For the past two months, viewers have been disturbed and unsettled by Richard Sammel's performance as Eichorst, the Nazi concentration camp guard turned vampire apocalypse facilitator, on FX's "The Strain."
Playing both the human (but inhuman) Nazi version of Eichorst and his steely, arrogant contemporary incarnation, Sammel has given very different monstrous shadings to his role.
That's why it's a bit funny to Skype up with the smiley, voluble Sammel and have him immediately cackle in pleasure at being able to identify my mogwai avatar from "Gremlins," before he very politely asks me to switch on my webcam so that we can see each other as we chat.
Sammel is in a good mood because it's the first sunny day in Paris for a while. Or maybe he just genuinely enjoys talking about his part in the FX vampire drama, which was recently renewed for a second season.
"I think basically bad guys in TV or movies, mostly blockbuster movies, they often are very much reduced to their dramatic function, doing bad things so that the hero can shine. But a bad guy becomes interesting when you can follow his motivations," Sammel says.
When it comes to motivations, Sammel suggests that he has done nearly 100 movies and he's only worked in a Nazi context in 22 of them, a fact he accepts as "generational guilt."
Sammel, who speaks more languages than you do better than you do (or more languages than I do better than I do), talks in long, articulate bursts, giving answers that sometimes range over 1000 words. Fortunately, they're thoughtful and often funny words and in our 30 minute conversation, I found that he was anticipating my follow-up questions with some frequency.
Honestly, I could have talked about the "generational guilt" idea and how it relates to a show about vampires for the full interview, but I also wanted to talk with Sammel about Eichorst's complicated makeup routine and getting to do stunt work in recent episodes.
Sunday (September 7) night's episode of "The Strain" is a big one for Sammel. Check out the full Q&A below. And be sure to read it in your head using Sammel/Eichorst's German accent...