When the summer began, it seemed to me that there would be two surefire hits: The Leftovers on HBO and FX’s The Strain. FX has been promoting The Strain as far back as the mid-season finale of The Walking Dead last year, with this mysterious and freaky rats commercial. Seven months later, and the series is finally set to debut on FX on July 13th.
Here’s everything we know about The Strain, so far.
1. The premiere date is actually significant because it falls on a Sunday, which means that FX is finally going to attempt to compete with the Sunday night prestige dramas (FX, up until now, has mostly aired its dramas on Tuesday and Wednesday nights). That means FX has a lot of faith in the series to go up against True Blood/The Leftovers and Masters of Sex/Ray Donovan on Showtime.
2. The Strain comes from a trilogy of novels written by Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, Pacific Rim) and Chuck Hogan, who wrote the novel, Prince of Thieves that Ben Affleck used as the basis for The Town. (Some critics of the novels, however, have suggested that the trilogy could’ve used more del Toro and less Hogan.) Interestingly, del Toro and Hogan worked on the first novel over email for an entire year without ever signing a contract: All they shared was a “bro-hug” and an agreement to do the writing.
3. There was an interesting development process for The Strain. Guillermo del Toro originally pitched the idea to Fox as a weekly procedural series many years ago, and Fox came back and asked that it be a comedy. Del Toro rejected that, and instead set about writing the novel. However, he had a weakness for the procedural aspects of the novel, so he ended up collaborating on it with Chuck Hogan, who has a strength in those elements.
4. After the first book was published, studios and networks began seeking optioning rights to the book series. Del Toro and Hogan declined, deciding to wait until the trilogy was done so that television/movie rights wouldn’t interfere with the writing of the second two books. After they ended up writing the trilogy, the book series, ironically, ended up as the very television series del Toro wanted in the first place, only now it will be on FX, which del Toro went with because FX promised to follow the book series more closely.
5. The Strain will not be open-ended. There will be three to five seasons (or 39–65 episodes) and that is it. That’s how much material the novels provide, and that’s all FX plans to cover.
6. The premise of The Strain is this, and we don’t want to give away anymore before the series begins:
A plane lands at John F. Kennedy International Airport with the lights off and doors sealed. Epidemiologist Dr. Ephraim Goodweather and his team are sent to investigate. On board they find two hundred corpses and four survivors. The situation deteriorates when the bodies begin disappearing from morgues. Goodweather and a small group of helpers find themselves battling to protect not only their own loved ones, but the entire city, from an ancient threat to humanity.
This is what it looks like after that flight:
7. Among the cast of the series is Corey Stoll (House of Cards), David Bradley (Argus Filch in the Harry Potter film series and Walder Frey in Game of Thrones, and Sean Astin (Lord of the Rings). Recurring characters will include Regina King (Southland), Francis Capra (Veronica Mars), and Leslie Hope (Teri Bauer in 24).
8. Guillermo del Toro will direct the pilot episode (which he co-wrote) and is expected to direct other episodes. He and Chuck Hogan also co-wrote five of the episodes.
9. Carlton Cuse (Lost) is the showrunner, and I don’t mean to suggest he’s stretching himself too thin, but he’s also the showrunner on Bates Hotel and he’s developing The Returned for A&E. The good news is, he has a great writers room: Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan are writing 5 episodes. Regina Corrado (Deadwood, Sons of Anarchy) is taking lead on three more, and Bradley Thompson and David Weddle (both from Battlestar Galactica) are pitching in, as well. They’re already breaking scripts for season two.
10. With the concept, del Toro sought to de-romanticize vampires, which have been humanized and turned into love interests in recent years. Of the concept, del Toro states: “Vampires have been romanticised. We’ve kind of de-fanged them. I wanted to do this not as a movement, but as an alternative. It is gory, but not gory for the sake of being gory. I would say it’s biologically curious. But the way the vampires breed is truly brutal.”
11. The process of vampire transformation in The Strain goes back to old Vampire folklore: They are infected by a worm-like virus (through the eye), which crawl through victim’s veins to infect their entire body. Under a blacklight, you can see the worms crawling through the veins. These vampires also have stringers attached to their mouths, which allow them to better drink the blood of human.
You could see the worm infection on billboards containing key art for the series until FX pulled them down after complaints that they were too creepy.
Here it is in GIF action:
12. Ramin Djawadi, who scored Pacific Rim, Edge of Tomorrow, and Game of Thrones, will also provide the score for The Strain.
13. For the series’ pilot, FX committed half a million dollars to creature creation alone.
14. Finally, here’s the most illuminating trailer for the series so far.