Early on in “The Strain,” a chilling summer series premiering Sunday, July 13, on FX, an airliner from Berlin arrives at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. Very quickly, airport officials notice that the aircraft is sitting a little too quietly on the tarmac. All the window shades but one are drawn. There’s no chatter coming from the cockpit, nor is there any cell phone activity from the passengers.
It’s a “dead plane.”
Fearing the worst, they summon Ephraim Goodweather (Corey Stoll, “House of Cards”), head of a team from the Center for Disease Control, who enters the airplane in heavy protective gear to find all passengers and crew dead, albeit with no apparent signs of injury. As the investigation continues, they discover the plane’s storage compartment contains a large wooden crate filled with earth, but otherwise empty.
And here’s a curious thing: Its latch is on the inside … .
Yes, kids, we’re dealing with vampires, but not the sensitive bloodsuckers from The CW’s “The Vampire Diaries” or, god forbid, the sparkly brooders from the “Twilight” books and movies. Adapted by Guillermo del Toro (“Pan’s Labyrinth”) and Chuck Hogan from their best-selling trilogy of books, “The Strain” gives us terrifying old-school vampires in thrall to an ancient Master, spreading their plague via tiny, repulsive parasitic worms. They even have their own Van Helsing figure to battle: crusty Abraham Setrakian (David Bradley, best known for hosting that infamous Red Wedding on HBO’s “Game of Thrones”).
“I didn’t think the world needed another handsome, brooding vampire show,” executive producer Carlton Cuse tells Zap2it. Cuse will run the show on a weekly basis (del Toro directed the pilot). “Guillermo has really seeped in a lot of old mythological stories. This idea of vampires as Strigoi, which is the Romanian word for vampires, that they are really scary and deadly and dangerous — that was really appealing to me.”
Cuse adds that to some extent the arc of “The Strain” — which he hopes will run for five seasons — chronicles how Stoll’s character, a man of science, must come to accept the supernatural roots of this escalating global crisis. When we first meet Ephraim, though, he’s a former golden boy whose marriage has imploded just as he is about to be confronted with the most difficult case of his career.
“Everything is sort of coming crashing down all at once,” Stoll says. “And he really doesn’t have the skills to deal with failure. That seems like a really fertile ground to play in.
“Guillermo is really interested in the physical and the anatomical on a molecular level, but he’s also interested in the mythological and the spiritual. I think where those two things meet is where he finds his inspiration,” the actor adds.