When viewers meet Ephraim Goodweather on the series premiere of “The Strain,”
fans of the novels by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan will be able to notice the similarities between the literary character and his TV counterpart. They aren’t one and the same, though.
In March, Zap2it
was among a group of media outlets invited to brave a Canadian winter and visit the Toronto set of “The Strain.” While there, the cast sat down to talk about what to expect from the show and where it would head as episodes role on.
Corey Stoll, who plays Ephraim, was particularly excited about joining the series. Not only was it his chance to work with del Toro, but also an opportunity to explore a character that evolves over time.
“The fact that the character changes so much … it used to be on a TV show you were just one character and you had to stay that way until you went into syndication,” he says. “Now FX is willing and excited to let this show have a specific lifespan so you’re telling a story.”
While the broad strokes of the character were outlines in the trilogy of novels, it won’t be a carbon copy version on the show. Stoll says, “Anybody inhabiting any character is going to bring parts of themselves, but Guillermo was very open to whatever I wanted to bring to the table.”
So what, exactly, did he bring to the table? It’s the little things that make Ephraim tick. “I have this car, the one I have [in the show] which is a right-side steering wheel,” he says with a laugh. “At first they had a number of cars and were like, ‘What do you think Eph’s car should be? This is was Guillermo thinks.’ I was like, ‘What about this one?’ And they said, ‘Oh, that won’t work ’cause the steering wheel is on the right side.’ I was like, ‘That’s perfect! It’s so weird. It’s so impractical.'”
At first, Stoll claims, del Toro wasn’t sure about his choice of car for Ephraim. However, that’s when he got creative. “Suddenly I came up with the whole backstory about why he had this car,” Stoll says. “He had been in the Congo and had to sell his Rolex to buy this car to escape warlords.”
For him, collaborating with del Toro on who the character was is the thing that made him most human. “In terms of Eph, he kept on talking about Orson Welles as a role model,” Stoll remembers. “I didn’t really understand what he was talking about, then I read his biography. It has more to do with his biography than his filmography, but he was this boy genius who was a winner at everything he did until he wasn’t.”
That is how Stoll views Ephraim. “He was incredibly precocious and incredibly successful. Then suddenly, his marriage is falling apart and he’s encountering something in his work life that he has no context, no skill, to deal with,” he says. “It’s shattering.”
It’s that realization for the character that begins his story within the world of “The Strain.” “It’s this sort of journey of letting go of control and of never actually being able to understand what’s happening. He sort of gets to a point of pure reaction,” he says. “That’s central to Eph’s character. This man of science, of empirical proof, forced to face this phenomenon he can’t explain.”
“The Strain” premieres Sunday (July 13) at 10 p.m. ET/PT on FX.