EXCLUSIVE: Drew Nelson Talks 'The Strain' and Guillermo del Toro

Actor Drew Nelson

Buckle yourself in for a great ride, horror fans. Guillermo Del Toro’s newest project, ‘The Strain,’ is set to premier in a few short weeks on FX and the hype surrounding this brand new series points to it being a real thriller. If recent trends show us anything, horror is in and ‘The Strain’ promises some great writing, fantastic acting and truly gruesome storytelling. After a viral outbreak unleashes an ancient strain of vampirism on the world, a team of New York scientists and citizens must fight against it to save their lives and hopefully humanity. I got the chance to speak with Drew Nelson this week about his role on ‘The Strain’ and what fans can expect from this exciting new show.

TVRage: I am excited about seeing ‘The Strain’ because I’m a fan of old school horror. It feels like recently a lot of the “horror” is more tween based. There is a genre for everyone, but I love real, actually scary vampires that rip your throat out instead of sparkle.

Drew Nelson: That is my style, for sure. This show really does have an intelligence to it that the other “tween” style vampire shows do not. It focuses on the biological developments that happens to people when they get infected. It’s not only an action/thriller/horror show, there are a lot of real aspects to it as well. It dives into the science behind how these people biologically change. I think that opens the doors up for a lot more adults who are interested in that kind of thing.

TVRage: Exactly. I like how it also has that “survival” feel to it, almost an end to the world kind of vibe, which is definitely popular right now.

Nelson: I am almost a conspiracy theory freak at this point because I know so much about this stuff from reading online (laughs). It definitely makes you think, it is good to be aware of these kinds of things.

TVRage: So would you say that you are a sci-fi/horror fan yourself?

Nelson: Yeah, I like performing in them. It brings out this other element that I am able to tap into. I can tap into this dark side that I am not used to. However, I am going to say this, I am terrified of movies like ‘The Exorcist.’ I watched that movie once when it was on in the background as I played pool with friends as a young kid, and I couldn’t even be in the room. Just hearing the noise that comes from that girl scares the hell out of me. I will never touch that movie again, but in the grand scope of things I do appreciate the horror genre and all the fans that go along with it.

Promotional photo for The Strain

TVRage: Everyone seems to be very excited for ‘The Strain’ to premiere. What, in your opinion, sets ‘The Strain’ apart from other horror series’ out there right now?

Nelson: I think that what is really exciting about our show is that it is set in a real life situation. The performances are extremely believable and paint a great deal of depth, layers and nuance. I think in that aspect alone it has not just served its writing, but the writing team and the creative are some of the best in the business. When I first got the breakdown for this show and auditioned for it, I looked at the creative team and was just like, “Are you kidding me? This is insane! I can’t believe that I am actually reading for this series.” (laughs) Then to get the part, it was phenomenal. I am still in a bit of disbelief, to be honest with you. When I first found out that I was a part of it I was in disbelief for many, many, many months. The entire story, which comes from the books, is very epic. We are trying to bring it down to a reality situation, and all of the storylines are separated a bit. You are not getting all of the characters together in every scene at once, and it jumps around in terms of the timeline. I think the audience is going to be able to really select what storylines they like the best. They are going to identify with so many of the characters and there is such a nice variety of storylines. At the end of the day being surrounded by this creative team brings an authenticity that trumps a lot of shows out there right now, in my opinion.

TVRage: I get the feeling that there is going to be a lot of action and a bit of gory violence in ‘The Strain’, which as a fan of shows like ‘The Walking Dead’, is something I am looking forward to. Is there a particular scene you shot that you are looking forward to seeing play out on the show?

Nelson: Yeah, there has definitely been some really cool horror based moments that we have filmed. I wish I could say more but I can’t really divulge into it much. Just strap yourself in because there is going to be a lot of really thrilling kill scenes and a lot of amazing special effects that you are going to see that look incredibly real. I witnessed some really awesome kill scenes on set. You know, I don’t think it is going to be as gory as some people might think because they are going at it from a sort of scientific point of view. It is not gore for the sake of gore. I think that what we were really trying to get at, by setting it in a real world scenario, is a sense that this could actually happen. Like I said before, going into the biological developments that actually happen when you get infected is another added thrill of this apocalyptic story.

TVRage: The special effects and makeup for ‘The Strain’ look phenomenal from the trailers. Did you get to have any special makeup treatment for the first season of ‘The Strain’?

Nelson: (laughs) I don’t know, I don’t remember if I had to. I wish I could say either or. (laughs) I can’t say anything. You guys are sneaky! No, I can’t say anything. 

TVRage: What can you tell us about your character, Matt Sayles?

Nelson: I see Matt as an all-around good guy. He is a bit of a blue-collar guy who works as a project manager at Sears. He leads a rather simple life and I think the importance of him is allowing Kelly (played by Natalie Brown), Ephram’s ex-wife, the opportunity to be in a relationship that is very loving. Matt dotes on her and is very much a protector of her and her son Zach. Given the circumstances Eph does not like Matt very much, as he is literally living in his home with his wife and his son, so there is a lot of great rivalry stuff between Corey and myself. It was just phenomenal to be able to work with that guy (Corey Stoll). I see Matt very much as a practical thinker and a voice of reason when things start to hit the fan in New York. He is such a protector and I really like that aspect of him along with his comedic elements.

Guillermo del Toro on the set of The Strain

TVRage: Guillermo del Toro is such a king of horror and to be acting in a series that he not only wrote the book for, but is also directing, must be an amazing experience. What has it been like to be a part of this project with him?

Nelson: It is the ultimate experience, really. You can only have a certain amount of “cooks in the kitchen.” There is Chuck, Guillermo and their writing team. I know that FX has given them the green light to make the series as creatively compatible to what they came up with in the books, which is really exciting. There won’t be any censors coming in a telling them what is and isn’t appropriate for the network, so they have a lot of free reign. I think it is going to make the series so much grittier. Working with Guillermo has been unbelievable. I am so grateful that he chose me to be a part of his world because he is such a brilliant builder of worlds. Working with him, as a person, is great as well. He is such a fun loving guy. He loves to joke around, he is really not the sort of dark man that you might think he is because of his work. He is a really approachable and jolly kind of man and he’s got a great heart. It was a dream working with him, it really was. He is in charge of everything from the costuming to the sets you put your ultimate trust in him as a director, and as an actor that is what you want. You show up and do what you do and you trust that he has set the foundation for the playground that you will be playing in. it was a lot of fun to do.

You can catch out the premiere of FX’s ‘The Strain’ on July 13th at 10pm and follow Drew Nelson on Twitter at @drewnelsonlive and on Instagram at @drewnelly.

- FX
- Guillermo del Toro
- Drew Nelson
- The Strain

Written by: harrisr
Jun 27th, 2014, 6:54 pm

Images courtesy of FX and


Message Posted On Jul 18th, 2014, 2:50 pm
i read the books and if i can stick to the books, this show can be really good

Message Posted On Jul 13th, 2014, 8:59 pm
I'd rather see this bullshit than the the military invades a small town propaganda bullshit that's been mysteriously popping up all over television this year.

Message Posted On Jun 30th, 2014, 5:29 am
Having read the books, I am really looking forward to this. Some great moments of tension and real horror in the books which hopefully with Guillermo's guidance will translate really well to TV.

Message Posted On Jun 29th, 2014, 12:52 pm
More Vampire bullshit. More Zombie bullshit. The TV industry is so creatively bankrupt that it hurts the brain.
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