Natalie Brown’s character, mom-turned-Strigoi Kelly Goodweather, in The Strain is the creepiest creature in a show filled with creepy creatures. And as Kelly becomes more sentient, she only becomes more frightening. In fact, some fans of the FX series find her even more disturbing than The Master. In a conference call to discuss Kelly’s continuing evolution, Brown provided some insight into what drives her character and how it’s been working with the actors who play the bizarre Feelers.
Natalie Brown The Strain Interview
Can you talk about the process of getting into your Strigoi makeup? And now that you’re kind of back to your human version, which do you prefer?
Natalie Brown: “I’m not going to lie. Costume change and a little bit of lipstick can go a long way to making even a Strigoi happy, but the four and a half hours of the prosthetic makeup process is something that I really enjoy. The gifted artists that work on the hair and makeup make my job really easy. They definitely bring the terror before I’ve even set foot on set. But being able to experience Kelly as a human turned vampire turned back to human-looking is a challenge that I really relished. And the products are a lot better smelling, shall we say. A little more pleasant. It’s like a day trip to the spa for Kelly.”
How do you get into the Strigoi character and about the way your movements and manner of speaking evolve?
Natalie Brown: “After having gotten the hang of the physical expectations of a newly turned Strigoi, the challenge at the beginning of season two was letting go of a lot of those affectations of a newly turned Strigoi and becoming a more sentient being, more regal if you will. And in episode eight, ‘Intruders,’ then it was a matter of restraint. Keeping a lid on my own human tendencies and speaking less articulately and moving more mechanically is something you work hard as an actress to not do, but our director Kevin Dowling was quick to remind me when to hold back and when to let the foot off the pedal, so to speak. She does now have access to all of her memories and emotions, and it’s like hearing an old familiar song and knowing all the words. It’s like an old familiar sweater.”
Now that you’ve played through three phases of the character, have you approached it as three different characters or just sort of three evolutions of the same character?
Natalie Brown: “You hit the nail on the head. It is three different evolutions, and it’s been a process of adding and eliminating and being expertly guided by our vamp choreographer, Roberto Campanella, as well as the writers and directors. It’s just a matter of choosing what to keep and what to throw away, what to layer on, and having that sense of restraint at all times.”
What was your first reaction to seeing yourself made up as a vampire?
Natalie Brown: “Simultaneously thrilled and satisfied.”
Can you talk about working with those creepy Feeler kids?
Natalie Brown: “They had castings at dance studios in the greater Toronto area and they hired some of the most gifted dancers and acrobats. Most of them were girls, but we had a few boy Feelers. They’re so physically gifted that they’re creepy looking enough on their own, but they are also aided with the help of speeding up their movements with visual effects. They would employ the use of trampolines to help with the springing side.
Generally, they come pretty creepy once they’re processed in hair and makeup, and they were just a joy to work with. They were so enthusiastic and they loved the makeup process. They did all of Kelly’s dirty work. They’re the ones down on their hands and doing her bidding. So we had a lot of fun playing make believe and turning some of the darkest subject matter into the most fun days on set.”
How do you get into the darkness of your character and what’s really driving her?
Natalie Brown: “It’s that burning desire to connect with her dearest one. That has not gone away. It has changed. Human love does turn to vampire need, but that longing, that yearning, that fight for Zach is still very much alive. That’s what makes vampires different from other monsters is that they still feel. They still have purpose. They have drive. There are different levels of course, and Kelly being a more sentient one has special gifts bestowed upon her, and what a blessing because all vampires once newly turned want to connect with their dear ones. She’s just very fortunate to have been blessed with the assistance of Eichhorst and the Feelers, and she’ll stop at nothing. She’s still very much focused and driven by that desire and need.”
How will we see the relationship between Kelly and Eichhorst progress throughout the rest of the season?
Natalie Brown: “Well, I will say that one of the most poignant scenes from season one was Eichhorst’s ceremoniously putting on his face. I had joked with some of the writers last season that now that Kelly has become a Strigoi my only wish would be to hang out with Eichhorst and maybe borrow some concealer. You can only imagine how thrilled I was when that wish came true. Eichhorst would be one of my favorite characters from season one and being one of the most fully fleshed-out Strigoi, I couldn’t ask for a better mentor. Richard Sammel portrays Eichhorst superbly, and he has coined the relationship a ‘Bonnie and Clyde partnership’. I’m just very fortunate to be his people.”
Now that Kelly is more sentient, do you feel that her human nature is coming forward more? Is it so forward that her desire to protect Zach might make her at some point turn against The Master or is he still in control?
Natalie Brown: “He is The Master after all, so he is the wheel. But the emotional palettes in the well is running deeper the longer that she’s a sentient being, and with access to the memories definitely fuels her need to connect. There is a possibility for more connection and possibly confusion, but The Master is at the helm at all times. So I think that once you are a Strigoi, your only desire is to connect and that way is, fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, to turn. So I don’t know if it’s something that would necessarily go against her new instincts as this new being, but I do think that she still ultimately wants to protect him.”
Does she want to turn Zach or does she just want to be with him?
Natalie Brown: “I think they’re one and the same. I think that a vampire turns a loved one because that is the way to be with them, that is the way to protect them, to offer them protection from how vulnerable they think they are as humans. That is still the goal but in no way is it meant to harm.”
Is it just that she wants to get Zach or is she also trying to hurt Eph at the same time? Is she that aware of what she’s doing?
Natalie Brown: “I think she will take no prisoners and whoever is in her way will have to suffer the consequences. I think that a lot of the circumstances that were present before Kelly was turned are retained within her memories and fuel the feud that was between Kelly and Eph. I’ve said it before and Guillermo [del Toro] had described this as ‘the custody battle that never ends’ in the first audition, and now I know exactly what he was talking about.”
Did you know Kelly’s arc when you signed on?
Natalie Brown: “I didn’t. I knew that she was going to be turned. I didn’t know just how far and how fleshed-out they were going to make Kelly’s storyline, but it’s exceeded my expectations.”