It's Guillermo del Toro and company taking the stage for FX's “The Strain,” which will be preceded by a screening on Sunday (July 27) night's episode, which was one of my favorites so far, featuring some jaw-droopingly gross moments, as well as a hilarious sequence for Corey Stoll's wig.
Apparently this is the first TV show ever to be paneled in Hall H during its first season.
Click through for the highlights…
2:37 p.m. Panel time! Carlton Cuse, Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan are introducing our panelists: Ben Hyland, Jack Kesey, Miguel Gomez, Natalie Brown, Jonathan Hyde, Richard Sammel, Kevin Durand, Sean Astin (or “The adorable, cuddly Sean Astin,” as Guillermo introduces him), David Bradley (“He's open for wedding planning if you need anything,” del Toro jokes), Mia Maestro and Corey Stoll.
2:41 p.m. Ha. Corey Stoll comes out in an awesome full mullet, which Cuse teases will be the character's Season 2 look.
2:42 p.m. The first question is how the Hogan/del Toro collaboration came about. They traded chapters back and forth. “We did a handshake deal,” del Toro says. They would periodically talk, but mostly they wouldn't communicate until they had chapters completed. Guillermo consistently gives Hogan credit for coming up with Kevin Durand's character. “They were very, very, very good-looking. Six-pack, trim, vampires how wanted to tell you how lonely they were,” del Toro says of the status of vampires when they started the book. “I never got my rocks off with the vampiric genre. It never peeled my banana,” del Toro says of romantic vampires. “This guy drinks the guy and does what you would with a Capri Sun or a can of Coke,” he says of his vampires. Cuse recalls that he'd read the first book just as a fan and he responded to the idea of upended the vampire genre. “I was interested in vampires that were scary, dangerous, parasitic creatures,” Cuse says.
2:45 p.m. Why was this a TV show and not a film? “Films are such a huge investment that everybody gets very prudish,” del Toro says, praising FX for its support. “There's three books. It's a very elaborate mythology. And I think it lends itself to being a really good series,” Cuse says, promising this is a five-season plan, with one season for Book 1 and two seasons apiece for the next two books. [I'm not sure how they'll milk two seasons out of the second book, personally.] Hogan says he has enjoyed watching the actors become the characters. He particularly loves what Bradley has done with the Setrakian character.
2:47 p.m. Corey Stoll, wig removed now, likes having a character who changes and grows. He calls Eph's arc “massive” in the books and hopes they'll continue with that arc. “At the age of 72, it's a treat,” Bradley says of getting to be an action hero. “At first when they asked me, I assumed it was a typing error. I'm so happy to be playing someone who's so proactive,” Bradley says. He likes Setrakian's history and backstory. “We didn't want to make him the kinda kind, wise old guy. We wanted to make Setrakian a badass,” Cuse says. “We wanted him to have a very sweet heart, but in a f***ing jar,” de Toro adds.
2:50 p.m. “His chest puffs out and he starts to smile a lot more. He's ready for it,” Durand says of his character. “I still feel like a hero inside,” Sean Astin says, even though his character is kinda responsible for the vampire-in-New York thing. “She has this sixth sense, feminine intuition. She's the first one who realizes there's something about Setrakian that could give us some answers,” Mia Maestro says of her character. Astin says that his big question is whether or not Eph and Nora can forgive him for what he does.
2:53 p.m. As for the bad guys? “First of all, I don't think vampires are mean,” Sammel says. He argues that humans have controlled the world and look what they've made of it. “It's now vampire time,” Sammel says.
2:55 p.m. Spoilers for one of the key gross scenes from tonight's episode.
2:57 p.m. “The only reason I'm watching it is because I'm on it,” Hyland says, though he claims he likes scary shows.. “I try to watch it because I want to see how I do,” he says, but he notes that this is the scariest show he's watched. Hyland says that when he's on-set, everybody tries to be on their best behavior. “No one's mean to me. Everyone treats me like I'm part of the team,” he says.
2:58 p.m. “Divorcing the one man who can save us all might not be the soundest decision, but it's what she thinks is best,” Natalie Brown says of her character's relationship with Eph.
2:58 p.m. What look did they want for the show? Guillermo del Toro talks about the “cinematic look” and the vivid, saturated colors. “We tried to give it a uniformity of the cinematography, the effects,” he says, despite the different directors on each episode. And how impressed are they by the sets and Fake New York? Stoll remembers finding vampire graffiti in the subway tunnels under Toronto, but the production designer said they didn't do it. “We're scavengers. We're like the ambulance chasers of production,” del Toro says of accumulating pieces of cancelled shows and failed movies.
3:01 p.m. Where did the blood worms come from? Guillermo del Toro's wife is a vet and she did her thesis on things including heart worms that dogs get. “We are all hosts to at least 80 to 100 parasites rights now and that's pretty creepy,” del Toro explains. “If it creeps me out, I put it in,” he explains.
3:03 p.m. Richard Sammel has a great scene at the start of tonight's episode. I'm not gonna spoil that either. He says, though, that he often spent 3.5 hours in makeup. He calls his teeth “a piece of art.” “It's actually very very believable, very very truthful,” he says, noting that the vampires are all “inspired by nature.” “Nature's creepy as hell, man,” del Toro adds.
