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Interview: Drew Nelson talks creepy new FX series 'The Strain'

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Guillermo Del Toro’s new television series, The Strain, numbers among the most anticipated of the summer. It’s also nigh-inarguably the most clandestine, revealing little of itself and remaining particularly mysterious for those unfamiliar with the comic (also from series co-creators Del Toro and Chuch Hogan). So, when actor Drew Nelson, who plays Matt, the new boyfriend of leading man Dr. Ephram Goodweather’s (Corey Stolls) ex-wife, gave a phone interview about his experience on the show, he had to tread carefully so as not to reveal any details.

“Unfortunately, I can’t say a thing, it’s a really secretive show. I wish I could contain my enthusiasm for how awesome it’s going to be. We’ve been keeping this a secret for so long and finally we’re going to be able to unleash it,” Nelson said.

Still, he shared what he could about the new FX series (which premiered on July 13): detailing his character, what he thinks the show could do for the vampire genre and more.

Before diving into the specifics Nelson gave a brief overview on the details of the show and its trajectory, at least those he could reveal.

The Strain is led by Corey Stoll who plays Dr. Ephraim Goodweather the head of the CDC’s Canary Unit in New York, and combines two very hot cultural themes: epidemics and vampirism. As Nelson explained, the ball gets rolling when Eph and his team, “...stumble upon this really mysterious outbreak that starts taking over New York and it’s all about him and his team along with some everyday New Yorkers that we meet along the way, that try to combat this strain, this disease over time, before it takes over the world, basically. So it’s pretty epic.”

Nelson’s character, Matt Sayles isn’t a member of the CDC, but he is right in the mix of the action as the new live-in boyfriend of Ephraim’s ex-wife, Kelly.

“He’s not, I don’t think he’s the most likeable guy really, just by virtue of him being the new guy in Kelly’s life...especially the fact that I’m sort of trying to be the father to their son, Zach, that Eph never really could be because he was always so enraveled with his work, right? So it’s some great rivalry stuff between myself and Corey, and it was just phenomenal to get to play opposite that guy he’s incredible.”

Though he auditioned for his role like he would for any other project, Nelson did note that the process had one quite memorable element: An audition with Del Toro and producer Carlton Cuse that had the feel of a working session.

“I got a phone call from my agent saying that Guillermo wanted to meet me in person, so I met him down at the production office where The Strain is held and Carlton Cuse was in the room too that day, so I went in and met both of them and we just went through a rigorous audition together where he [Del Toro] was giving me really detailed moment-to-moment direction, pretty much line by line and it really felt like a working session with Guillermo, cause he’s very much a collaborator and really put me at ease, so that one went very well... I had to go back for one more callback to put what I did with Guillermo on tape, ‘cause there wasn’t a camera in the room the first time… The day after my birthday I got the call that FX had approved me, and a week later I was on set taking direction from Guillermo,” Nelson recalled. “It was incredible.”

Nelson said that his experience working with Del Toro after being cast was incredible.

“The fact that...he’s just so technically sound as a director, but at the same time he’s open to his actors with collaborating and things like that. Because he’s so detail-oriented, you can put all your trust in him. You just give him all your trust and you just know that he’s going to steer you in the right direction,” Nelson said. “...He’s just such a fun guy to work with, the guy’s just, he’s living the dream. He’s making the work he wants to make and he’s got the respect in the industry and he’s a really fun guy to be around. Joking all the time, cracking jokes, everybody in the crew loves him, the cast loves working with him, no doubt is he one of the leading visionaries for sure in the industry and an all around solid guy.”

Del Toro has a reputation as a visionary director, and Nelson believes that The Strain will continue the trend of highly original work fans have come to expect from Del Toro.

“I really think this show is going to revolutionize the vampire genre. Guillermo's leading the charge, and rightfully so, he’s just such an original. His ideas are so specific and original and...everyone trusts his vision on things and I think this show translates that [vision] extremely well,” Nelson said. “In terms of the market being saturated [with vampire and epidemic fare], yeah, it is, but when you have a creative team like Carlton and Guillermo and Chuck Hogan leading the charge, I just don’t see any room for failure”

That the series combines vampires and an epidemic scenario already distances it from other vampire-ridden series currently on television, but that’s not the only way in which The Strain has a different take on the creatures of the night.

“These vampires are not sexy vampires whatsoever. They’re horrific, primal, feral creatures. It’s all about gore and death, the action sequences that I’ve seen so far are just mindblowing, they are, the CG people did an incredible job animating these things, so there are going to be a lot of thrills in this show for sure,” Nelson said.

Fans of the Del Toro and Hogan’s books will already know that and many other elements well. Nelson noted that the series sticks quite close to the books, albeit with the caveat, “There might be a few surprises here and there, you never know.”
He added that fans already familiar with the work and newcomers alike can expect something truely different than anything else on television. Without getting into those forbidden specifics, Nelson teased:

“Expect a lot of gore, a lot of token Guillermo horror stuff, a lot of thrills, there’s some romance in there, but it’s really epic in scale, I’ll say that. I think people will be really impressed with the different locations and different time periods that it spans.”

Fans can keep up with Nelson via Facebook and on Twitter: @drewnelsonlive

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