FX's 'The Strain': Snapshots from the set - Headless corpses, Chili-eating vampires and more
TORONTO, ON. The set is neat and tidy, a two-level suburban home ready for guests.
On the ground floor, there's an orderly living room and an adjacent kitchen. The rugs are flat and properly placed, the chairs and tables laid out to encourage openness, the couch looks comfortable. The pictures on the walls and in leaning frames are spic-and-span. You could practically eat off the floors, were it not for the unfortunately mutilated body.
The corpse looks almost restful. And when I say "almost restful," I mean "as restful as a decapitated corpse could possibly look." It's just there. On its back. Without a head.
There are no signs of struggle. And for good reason. The corpse has nothing to do with the scene that will next be shot in this house on the Toronto set of FX's "The Strain." Or at least that's what the group of reporters wandering around the "Strain" stages is told. Normally, you'd be suspicious of such a contention, but the chances of an idling, unaffiliated cadaver is distinctly more possible on the set of "The Strain" than on most shows.
This is a set where squirt-bottles marked "Sweat/Piss Stains" are often nearby for giving costumes that weathered "apocalyptic" look you'll surely be seeing at Abercrombie by August.
This is a set where the Creature Shop allegedly should have a box full of rubbery genitals, but nobody can locate the box.
This is a set where the decrepit titan of industry -- Jonathan Hyde's Eldritch Palmer -- has a wall dedicated to proper display of the bottled organs his body has processed or rejected over the years.
So if there's a stiff taking up space in the wrong house on this particular afternoon, that's as logical a place as any for it. If somebody hasn't died in this house, it's just a matter of "when," rather than "if," because as readers of Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan's vampire trilogy know, nobody is safe and the locations that seem the most benign and domestic are the ones most likely to be marred by carnage.
I was on the Toronto set of "The Strain" back in March and, over two days, we sat in small groups with most of the show's stars, including Corey Stoll, Mia Maestro and David Bradley, as well as showrunner Carlton Cuse.
Over the next few days, I'll be running highlights from those interviews as we get closer to the July 13 premiere of "The Strain."
In addition to speaking with the core "Strain" participants, we got to wander around many of the elaborate sets. In some, we were encouraged to take pictures and you'll see that gallery at the bottom of the story. In some, we're probably not allowed to mention where we are or which actors were filming. We see the filming of one major stunt and several minor conversations and nothing in this article will be especially spoiler-y, unless you want to know nothing at all about "The Strain." But why are you reading this blog post in the first place if that's the case?
What follows in this post are a few literary snapshots of places and moments experienced on the "Strain" set. Some will be only a couple sentences. Some will be a bit longer.
"The Strain" producer J. Miles Dale points around the vast expanse at Pinewood Toronto, gesturing to Eldritch Palmer's Stoneheart Group offices, Gabriel Bolivar's occult strewn loft and several free-standing homes.
"The indie vibe is alive, as we like to say," Dale says.
He's taking us around and pointing out the various structures and stages that have already been repurposed on "The Strain" or were repurposed from other Toronto-based productions.
There are 200-plus feet of winding tunnels on the "Strain" set. Most are arched and composed of simulated brick or stonework. You probably won't recognize them, but these exact sections of tunnel previously appeared in the historical dud "Pompeii," the stillborn fantasy franchise-starter "Mortal Instruments" and in The CW's "Beauty and the Beast" which, like "Reign," shares studio space with "The Strain."
Right now, the tunnels are doubling as either sewers, which play a big role in "The Strain," or New York City Transit-emblazoned subway tunnels, which help the series pretend to be set in the Big Apple. More enclosed segments of tunnel also played German World War II bunkers for flashbacks.