TORONTO, ON. Let's get this out of the way, because you're already thinking it.
It's mid-March in a chilly interview room on the Toronto set of FX's "The Strain" and star Corey Stoll is chatting with one of three small roundtables of reporters. We've been talking for at least 15 minutes without addressing the elephant in the room, so I broach the all-important topic: Hair, or augmentation thereof.
Stoll's visibility has increased dramatically in recent years and it's not like audiences are unfamiliar with seeing him with tonsorial assistance. His Ernest Hemingway in "Midnight in Paris" featured both a well-adorned head and a mustache that he carried over into NBC's "Law & Order: Los Angeles." That role and his Golden Globe nominated turn in "House of Cards" were recognizably clear-pated, which has already had people scratching their heads about the floppy hair Stoll is sporting in "The Strain."
What, I ask Stoll, are the advantages and disadvantages of acting with hair?
"Well, it’s a little bit more time in the chair," he laughs. "But it really is actually, I forget about it at this point. You know, it helps to create a character. It helps to distance the character from myself, which is particularly helpful when I’m not playing a very character-y character. This is the most sort-of leading man part that I’ve played and I’m a character actor, so it’s helpful for me to have as many things as I can that make it a creation and not just myself. I’m not really interested in playing myself."
And whose decision was it that Dr. Ephraim Goodweather would be a man with hair?
"Guillermo [del Toro], he has such an incredibly specific vision for everything in the show, down to the tiniest detail. It’s really incredible. Yeah, we had a lot of conversations about it, and I wasn’t totally convinced at first. But I think it makes sense in the world. Yeah."
So there you go, folks: Corey Stoll's hair makes sense in the world.
And Stoll made plenty of sense in the world of "The Strain," since he has been one of the most in-demand actors for the past few pilot seasons.
What made this the right show for him to take the plunge, as he says taking his character acting approach to a character who is, at least at first, the apparent hero?
"Well, it was the right network," he begins. "I mean, to start with, it was Guillermo and Carlton [Cuse], just a visionary filmmaker and an incredible vision. And I think a lot of times in pilot season, there’s a sense of throwing stuff against the wall and seeing what sticks. And this is something, when I had that first meeting with Guillermo and Carlton, this has been germinating for years, and they had already had almost a year of pre-production by the time I met with them. So there was a real plan and there was an enormous amount of careful thought put into it. So that really made me excited for the project. And the character, he’s really great. He’s complex. In this really crazy world, he’s human enough to be the guy who you’re following through this very scary, unpredictable landscape."
Goodweather is the head of a CDC "canary team," brought in to investigate a ghost plane that lands at JFK. Of course, what seems like a tragic-but-isolated incident becomes much more involved and much more vampiric, in this adaptation of del Toro and Chuck Hogan's bloodsucking trilogy.
"He’s in an enormous amount of denial for most of the first season, which could be a very useful skill set as well," Stoll says of what Goodweather brings to the "Strain" table. "But he doesn’t let up. I mean, the characteristic about him that is actually the most useful, he doesn’t think it is, but his tenacity is what enables him to survive and help others survive. But he’s very attached to the science that he knows, and in every new bit of information, he tries to fit it into the worldview that he already has, and that only works for so long."
Stoll spent half-an-hour with my table of a half-dozen reporters and here are just some of the things we learned about the actor, Dr. Goodweather and "The Strain."