With his giant robots vs. giant monsters smackdown flick Pacific Rim hitting theaters this Friday, the perpetually-busy Guillermo del Toro is about to enter a remarkably prolific period, even for him. His next feature film will be the “classical gothic romance ghost story” Crimson Peak, but before that he'll be tackling the television adaptation of The Strain trilogy, the vampire-plague novels he co-authored with celebrated crime novelist Chuck Hogan (The Town).
While previous reports have confirmed only that FX has ordered a pilot, del Toro recently spoke with Collider about the project, and it seems that the cable network appears to be backing The Strain as a full-bore series, which del Toro will be overseeing along with Lost alum Carlton Cuse.
Rather than approaching the show an episode at a time, it looks like del Toro and company are laying out the entire first season from the get-go:
“Chuck [Hogan] and I co-wrote the pilot, which I’m directing, I cast the series, and I go and rewrite and make my notes and collaborate with every single screenplay in the series.
We’re doing something that is not normal. We created a writer’s room, [and] I’ve been there from the beginning laying out the first season, and I am involved in every one of those screenplays of the first season, which we are writing before we shoot the series. Normally a series is shot in such a way that you’re getting the screenplay under the door the morning before you shoot the next episode. We’re mapping the first season completely so I can be involved. And I’ll be involved in the shooting of the first few chapters, the first probably four or five as an on-set producer, and then Crimson Peak shoots and I cannot be physically there.”
While this is indeed not the norm with most TV shows, fans should take heart that while Cuse will be responsible for showrunning duties, del Toro will remain a producer and the first season, at least, will bear his mark.
Most of the cast is already set: Corey Stoll (House of Cards) will lead the way as Dr. Ephraim Goodweather, an epidemiologist and recovering alcoholic who is the first to encounter the mysterious vampire strain alongside his colleague (and sometime lover) Dr. Nora Martinez (Breaking Dawn's Mia Maestro).
John Hurt will portray Holocaust survivor and pawn shop owner Professor Abraham Setrakian, the "Van Helsing" type mentor whose painful personal history with the strigoi (UnDead) motivates his desperate need to protect humanity and guide the doctors in their fight against a big bad vamp, known as the The Master.
Along with Jonathan Hyde (Titanic) and Richard Stammel (Inglourious Basterds), we have word of another new addition to the cast: Carlton Cuse has tweeted that Sean Astin will join The Strain. Astin, of course, is famous for his pivotal role as Samwise Gamgee in Peter Jackson's original Lord of the Rings trilogy. Astin's performance was one of the more grounded, and enjoyable, things in those films - and while there is no word on his role just yet, he's a welcome presence.
So what does all this boil down to? We're getting another vampire series. Unlike NBC's upcoming Dracula or the ongoing The Vampire Diaries or True Blood, there is zero sense of bloated, melodramatic romance present in the vampires of The Strain.
Guillermo del Toro's boundless imagination and Chuck Hogan's hard-nosed, street-wise prose blend together to tell a bleak, uncompromising vision of a world in which a delicate balance between immortals and humans has been brutally upset by an almost all-powerful being, aided in part by megalomaniac humans addicted to what they perceive as power. FX has proven itself a home for rich, tough television, from The Shield and Rescue Me to Justified and Sons of Anarchy - The Strain just might be the antidote we need to toothless supernatural TV, and could emerge as a serious rival for The Walking Dead's viewers. Expect more news as details emerge.
Expect The Strain sometime in late 2013 or early 2014. Guillermo del Toro's Pacific Rim opens Friday, July 12, 2013.