THE STRAIN logo | ©2014 FX

THE STRAIN logo | ©2014 FX

In FX’s THE STRAIN, Sundays at 10 PM, a plane lands in New York City with all but four people aboard inexplicably dead. When Dr. Ephraim Goodweather (Corey Stoll) and Dr. Nora Martinez (Mia Maestro) from the Centers for Disease Control investigate, they soon find that both the survivors and the deceased all carry a blood-borne contagion that creates fast-moving, fast-breeding vampires.

Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan, who together wrote the trilogy of novels that are dramatized in THE STRAIN, serve as executive producers, with del Toro also directing some episodes and Hogan crafting some of the scripts. Their fellow executive producer is Carlton Cuse, who serves as show runner on the series, which is now in its first season and renewed for a second.

Cuse, who was born in Mexico City and grew up in Boston and California’s Orange County, is famous for show-running LOST alongside that series’ co-creator Damon Lindelof. More recently, Cuse developed BATES MOTEL, a series prequel to PSYCHO, for A&E. Other executive producer/writer credits include NASH BRIDGES, BLACK SASH, MARTIAL LAW and THE ADVENTURES OF BRISCO COUNTY, JR.

At a party thrown by Fox and FX for the Television Critics Association, Cuse finds a quiet place to talk about THE STRAIN.

ASSIGNMENT X: Are you running the writers’ room?

CARLTON CUSE: Yes. I am running the writers’ room. I really oversee the storytelling process of the show, and Guillermo oversees the creatures and a lot of the visual look of the show, and there’s a lot of overlap.

AX: What does Chuck Hogan do on the show?

CUSE: Chuck Hogan works with me on the writing of the show. He’s also been involved in overseeing some of the production aspects of the show.

AX: What is different about running THE STRAIN than running another show?

CUSE: You know, I think every show is unique. I think that in the case of THE STRAIN, it’s a very complicated show, because it’s got creatures, prosthetics, visual effects. Technically, it’s a very hard show to do, and it’s really much more like a movie in its production complexity. I compare THE STRAIN to a thriller with horror elements. It’s definitely different than LOST, which was a mystery, or BATES MOTEL, which I consider to be sort of a personal drama and a tragedy. It’s just a different genre and it requires a different approach.

AX: How closely does the series follow the three books by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan?

CUSE: It’s sort of generally following the three books, but there’s a massive amount of invention. I think that if you read the books, you’ll get one experience and if you watch the show, you’ll get a different experience, which is going to be very rich. I think of the series as its own creation, really.

AX: Is it going to be one book per season?

CUSE: No, I think it’s going to be the first book is the first season. I’m thinking that the second book will be two seasons and the final book will be two seasons. It’ll end up five seasons.

AX: Are there new elements for the TV series?

CUSE: Oh, we’ve invented a ton of stuff. I mean, when you watch the show unfold, there’s a ton of stuff that wasn’t in the original books. There are brand-new characters.

AX: When you did LOST, you and Damon Lindelof broke some ground with telling the network two seasons beforehand exactly when you wanted the series to end. That sounds like what’s being done with THE STRAIN as well.

CUSE: Yeah. Audiences want to see stories end. I mean, if you’re doing a show like GREY’S ANATOMY, it’s fine, because there’s always a new medical case, a new doctor you can hire. But a story like this, about a vampire plague, you want to see what the resolution is, and I think you want to get it in a relatively timely fashion. I think five seasons is just probably perfect.

AX: Is Corey Stoll somebody you’d wanted to work with before this?

CUSE: I loved Corey Stoll in HOUSE OF CARDS, and also in MIDNIGHT IN PARIS, and it was just a fantastic treat that we got him to do the show, and he’s an amazing talent, and he makes everything that he does better, and that’s your dream as a show runner.

AX: John Hurt was originally supposed to play Abraham Setrakian, one of the main characters, but he dropped out. Can you say what happened there?

CUSE: You know, I think for a variety of factors, it just didn’t really work out that John was in a place where he really wanted to do a series. We got David Bradley, who has been fantastic. I mean, John Hurt’s a fantastic actor, but these things sometimes happen. When you make a TV show, it’s not an abstract thing. It requires a major life commitment.

AX: It’s serendipity, but as Setrakian is much tougher than he initially appears, does it help that David Bradley is so known in pop culture right now as a badass for playing Red Wedding host Walder Frey on GAME OF THRONES?

CUSE: I don’t really think of it that way – I just think that he’s a fantastic actor. I don’t really think out him in the context of his other shows, I just think about how great he is for THE STRAIN.

AX: Where are you shooting?

CUSE: We shoot in Toronto.

AX: Have you had to invent anything on the technical side to deal with the special effects?

CUSE: You know, it’s been a great pleasure working with Guillermo del Toro, who is probably better than anyone in the world in the area of creature creation. I’ve learned a lot about how to do creature stuff, which I never knew – I’d never done that before, so he is one of the most visually imaginative people on the face of this planet and it’s been a fantastic experience collaborating with him on this show and kind of combining our talents to hopefully make this very awesome.

AX: He seems very joyous in his approach to the work.

CUSE: I think that you have to be joyous in your approach to work. We have a lot of fun and I think that the reason the show is entertaining is that we approach it with joy. We try to have fun when we’re making it and we try to be imaginative and I think that imagination and creativity come out of being in a good and happy and fun place. It doesn’t work as well when you’re tight and tense and pressured, so I feel like that’s kind of a prerequisite.

AX: Anything else we should know about THE STRAIN right now?

CUSE: Keep watching. It gets very interesting in ways that you won’t expect.

Related: Actor Corey Stoll on Season 1 of THE STRAIN

Related: THE STRAIN creator Guillermo del Toro on his new nasty vamp series

Related: TV Review: THE STRAIN – Season 1 – “Night Zero” – Series Premier

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Article: Exclusive interview with THE STRAIN showrunner Carlton Cuse on Season 1


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