When a master of horror and creature creation with a track record that includes Pan’s Labyrinth, Mimic, Hellboy, The Devil’s Backbone, and Crimson Peak approaches you with an idea for a book series, you don’t say no.
After collaborating on a terrifying trilogy of novels, Chuck Hogan and Guillermo Del Toro have adapted the story into FX’s The Strain. The series is entering its third season, so for the next couple of months, TV will be infected with the threat of ancient vampires extinguishing humanity – not the romantic Brad Pitt/Robert Pattinson type, but the kind with projectile stingers, who suck you dry of blood and smash your head to pieces.
Co-creator, writer and executive producer Chuck Hogan gave us the scoop on what to expect in season three, which is basically that every episode is a super creepy, action-packed ordeal.
A lot of people may not realize you and Guillermo Del Toro wrote a trilogy of books before adapting it into a series. From what I understand, he approached you with the idea, correct?
It was his idea to begin with, yes, exactly. He had thought about doing it as a television show, but felt that the people he had been talking to really wanted funny vampires, and obviously our show is not that. He thought here’s a chance to do it as he sees it, and he pitched me his idea and I was onboard immediately.
We’ve seen other shows that have been adapted from books or comics or what have you; how close is The Strain going to stick to the books you wrote as the seasons go on?
I feel like the show really has deep roots in the books, but we’ve already gone far afield in terms of creating entirely new characters and killing off beloved characters who survived in the books. Guillermo was adamant from the beginning that we write the books and literally finish them and publish them and have all that done and then think about taking it to other medium. The great thing about our books – the TV show has absolutely taken on a life of its own over these first few seasons and now into the third, which is great. It would be hard, really, for me to go back and rewrite the exact same story that I already wrote, but it’s been great to go back to the world that I help build.
Do you have a favorite moment from the series so far or a scene that particularly fun to write or shoot?
Great question. It’s all been good. I don’t know. There’s an episode I wrote for the first season and it was one thing Guillermo and I talked about and didn’t really find any room for it in the books. It was basically a contained episode that takes place at a convenience store gas station. It was episode 8, and it a lot goes on. It was a dramatic moment that was really fun to write. At the same time, this season coming up, episode 3, we get into Mr. Quinlan’s backstory, and I had the chance to write that and I was really pleased with how that came out, too.
It seems FX really let you guys push the boundaries on what is shown on your show. For example, a guy’s genitalia falling off is not really in the normal category you would see on TV. Can you tease anything that’s pretty boundary-pushing coming up in season 3?
Yeah, exactly, we’ve done the genitals falling off – I feel like that’s a TV first. That’s a tough one to top. Getting into season 3, some of the crazy things we do don’t seem as crazy anymore. Nothing jumps out at me, but absolutely the stakes are raised. You can’t keep doing the same thing over and over again. The last thing you want to see is another Strigoi killed by the same means, so we’re constantly coming up with ways to top ourselves.
Kind of jumping off of things that aren’t regularly on TV, the vampires in this show are pretty scary. In a post-Twilight world, why was it so important to veer away so far from the glittering heartthrob vampire that people have ingrained in their brains right now?
That’s literally the foundation of the story, and that’s something when Guillermo pitched me his idea almost 10 years ago now, that’s what I responded to the most: not doing a take on vampire but going back to their roots way before Dracula when they were nasty, brutish things. And, again, this was before, the Twilight craze even happened. Back then, they were still just romantic and dashing. We’ve been pushing against that before it even existed in the sort of current conversation. I think that’s what is fun. These creatures are from a plague, a parasite and you really can’t negotiate with them, you have to confront them and fight them to stay human.
When you guys were writing the novels, did you have a pretty complete sense of what these creatures would look like or was that a separate process to create the visual look of the vampires?
I had very little idea of what they’d look like. I assumed the usual: cold-blooded, etc. But Guillermo said, ‘No, they’re warm-blooded and they have this incredibly fast metabolism, etc.’ and they would have these stingers instead of fangs and all that, so he had a very clear idea. At the same time, it’s changed a bit, too. As Guillermo got into designing the look and feel of these creatures for television, it shifted ever so slightly and became even more macabre. That’s the sort of thing, I feel, is best left to Guillermo, who is really a master at visualizing that stuff.
Are we ever going to see the disease take over the rest of the country? I know it’s pretty centralized in New York City and, from the clips I’ve seen of season 3, it sounds like the government has sort of turned their back on New York.
It certainly originated in New York so there’s a drive to quarantine New York and keep it there, but it’s already gotten out worldwide. We do some work with montages to really give a better sense of what’s going on world wide while the drama of the show sticks to the siege of New York.
Obviously, you can’t spoil anything, but is there anything else about season 3 you can tell us?
Wow, yeah, I mean, literally every episode, I feel like, has got a major turn, so it’s hard to talk about it too much without overturning a bunch of cards. What we really lean into this season is now that the threat has really been established and the mystery of if vampires exist or don’t they is gone, I feel like our characters are really energized and focused and trying to stop this thing before it reaches a tipping point and the battle is lost completely. Every episode really has a really great pace and there are lots of surprises. I’ll say this: You don’t have to wait until episode 10 for major things to happen.
What are you watching on TV right now?
That’s a good question. I’m watching Stranger Things, and I can watch with most of my family. That’s a fun, crazy show. I love the ‘80s vibe of that. What else am I watching? I loved The Night Manager. So great. It was fantastic. I’m actually watching Big Brother, which is something I can watch with my kids. It’s our late summer obsession, keeping up with the house guests. That and a lot of baseball.