Over the course of two season’s, FX’s The Strain has thrilled fans with its fast-paced narratives and vampiric horror. Based on the trilogy by Mexican director Guillermo del Toro, and American novelist and screenwriter Chuck Hogan, fans of crime narratives and supernatural fiction à la Stephen King will surely get hooked. We had a chance to speak to co-creator Chuck Hogan about what we can expect to see during Season 3, and what else is to come for the series as a whole. Check out our interview below, and make sure to catch the season premiere tonight, Sunday, August 28th at 10/9c.
How did the collaboration between yourself and co-creator Guillermo del Toro begin?
It all began with a phone call from my agent. This was almost 10 years ago now. He asked if I’d I heard of Guillermo del Toro, and I responded, “Yes, sure. Hellboy!” He’s like, “Well he’s got this movie coming out, Pan’s Labyrinth,” and he said it kind of cryptic. I had no idea. I hadn’t heard of it. He said, “He’s got this idea and he might want to do it as a book.”
He sent over this outline that was 12 pages double spaced. I was literally a page and a half into it, and thought, “This is incredible. What does he want to do?” My agent said, “He’s looking for a co-writer,” so we met. We had breakfast in New York ahead of the New York Film Festival, and talked about it. He told me more about his vision for it, and I just loved it. We worked on it together for about a year before even going to publishers, just sort of fleshing it out and having fun with it.
He was maybe looking for someone who was more traditionally a horror writer to collaborate with, but actually I thought his premise was genius. He really wanted to take an old school horror idea, and mash it with more of a crime procedural novel way of telling it. He had read one of my novels, The Town, and he had read another book of mine that had a horror element, which was great. I just thought that was a terrific idea. I’ve never really collaborated with anyone else, and I’m fortunate to have been paired up with him.
As a New Yorker it’s pretty exciting and heart wrenching to see my city in such disarray on the small screen. How much do you think on location shooting contributes to the intensity of the show? The city seems to be it’s own character.
Yes, I think it really contributes. It’s incredibly important to us! I wish we could afford to shoot the whole thing there. We can’t, [Editor’s Note: Filming also takes place in Toronto] but we really tried hard to pick our shots and to get the most out of it. I’ve got to say, that’s one of the things our crews are absolutely great at is getting us tremendous stuff. The city is an absolutely critical character to the story, and to the show. It’s also kind of fun, especially being from Boston, to take New York down.
You have a real knack for taking familiar narratives (the Eastern European origin of vampires, the terrors of WW2, the foibles of the ultra-rich) and turning them on their heads. What do you think is the key to tackling these narratives without falling into expected cliches?
Good question! I feel like we have a huge advantage baked into the story. The fact that this creature, and this plague have always existed throughout time, but only now has it really flipped the script and made itself known. That gives us a lot of leeway to tell the story in some great flashbacks and some back stories throughout history.
We get into that again throughout season three, primarily with the character of Mr. Quinlan. I just feel like it gives the story more depth. This story didn’t just start 24 days ago; it actually started centuries ago, but because of technology, because of human civilization and progress, we’ve reached a point where this is the best time for the strain to spread.
Some Strigoi seem to hold onto their humanity more than others—in S1 there was Ansel Barbour who was sentient enough to warn his wife to abandon him, and based on the S2 finale it seems that Kelly has been able to keep some of her humanity in tact… can you tell us a bit about that? It seems like the more moral and upright they were as humans, the more likely they are to keep some of their humanity after they’ve turned…
Well that actually has to do with who turns them. Ansel Barbour and the other original plane passengers are a special case because they were turned by The Master, who has a lot more control over things. In the case of Kelly, these are Strigoi in whom The Master has recognized something, he’s seen something that’s very useful to him, so he’s gifted them with a little bit of consciousness. The Master essentially got the idea for his plan during World War II, and saw Eichhorst as someone who would be very useful to him. He’s controlling, but at the same time, it moves him to give certain key creatures enhanced consciousness.
Viewers have had two seasons to dig into the fast-moving world of The Strain, and it doesn’t seem like Season 3 will slow down at all. What can viewers expect to experience in Season 3?
Yes. It’s definitely the opposite of slowing down! We start off a couple of weeks ahead. We’re still only about 24 days into the spread of the strain. Also, this season, instead of doing 13 episodes, we’re doing 10, which I really found worked to our benefit in a great way. It’s really upped the stakes for every episode, really streamlined the storytelling.
As opposed to the first two seasons where there was a lot of confusion and a lot of mystery around what’s happening, why are these people apparently coming back from the dead, etc., now we’ve reached the point where there’s general acceptance that there is this plague. We are being infected by parasites taking over our bodies, so the question is what can we do about it, and what should we do about it before we reach a tipping point where all is lost? Season 3 is really about no longer questioning what’s happening, but trying to find a way to slow or stop it.
Do you feel like there’s enough material in the books to keep going, have a Season 4, have a Season 5, or do you envision it being something that you would like to wrap up with less episodes? What are you thinking?
It’s a totally open question. As we started writing the books, we knew the beginning, we knew the middle, and we knew the end, so it’s not going to be a show that goes on and on. There’s a definite end point in sight. We’re sort of at that time now where we’re trying to gauge how many more episodes, what’s the best combination of episodes to get us where we want to go. There’s a huge benefit in having a fixed story and really giving something to write to as opposed to trying to spin out an endless story and hoping that people will still stay engaged. I’m excited about getting to the end once we get there.
Are there any new characters that will be introduced in the new season? During Season 2 we got to know Dutch and Quinlan a bit more…
Yes, well she’s not brand new, but Justine Feraldo, the Staten Island councilwoman—she’s got a major part to play in Season 3. Her early success in containing the disease becomes a little bit problematic as she gains more power and it’s great. We see more of her. Quinlan hooks up with our band of heroes. He’s so much fun to write for. As opposed to a lot of new characters, what we really wanted to do was take the characters that we had and team them up in interesting and I think unexpected combinations. I’m not talking romantically necessarily. I’m talking about in terms of partnerships, in terms of new allegiances and alliances going ahead, trying to defeat the strain.
I’ve got to say, it’s going to be really hard for me to have to watch one episode per week! I binged Seasons 1 and 2!
I’ll bet! When you go from one a week to all of them, that’s a really big problem. But I really feel like you could jump in Season 3 and really get into it. Sometimes I think viewers feel like, “Oh man, I have to do a lot of work in order to catch up to the current season,” but if they watch this season you can totally go back to watch the previous seasons to fill in the blanks so to speak.