'The Strain' Star on Her Major Makeover and Season 2's 'Bonnie and Clyde' Dynamic

"Kelly will stop at nothing to turn her son," Natalie Brown tells THR.
Michael Gibson/FX

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from the "Intruders" episode of FX's The Strain.] 

What does it take for a strigoi to look like human again? Viewers got a taste of the process during season one of FX's The Strain, when Richard Sammel's Eichorst went through the rigmarole of dressing up like a human, complete with a fake nose to hide his decaying flesh.

That ordeal was revisited in the opening moments of Sunday's hour as Kelly (Natalie Brown) began her transformation under Eichorst's watcher eye and tutelage. As seen earlier this season, it was all a part of The Master's (Jack Kesy) grand plan to get back at Ephraim (Corey Stoll) and his team — and part of Kelly's mission to reunite with her son (Max Charles).

The Hollywood Reporter caught up with Brown to get her take on this season's new "Bonnie and Clyde," Kelly's quest to turn her son and working under the Guillermo del Toro machine. 

What kind of process is it to get all of that makeup on?

Vampire makeup form start to finish is about four and a half hours. It starts with 30 minutes of gluing my hair down, only to put a cap on and then three hours of layering prosthetics and paint on the face to look like rotting flesh. Then the wig, the contacts and the teeth. And then we got to put makeup back on to reverse the whole process in this episode.

From a filming perspective, did they learn anything from the Eichorst makeup scene last year?

That was an incredible scene and it took countless hours to do; they had to do it in so many steps and with so many teases. This season, knowing how long that took we attempted a shorter route. We did the hours of vampire makeup and then hinted or alluded to what Kelly would look like in human form with the wig and the contacts, coupled with the beginning touches of natural human skintone. That way it was more of a reveal when audiences see Kelly fully made up to look human. The end result is just myself with a wig, but it was also a very welcome costume change after a long season in that one green sweater.

As Zach's TV mother, how would you defend the character's moody shift this season?

The story turned much darker. We got to develop the relationship between mother and son when they were both human and in happier times. Now that the world is a much darker place and this vampire apocalypse is here, the subject matter is much darker. It makes sense to see Zach’s character take on a darker role. But he’s also stepping up to the plate beginning to demand that his father be more honest with him. He may not be fully aware of what life would be like with his mother in her new form, but he isn’t as afraid. 

How would you describe this new animalistic versus emotional bond between the two characters?

There’s a longing between mother and son and both are affected in different ways. Kelly still longs to connect with her son in the only way she knows how and Zach is still looking for a way to connect with the mother  he loves so dearly. It's tragic and sympathetic at the same time. To be apart from something you’re the closest to and to feel that void is something people can still relate to with Kelly. It's like a mama bear culling her heard. 

She failed in this episode; does she press on or lick her wounds?

She will stop at nothing to turn her son. In her mind, she’s offering eternal life. She wants to protect him. Right now in human form, from Kelly’s perspective, he’s very vulnerable. He’s in an unsafe place with Ephraim and she is looking to provide for him in this new way. She is wounded and she will have to switch up her tactics for sure, so we will see a shift in the journey because this particular plan is foiled.

What does this mean for Kelly and Eichorst going forward?

Having a teacher like Eichorst helps. Richard Sammel loves to describe the relationship as a Bonnie and Clyde dynamic, which is so flattering. But I also see it as teacher and pupil or partners in crime. Having someone like Eichort to be able to show her the ropes expedites the learning curve that Kelly had making the leap back from vampire to human. It’s the beginning of a beautiful relationship that is very unique.

What's it like getting an induction into horror from del Toro?

Horror was new to me and something that on a personal level I am not able to enjoy because I scare very easily and believe in evil. But in the very beginning on the first day of shooting the pilot, knowing the Guillermo is an avid collector of vampire lore, I said, "Having collected and read so much information on this legend from so many different parts of the world over such a long period of time, do you think there’s any truth to it?" And he said, "Absolutely not." Just knowing that it’s fantasy helps me more easily digest vampire fiction than say, anything involving darker areas of the occult.

Did that relationship help land you the role in the upcoming female anthology horror film XX?

He had executive produced on Jovanka Vuckovic's short film The Captured Bird. She’s a fan of The Strain and of my character so she reached out to me to be a part of this all-female horror anthology. It's more of a psychological horror.

Was doing the genre "meant to be" in terms of your career?

I think so. On Bitten I was yearning to play with the wolves and on Being Human I was really excited to die because I thought it would be an opportunity to play in a supernatural realm with the ghost, the vampire and werewolf. But on both these genre shows I played the human. So this was an opportunity I was very eager for after being involved in the genre now for quite a bit of time -- to finally get my hands dirty and get my monster on with none other than the master of horror himself.

The Strain airs Sundays at 10 p.m. on FX. Will Kelly turn Zach? Are you a fan of the Eichorst and Kelly pairing? Sound off below. 

Twitter: @amber_dowling

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