on FX.