'The Strain's' Carlton Cuse Previews FX's New Look at Vampires

The Strain Key Art Low Res - H 2013

The Strain Key Art Low Res - H 2013

Carlton Cuse made a brief appearance to cap off FX's day at the Television Critics Association's winter press tour to preview the cabler's adaptation of Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan's best-selling book trilogy.

The Strain centers on a vampire virus that infects New York and the CDC doctor, Ephraim "Eph" Goodweather (House of Cards' Corey Stoll), who investigates the case. Del Toro and Hogan, who co-penned the three-book series, co-wrote the pilot, with Cuse on board as showrunner. Del Toro directed the pilot.

Cuse noted that he first bought the book when it was published in 2009 to read after he completed ABC's Lost. He was a fan immediately and when he was approached to work with del Toro on the TV adaptation, he immediately said yes.

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The Bates Motel co-showrunner noted that the duo prepared The Strain "like a movie," working on the pilot for 18 months to create what he called an epic and cinematic experience for the series. He said The Strain represents a different kind of vampire than has thus far been featured on TV or film. (Recent TV entries in the genre include The CW's The Vampire Diaries and spinoff The Originals as well as HBO's True Blood.)

"You'll never look at vampires the same way. These are not sparkly, brooding dudes with fangs and romantic problems," Cuse said in a nod to the Twilight franchise. "These vampires, or to use the Romanian word, tragoi, are really scary creatures." The vampires featured on the series, he said, are not romantic creatures and do not have sex (they shed their genitalia).

The Strain showrunner described the series as an original reimagining of vampire lore that has a message about the precariousness of the modern world. "There's an interesting intersection in the story between empiricism and religion," he said. "It's a really great yarn and it's exciting, but it's about something more." 

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Cuse said producers are looking at the series for either a three- or five-season run, with season one covering the first book in the trilogy. Once producers break a second season -- if the series is successful -- Cuse said they will examine if the final two books should be one season each or split up into multiple seasons.

Cuse, who is also developing a remake of French zombie drama The Returned for A&E, where Bates Motel will bow its second season later this year, said producers added a lot of new material to the FX adaptation and have gone deeper into the characters featured in the book. "The books are well-represented in the show, but the series is a deeper and richer experience," he noted.

As for the physical appearance of the vampires, Cuse said the series has made some changes and modifications to the general description of what they look like in the books. "It's a really interesting vision of the vampires," he noted. "There's a wonderful mythology about these vampires and their backstories. They're sentient, and it's a layered force of antagonism that our characters are up to in this story, which differentiates itself from other shows in the genre."

"These creatures, as imagined by Guillermo, I believe are really compelling, interesting and different than what you've seen before," he said. "Not unlike Pan's Labyrinth, Guillermo has brought a real vision to the way these creatures have been realized that I think audiences will find compelling."

The Strain will debut in July on FX. 

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