Warning: This post contains spoilers for Season 3 of The Strain.
When The Strain returns Sunday, the battle against the bloodsuckers for New York City wages on. Yahoo TV chatted with the good doctor himself, Corey Stoll, to find out if the humans will finally get the upper hand on The Master and his whip-tongued minions this season. After all, the Setrakian has the Lumen, Dr. Ephraim Goodweather has developed a bio weapon, and the human-strigoi hybrid warrior Quinlan has joined the fight.
When season 3 starts, Nora is dead and Kelly has taken your son to The Master. What headspace does this put Eph in?
He’s pretty much at bottom and he is not interested in the what the rest of the team is doing or in being part of any effort to fight the strigoi. He’s really pretty depressed and he stays fairly intoxicated at all times. But he is knocked out of that ennui pretty quickly because being in the middle of a vampire apocalypse demands one’s attention.
Related: ‘The Strain’ Season 2 Catch-Up Guide
I would think there wouldn’t be too much time for a pity party.
Yeah, I think one thing that Carlton [Cuse, executive producer] has been really great about is always making sure that there’s positive, affirmative thing to build towards instead of just survival. This takes it from being just a horror show to more of an adventure show. There is a bigger picture, a mission, and there is a solution out there. It’s just very difficult to attain and the environment in which you’re trying to find it is very scary. He’s absolutely heartbroken by Nora’s death and determined to get his son back. And that is the arc of the third season for Eph. It’s a lot of close calls and just searching for Zach.
He came up with a weapon to fight the strigoi at the end of last season, but Cuse told Yahoo that they are continually evolving and outwitting their strategies.
In the previous season, it was all about the bio weapon, and while it was successful at first, the strigoi are very adaptable and they found ways around that. So we have to look for more ways to fight and kill them. He and Dutch team up on the next science-based way to defeat The Master. Now, it’s about harnessing the hum The Master makes that can paralyze his victims. They’re finding a way to turn that around on him.
It seems like the possibility of retrieving Zach leads Eph to betray some of his team.
In terms of seeing the greater good versus his own familial duties, he’s left the Hippocratic Oath far behind. When the series started off, [it was about] my duty as doctor, as a public health official needing to protect the citizens, [This fight] moved on to something very personal for him. When weighing the possibility of getting his son back versus [those he betrays], it’s a tough choice. But in the end, it was never really close. He can’t leave the possibility of getting his son back on the table.
As a dad yourself, could you understand the motivation?
I became a parent at the beginning of last season so it’s not hard for me to imagine doing any number of immoral things in order to protect my son. It’s human nature. I think also that it’s a recurring theme of sorts — the mythology versus science. Even though, obviously, everything is conspiring against his continuing to believe in a rational science-based world, he still can’t fully get on board with the more mythological world view of vampires.
How has portraying the character changed from season 1 to 3?
I think there is a consistency of character in terms of his curiosity. No matter how knocked down he gets and how far he’s fallen, in terms of his self image and also just in terms of the tragedy that he’s witnessed and experienced, he has this insatiable curiosity. He, even in the middle of a vampire apocalypse, is able to really geek out on some new theory or technology. That’s always fun to play and sort of speaks to what I was saying before about this being a way to make an affirmative choices as opposed to just running and screaming. But he definitely, over the course of the episodes of the season, has gone from being a winner, in everything that he’s ever done to failing. He’s this real boy wonder in his career. He’s shown limits of his expertise, ability, and intelligence. And I think there is a degree of humility and empathy that Eph has now that he didn’t have in the pilot.
You guys are constantly in the sewers or in hospital rooms where heads explode. What was the creepiest or grossest scene you’ve had to film?
For some reason, this last season, we were spared a lot of the really gross locations. In the first couple seasons, we were in the subway a lot. We were in real dank tunnels and around things that were just unpleasant. Maybe I just lucked out of not being in them this season. But there has been more use of the feelers this season. It’s my new-found low. Maybe because I have a child myself now, fighting and killing and beating these small children sometimes gets to me. Even though they are having so much fun. The kids who play the feelers, [their] energy is really infectious. But definitely between “action” and “cut” when you’re shooting them or beating them, it’s a brutal, queasy feeling. [Story creator/executive producer] Guillermo Del Toro is really a master of taking things that are supposed to be one way and making them another way. And that’s what’s scary about them. Like in Pan’s Labyrinth, that character has eyes in the middle of his palms but eyes are supposed to be in the middle of your head. It’s just a slight difference from the regular world that he can somehow make incredibly disturbing. He’s a master of finding these small perversions.
The series has diverged from the books in some cases like when they decided to kill Nora off last season. Imagine that makes you feel like no one is really safe from being killed off.
I think it helps with the storytelling. Like in The Hurt Locker when Guy Pearce dies in the first scene. Then Ralph Fiennes dies. Anybody who’s at all famous in that movie dies. It made it more real and thrilling. It can be a problem having people who you know because they’re on the poster or they’re famous or because they’re one of the main characters [because the audience assumes] that the situation isn’t really that dangerous. Whatever happens, they’re going to find some other way to bring them back to life. It takes away the tension. It takes away the stakes in storytelling. So I think it makes perfect sense to kill off a main character unexpectedly. As an actor, the insecurity of having a job is a given any way. Whether the character dies or the show is cancelled, every job ends. You just keep on doing it until you die [laughs]. But for the most part, most actors outlive their jobs. That’s just the life of the actor.
One death I welcomed was the death of your wig. Did you keep it for posterity?
We actually shaved the wig. We took a clipper to the actual wig. I didn’t think it would work, but it actually stayed on and stayed against the lace. It still shows up from time to time. The flashbacks are pretty essential to the show, so if we ever see me before the events from the first season, I have to wear one.
Do you miss it or prefer to work bald?
I think in this particular instance, it was clear that it was a distraction so I was glad to get rid of that distraction and move on. But in terms of with the wig or not, it’s like asking if I prefer to work with one costume or the other. It really is about what’s most effective at telling the story the best. It was clear that that wasn’t the case with this whereas when I played Hemingway for Midnight In Paris, I needed the wig. It would have been strange to see a bald Hemingway. It’s really situational.
Obviously we can’t expect you back on Homeland or House of Cards, but any luck Dill Harcourt will make an appearance or two in the finale season of Girls?
We’ll have to see if I turn up. I loved that character and that whole set. Lena is a lot of fun and a brilliant writer. I would welcome working with Andrew again too. But I don’t know.
Season 3 of The Strain premieres Sunday, August 28 at 10 p.m. on FX.