The Strain

The Strain: Creepy Kids, Hairless Eph and More Burning Questions Answered

The cast and creators of FX’s The Strain appeared Friday at the Television Critics Association press tour in Beverly Hills, where they debuted a trailer that revealed a(n awaited) new character and showed a hero shackled by evil Eichorst.

Afterward, they answered some of my (and others’) burning questions stemming from the first stretch of Season 2, airing Sundays at 10/9c.

EXACTLY HOW BAD ARE THINGS IN NYC?
After all, the vista of a folksy ribbon-cutting ceremony will be followed by the sight of a Manhattan skyline riddled with smoldering skyscrapers. “There is not full-scale social demise yet,” showrunner Carlton Cuse explained to TVLine. Plus, “There’s also a lot of willful denial…. It’s a mixed bag at this point.” As for the seemingly slow response to the outbreak on a national scale, Guillermo del Toro — on whose graohic novels the vampire series is based — pointed out that only “a matter of days” have passed thus far on screen. But a national response “is coming,” Cuse previewed.

ARE THOSE ACTUAL KIDS PLAYING THE CREEPY FEELERS?
And if so, what sort of nightmares are they having when they get home? “We lucked out finding these amazing kid performers that are nightmare-free,” del Toro reported. “They really love attacking adults at the smallest provocation…. They seem to be the happiest members of our cast!”

WHY THE ZACK RECAST?
AKA the million-dollar Season 2 question. “Different actors bring different qualities, and Max Charles (The Neighbors) had something that we really responded to that would be very much in line with where we were going with this character,” Cuse told me. As for the lad’s surly new disposition, the EP teased that — as book readers know — there is “a dark and unlikable journey that Zack is embarking on.”

WHY IS EPH LOSING HIS HAIR?!
As revealed by The Hollywood Reporter, in this Sunday’s episode Eph lops his locks in the name of going in cognito. And portrayer Corey Stoll seems to lament the loss. “There’s something nice about having a form of a ‘mask,’ something that differentiates me from the character,” he said. “But I think it was pretty clear that me having me hair was a distraction for the audience,” so the book-based buzz was fast-tracked.

WHAT NOTES DO THE FRIGHFEST’S PRODUCERS GET FROM FX?
Simply said, only helpful ones. “I really look forward to the notes process,” Cuse said, “because it’s a dialogue, a litmus test.” Specifically for Season 2, FX networks CEO John Landgraf “had some notes about the [spoiler] character, some perceptive thoughts about how we should approach that. And we all looked at each other like, ‘Oh, that totally makes sense.'”

WILL COUNCILWOMAN FERALDO CROSS PATHS WITH OUR HEROES?
“Oh yes, absolutely,” Cuse said of Samantha Mathis’ plucky politico, adding: “There are a lot of analogies in our show to the rise of National Socialism in Germany….. Totalitarian leaders don’t arise randomly, they arise with the support of the populace, and in a difficult situation you turn to people who will solve your problems. That’s the role of this character.”

WHAT NEW (OR, VERY OLD) FLASHBACKS ARE AHEAD?
“We love the flashback — some are allegorical, some are filling in mythological details, some are  resonant,” Cuse said. “We have a Roman flashback for [spoiler] coming up, and it’s pretty badass!”

WHEN WILL THE STRAIN BE (HOPEFULLY) CONTAINED?
“Very specifically” by design, The Strain will run five seasons and no more, Cuse made clear. “Season 3 will be 10 episodes, and then Seasons 4 and 5 will be 10 episodes each, and that will be the end,” he said, detailing that Seasons 2 and 3 span del Toro’s second novel, while the final two cycles will cover the third book.

WHAT ABOUT A FEAR THE WALKING DEAD-LIKE OFFSHOOT?
“We fear enough every week!” del Toro responded, nixing spinoff suggestions.  Added Cuse: “We haven’t talked about that at all.”

Want more scoop on The Strain, or for any other show? Email insideline@tvline.com and your question may be answered via Matt’s Inside Line.