One of the more intriguing projects on Pacific Rim director Guillermo Del Toro’s always-crowded slate is the FX-backed television adaptation of The Strain novel trilogy. Del Toro co-wrote the books – a unique spin on both the vampire and post-apocalyptic genres – with celebrated crime novelist Chuck Hogan (Prince of Thieves, adapted by Ben Affleck in The Town), and will oversee the TV series with Lost veteran Carlton Cuse.
Beyond the casting of House of Cards standout Corey Stoll in the lead role of Dr. Ephraim “Eph” Goodweather, news on this project has been light in the last few weeks, other than Del Toro’s confirmation that the series has gone straight into pilot production.
Now there’s a sudden wave of casting news, which is a definite signal that this is going forward. Deadline reports that Mia Maestro (Breaking Dawn) has joined the cast as Dr. Nora Martinez, who works with Stoll’s Eph Goodweather as part of the Centers of Disease Control Canary Team, which is tasked with investigating new biological threats in New York City.
Nora is a pivotal role in the books, as she is a close colleague of Goodweather as well as an on-and-off lover. As the first book opens, the two of them are the first to investigate the mystery of a jumbo jet at JFK International Airport which seemingly lands itself and has gone completely dark. Together, they discover that all the passengers are evidently dead, and are the first to encounter the strain of vampirism which soon spreads.
Joining Maestro and Stoll are Jonathan Hyde (best known for his role as the delusional ship-owner in Titanic) and Richard Sammel (memorable as the proud Nazi sergeant in Inglourious Basterds who was beaten to death by Eli Roth’s Bear Jew.) Hyde will portray Eldritch Palmer, who in the books is the third-richest man on earth and whose lifelong frailty and poor health has driven him to an obsession with immortality. His behind-the-scenes machinations with the vampire outbreak eventually bring him into direct confrontation with Goodweather.
Sammel will appear as Thomas Eichorst, a figure from the past who haunts one of the other central characters in the story, Professor Abraham Setrakian. The Professor – who has yet to be cast – is an expert in antiquities whose personal experiences with the vampire scourge date back to his time in a concentration camp. Without giving too much away, Setrakian first encounters Eichorst during World War Two… and then again much later in life.
With the Twilight series finally
blessedly behind us, we can move forward to bigger and better vampire sagas. Yes, Jonathan Rhys Meyers will be Dracula on NBC, but The Strain series approaches vampirism in a completely different way. There is no romance present in these undead beings – they are essentially giant virus cells, a hive mind controlled by the central being, the Master, whose attempt to enslave humanity and surprising origins are chronicled in the other books in the trilogy, The Fall and The Night Eternal.
On the surface, the casting of Stoll is dead-on. In the books, Eph Goodweather is an acknowledged alcoholic, and his strained relationship with his ex-wife and teenage son clashes with the pressures of his job. Maestro seems young to be playing an accomplished CDC scientist, but her character is driven, ambitious – and a bit naive, and her feelings for Goodweather aren’t always in the best interest of her or her career. Hyde is quite a bit younger than the ancient Palmer, but he can play ruthless with the best of them. Sammel is actually perfect for his character, but revealing more would mean spoiling the series before it’s even begun… and that’s just not fair.
FX has a track record of producing shows which push the envelope, even for basic cable. Combined with a growing cast of stellar names, Del Toro and Cuse’s guidance and the brilliant source material, FX could be looking at a series which could seriously rival The Walking Dead not just in quality, but viewership. Time will tell, but stay tuned for more casting news as they develop.