The Strain writer/executive producer Chuck Hogan says season three of the FX horror series isn’t necessarily darker in tone than the first two seasons, but it is much more expansive than seasons one and two. “It’s great to come here and say we’re getting better every season,” said Hogan during our interview at the 2016 San Diego Comic Con. “Season three is really good. I don’t know if it’s darker…there are dark things in it as there have been from the first minute of the show, so it’s hard to get darker. But I feel like actually in my mind there’s a little bit of looseness in this season. We’ve opened up the world a little more. You’re really going to hopefully get a sense of what it’s like to be living in this plague time.”
Hogan and showrunner Carlton Cuse provided a little insight into the upcoming season three, which is set to debut on FX on August 28, 2016, during our roundtable interview. Without giving away any real spoilers, Cuse did say he believes this third season is the show’s best season yet.
Carlton Cuse Interview:
What can you tease about the upcoming season and how it differs from the first two?
Carlton Cuse: “I think one of the big differences is we’re only doing 10 episodes this season by design, and so the narrative velocity is much faster. It just felt like in season two that it was hard to sustain 13 episodes as well as we wanted. I think moving to a 10 episode model is much better for this show. I think the show needs to be kinetic and this season is definitely kinetic. Season three there’s really no doubt that there’s Strigoi out there. There’s no doubt. There’s no denial anymore that it’s a threat. Sort of like smoking…everybody realizes now that smoking is bad. And the season’s really about full-tilt war. Can the humans fight the Strigoi out of New York? And as New York goes, so goes the world.
You know, I’m really excited about it. I directed the season finale. It was the first time I’ve ever directed. I was super engaged. It’s really cool. I’m really proud of the season. I think it’s the best season of the show and pretty engaging.”
Will this season differ from the books?
Carlton Cuse: “My style as a showrunner is a very organic one. I love the collaborative nature of television, so in concert with writers in the writers room you start working on stories and other ideas come up. You don’t want to be eliminating good ideas just because they’re not in the book. And also I’ve been writing the show with Chuck Hogan who is the co-author of the books and both Chuck and Guillermo (del Toro) have been very open about moving away from the books. The books exist; I think the story exists in one form and no one will ever be able to take that away or change that.
I think that just doing a straight up adaptation as a television show that doesn’t change things would not be very interesting and I actually don’t think it would be very fun to watch. I think it’s just you’d be doing the very expected. I feel like the virtue of all of us kind of re-thinking the material as a TV series has been to add this whole other layer of creative energy to the process. It’s been really fun. So, you can watch the TV show. It exists independent of the books and also if you’ve read the books, you won’t feel like, ‘Oh, I’ve seen this before.’ There’s a lot of really good, new stuff – new characters, new situations, and stuff in there. And also Guillermo and Chuck have been big contributors to the evolution of the show.”
There’s a couple of characters, Justine and Dutch, who don’t exist in the books and have huge roles this season. Justine is a character who’s trying to hold New York together while the Strigoi are gaining more and more power. Her position as a demagogue leader in a collapsing society doesn’t exist in the books and I think is a really great storyline. There’s some new romance in the show in season three that is really cool and we’re excited about. I think if things are dark in the show there’s lots of heart and humanity. That humor, we try to make sure that the show is not… I think if the show is just straight and bleak it would be not good.”
It seems like romance never ends well on this show.
Carlton Cuse: “Well, you know maybe not so far. You’ve got to hold out hope. I don’t want to say too much but you won’t feel like your legs have been cut out from under you if you invest in the romance this season.”
What were the challenges and what were some of the things you loved about directing?
Carlton Cuse: “It was awesome. I love my job as a writer and showrunner and feel like I have all the creative responsibility I want in that job, but I felt like it was time to do it. It was physically arduous. I mean, we’re in Toronto, there were three snow storms, I shot all night for four nights, but it was also energizing. It was really fun to really collaborate with the actors on a moment-by-moment basis as opposed to the bigger picture which is what I do as a showrunner.”
Chuck Hogan Interview:
This season is supposedly very different from the book. Why did you decide to change things up?
Chuck Hogan: “The story needs to go where the story’s going to go. We were never beholden to the book, ever. For me, it’s more fun to go far afield but that’s not the goal either. It’s to sort of use the books, take what we can, take whatever input we’re getting from the actors, for example the talent and stuff, and see what’s working and just build on that.”
Did you always know that it was going to expand beyond the books? It’s been mentioned that the aim was five seasons.
Chuck Hogan: “There’s never been a set number of seasons nor will it ever be like one book equals one season. We always thought there would be some overlap and some expansion. So, no, I wouldn’t look for the books to line up with the seasons at all. I guess what I’m saying is there is a story plan but there is no scheduling season plan.”
Are there any characters who, as the show progresses, you actually have come to like more than you did when you were writing the books?
Chuck Hogan: “It’s hard to say. I always liked Quinlan (played by Rupert Penry-Jones), but in season three Quinlan is…it’s not like he’s my favorite character but he is such a unique character in the show, obviously. There’s something that I feel like is even popping more than it even did in the books. Rupert is fantastic and he brings a lot to it. It’s a great sort of treat having been there way back before the beginning, to see it now really flourishing, to see an actor take on a part I thought was great and make it greater.”
Have you found you’re writing more for the actors than the characters now, as opposed to season one?
Chuck Hogan: “A little bit of both. We definitely get a lot of input from the actors, which is great. They’re all really involved and really committed to their characters. (Laughing) Now, if they come in with really horrible ideas that can be a bad situation! Luckily, everyone’s really contributing. We want to play to people’s strengths; we also want to challenge them and take them out of their comfort zones too. They rise to those challenges too.”
What can you say about where we’ll pick up with Palmer in season 3?
Chuck Hogan: “As season three starts he’s been dealt a serious blow for sure, and he’s really knocked on his heels. I think you’re going to see him strike up a very surprising, unexpected alliance with other characters. And then there’s a back and forth too about how far it’s going to go, but it has been really great. Jonathan (Hyde’s) really fantastic and he really rises to the occasion in season three.”
Watch the full Carlton Cuse and Chuck Hogan interviews: