The Strain isn't your normal vampire story. There are no fangs. The vampires are not glamorous. They're parasitic monsters — bred from the dark imagination of famed Mexican writer-director Guillermo del Toro, the mastermind behind Pan's Labyrinth, Hellboy, and Pacific Rim.
Based off the book trilogy Guillermo wrote with Chuck Hogan, The Strain follows a group of scientists investigating a bizarre outbreak, only to realize that the virus is a strain of vampirism and that they're embroiled in a centuries-old war.
Guillermo co-wrote and directed the first episode and remains executive producer on the series.
Wetpaint Entertainment got the chance to fly to the Toronto set of the series and to meet much of the cast — including Corey Stoll (House of Cards), Mia Maestro (Alias), David Bradley (Game of Thrones), and Natalie Brown (Bitten) — along with executive producer Carlton Cuse (Lost) — all of whom raved about working with Guillermo.
"I think there is a unique quality to the way Guillermo del Toro tells a story that is inclusive," says Corey. "Things are scary, but there's this whimsical quality to them at the same time. I find it inviting in a very strange way. And hopefully other people, I think, will."
Corey also cites the 49-year-old auteur's incorporation of science and fantasy: "Guillermo is incredibly carnal, and he's really interested in the profane and the physical and the anatomical in a very molecular level. But he's also very interested in the mythological and the spiritual … For Guillermo, where those two things meet is where he finds his inspiration. It's actually more interesting that they're both right."
Guillermo's background is in special effects and makeup, so much of the vampire action you'll see on screen is the result of physical effects instead of CGI, as Carlton explains: "I don’t think there’s anyone in the world who does monster as creature creation better than Guillermo. That's why we actually are doing quite a bit of it practically."
Meanwhile, both Mia and David deemed Guillermo a "force of nature," praising his spirit of collaboration and his insightfulness.
"[He's] such a beautiful director," Mia raves. "He really sees through you. Anything you think, it's completely visible to him. There really are no secrets you can keep when Guillermo's watching you. And it's quite remarkable — I've never worked with a director like that."
And, as David adds, he keeps a light mood on set despite the dark subject matter: "He's quite a charismatic guy and very funny, and he enjoys karaoke, and he enjoys his food, and he wants everybody to have a good time. That's the first thing he says every time he comes in. 'Are you having a good time?' 'Yeah, well, yeah I am, actually. I'm having the time of my life.'"
The Strain premieres Sunday, July 13, at 10 p.m. ET on FX.