3:06 p.m. “I've never seen a vampire before, but now I do,” Stoll says, raving about the practical effects and makeup work. Maestro was just glad not to be acting opposite CGI and green screen.
3:06 p.m. “In terms of the content, we've made the show that we wanted to make. This is our creative vision and they've been nothing but supportive of that,” Cuse says of FX's participation. And Chuck and Guillermo have been supportive of Cuse expanding on the universe of the books. “We've used the best stuff from the books and invented a bunch of other stuff,” Cuse says. There's a set piece that the TV show has been able to do that del Toro wishes he'd been able to include in the book. Chuck Hogan has been in the TV writers' room, giving his insights.
3:07 p.m. What did each actor bring to the role? “We had a lot of time to work on this,” Cuse says, referencing having seen Corey Stoll in “Midnight in Paris.” Cuse and del Toro did the casting together. Del Toro says that Stoll was offered the part in the room. “There's a limited number of actors in their 70s who can be badasses,” Cuse says of David Bradley, praising his background going back to the RSC, the Harry Potter movies and “Game of Thrones.” “When all the other guys go to sleep, he goes to dance salsa,” del Toro says of Bradley. “He's Rudy and he's a Goonie and we thought it would be funny to have the most famous sidekick of all times be a betrayer. Like him saying, 'What ring, Mr. Frodo? I didn't know you had a ring,'” del Toro says of casting Astin. Cuse had, of course, worked with Kevin Durand on “Lost.” They didn't think they would be able to get Richard Sammel and they had a phone call with him and he asked the right questions and gave the right answers from the point-of-view of his character. Cuse praises Jonathan Hyde for willingly endure the makeup and work to turn him into an old, feeble guy. del Toro promises that Gus will become one of your favorite characters in the series. He wanted to make a Mexican character that would start with a stereotype and evolve into a complicated character and a serious hero. “He's one of my favorite characters in the book and he's going to kick so much ass,” del Toro promises. “He has a really interesting ongoing role in the series,” Cuse teases of Natalie Brown. “He's coming out of a cocoon and he's finally going to become what he always wanted to be,” del Toro says of Bolivar and Kesey. And, of course, Ben Hyland played Corey Stoll's son in “House of Card,” tough Cuse says that initially gave them pause.
3:18 p.m. “Our hearts couldn't take it,” Stoll says of whether the actors tried to prank or scare each other on the set.
3:20 p.m. First audience question: How did the story change in its evolution from TV pitch to book to TV pitch? Guillermo pitched FOX the idea as a TV show in 2006, beginning with the plane. At the final meeting, he was asked to turn it into a comedy. “And I left,” he says. So they decided to write it as a novel first. They wrote the books and immediately started getting contacted for the rights, but they didn't sell until they finished the book series, because they wanted to tell the story their way. At FX, John Landgraf knew the books and quizzed them on it.
3:21 p.m. A Mexican aspiring filmmaker asks about Guillermo's role as producer on “The Strain.” “I call it Three Men and a Baby – It's Carlton, Chuck and myself,” del Toro says. “We each do every specific parts,” he says. “On a day-to-day, I'm shocking up to date on the dailies,” he says. He color-times every episode and designs all of the VFX for the show. He also looks over makeup effects and set design. “Sometimes people are very happy I'm that obsessively involved and sometimes not,” he says. “I become a nuisance as often as I can.”
3:25 p.m. A young fan asks Guillermo del Toro what allowed him to enjoy sci-fi and fantasy as he grew up. He talks about how the world tries to prevent you from continuing to find joy in the things that you once did. “Some of us give up, some of us we don't,” he says, calling it a declaration of independence and staying true to what nurtured you. “F*** the world. Do whatever you want,” is his closing message.
3:27 p.m. A questioner lectures Sean Astin about his role and then asks if he chose the role because he liked the part or the project? “I chose this role because of Guillermo del Toro and 'Pan's Labyrinth,'” Astin says. He calls his role “intensely human” and suggests that the part is closer to who he is. He knows the “anguishing feeling” of wanting to do good and being unable to do it for some reason.
3:29 p.m. A very small child wants to know which of Guillermo's movies was his favorite. He says he adores “Pacific Rim,” but that most of his movies she can't see, but he also loves “Hellboy.” “All my monsters are my family and I love them equally. Hopefully you didn't watch the show and you're just visiting,” he says.
3:31 p.m. More spoilers about Bolivar. “It was a lot of conversations,” Cuse says of what happened tonight. This leads to del Toro talking about the fact that the “Strain” vampires poop as the feed.
3:33 p.m. The last questioner's dogsitter just told her that her DVR broke, so she was glad to get to watch tonight's episode. She loves “The Strain” and asks if “Salem's Lot” was an inspiration. Guillermo del Toro loved “Salem's Lot” and read it in one sit. He says his real inspirations were “Dracula” and Dan Curtis. You can read more about that in my interview with Guillermo del Toro.
That's all, folks…