‘The Strain’ reclaims vampires from teen girls

First Published Aug 01 2014 07:46AM      Last Updated Aug 01 2014 04:49 pm

Thanks to "The Strain," vampires aren’t just for teenage girls anymore.

After years of bloodsuckers-as-romantic leads in TV shows like "The Vampire Diaries," "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "True Blood," "The Strain" takes things in an entirely different direction. In this FX series, you won’t see any of the sparkly vampires who populate "Twilight."

In "The Strain," horrifying monsters feed on humans and infect some of them — turning them into inhuman monsters, too.

"You need to see the first feeding," said executive producer Guillermo del Toro. "And you need to see the vampire drink the person like you would drink a little box of Capri Sun. And then discard it with equal abandon.

"Like, what do you do with a Capri Sun? You drink it, and you don’t go, ‘Now, I’ll give you my love.’ No, you just crush it and throw it away."

Yeah, no vampires sparkle in "The Strain."

The series is based on a series of books by del Toro and executive producer Chuck Hogan. "The Strain" was originally envisioned as a series, but del Toro turned to publishing when he couldn’t sell it to TV in 2006. The show he pitched to Fox was what’s airing on FX now — it began with a jet filled with dead passengers. Just four survivors. Epidemiologists investigated and, eventually, discovered a horrible creature bent on destroying mankind.

The 2006 pitch meeting did not go well because Fox executives were seeing "a romantic conception of vampires — sort of GQ version of vampires," del Toro said. "And I get in with this pitch about vampires being a truly revolting spiritually and physically revolting parasites. … They said, ‘Could you turn it into a comedy?’ And I said, ‘No.’ "

He and Hogan wrote the books; eventually, FX won a bidding war to make the series. And make no mistake — "The Strain" is scary.

"I didn’t want to go into my basement after watching the pilot," said Mia Maestro, who stars as epidemiologist Nora Martinez.

Kevin Durand, who stars as exterminator Vasiliy Fet, said he "woke up in the middle of the night after staring at these vampire faces for all these days in a row" and momentarily did not recognize his wife. "For a second, I kind of froze."

Sean Astin, who stars as Jim Kent, said seeing the body bags at the airport "took my breath away. I’ve never been that scared in a movie set environment before."

This is not Dracula crawling out of his coffin and killing a few dozen people. The monster in "The Strain" does come out of a big box filled with dirt, but he carries an infection that could wipe out the human race.

"We deal with great specificity with the biology of these vampires — how they work, how they came into being," said executive producer Carlton Cuse ("Lost," "Bates Motel"). "And then as the story evolves, we kind of come to understand that there’s sort of a spiritual origin to this story."

According to del Toro, he set out to capitalize on fear "that the world may end tomorrow. We feel very exposed to plagues, viral pandemics, terrorism, cyber hacking."

It’s about a viral pandemic taking the form of a vampire. And "The Strain" was terrifying from the get-go.

"These guys are not going to take you to dinner. The greatest tragedy in their life is not their bleaching session got canceled," del Toro said. "These are really brutal creatures. … These are not tortured romantics.




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‘The Strain’ on FX

Original episodes air Sunday at 11 p.m. and midnight on Comcast (Ch. 43 and Ch. 689); at 8, 9 and 11 p.m. on DirecTV (Ch. 248); and at 8, 9 and 11 p.m. on Dish (Ch. 136).