One of the most surprising moments yet in Season 2 of “The Strain” was the sudden death of Vaun (Stephen McHattie). Many believed him to be the replacement for Quinlan, a beloved character from the books.
However, the Aug. 16 episode of the series properly introduced Quinlan, played by Rupert Penry-Jones. While the viewing audience may not know a whole lot about the character yet, you’d better get used to his face, as Quinlan will become an integral part of the story.
Zap2it spoke with Penry-Jones about joining “The Strain,” what he wants to see done with the character and why he almost turned down the role.
Zap2it: Fans of the books were introduced to Vaun and likely assumed he was a replacement for Quinlan. At what point were you first approached about bringing this book character to life on the show?
Rubert Penry-Jones: I was offered the part the part about halfway through the first season.
So the plan to introduce Quinlan goes back to the early days of the series, then?
Yeah, they’d already shot the whole of the first season, but it was about halfway through it’s airing. I don’t think Vaun had actually appeared, at least in the U.K., when they approached me.
Was it Guillermo del Toro that first reached out to you?
Yes, he rang and explained the role after I was told about it by my agent. I was already watching the show as a fan but quickly scanned the books. I thought it was an amazing part, but I didn’t think it would be much fun to play in the TV show. Obviously, he didn’t have much of a face — no nose and no ears — and in the books he only speaks to people through telepathy.
I thought the idea of signing up for five season with no speaking … But then Guillermo talked to me and sent me a prototype of what he’d look like and explained to me that he would be speaking. The telepathy side of things doesn’t really work.
He convinced me to do it, basically, and I’m glad he did. I quite enjoy it.
Working with Guillermo, he a creative force unlike what people normally see. What is that experience like for you, as an actor?
For me, it was like meeting one of my heroes. I’ve been a huge fan of his since “Chronos” and I’d say “Pan’s Labyrinth” is one of my favorite films of all time. The fact that he was making a TV show is why I watched “The Strain” in the first place.
Then to have him say, “I’ve been watching your work, I’m a fan of yours and I want you to come onto the show” was just amazing. He puts you at ease immediately. he gives you a big hug, tells you how great your are … He’s just so positive and fun and full of life. He’s a very special man in many ways, not just as a creative force but as a guy. When he’s in the room it’s just a happy place to be.
As we see with the introduction of Quinlan, there are obvious changes from the books — like you said, the design is different and he actually speaks. When you got the role, did you go through the books to read his original story arc?
Yes, I think the story arc is fantastic and I’m hoping they use it an embellish it even more, to be honest. I think it’s a fascinating idea.
In terms of what happens with Quinlan, it’s almost more interesting what happens before the book starts, in many ways — his creation, the family he has that’s killed by the Master and hunting the Master down for 2,000 years. There’s an unlimited amount of stuff you can do, every era there’s been since the Roman era.
That’s one of the special things about this show. Thanks to the way it addresses the past with flashbacks, it’s entirely possible it could delve into that.
I think the flashbacks is one of the best bits about the shows. All the episodes that have flashbacks for me are stronger because of them.
Then the question is how much of Quinlan’s story will we learn this season?
You get some of it, but to be honest it’s quite limited. I think it’ll kick in more next season. You get him in a couple of different time frame, a couple of sequences of where he was before. It’s not as much as I would have liked. [laughs] But I’ve been told there would be more. I think the character’s going down pretty well.
I’m pretty sure I’ll be in all 10 of the next series.
Lastly, since so much of ‘The Strain’ focuses on this core group of people who have banded together, will we see him integrating with them?
Yes. [laughs] I’m not sure how much I can let you know, but he definitely does meet some of the team and by the end of it he’s definitely part of one group of the team.
I’m not going to say which because I want to keep people guessing. By the end of next season, I’d say I’ll have met them all. This season there, how many is there? There’s three that I meet from the core group of the show.
“The Strain” airs Sundays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on FX.