‘The Strain’ Season 2: Richard Sammel, Ruta Gedmintas Talk Torture Scenes

The Strain Richard Sammel and Ruta Gedmintas Photo
Richard Sammel as Thomas Eichhorst and Ruta Gedmintas as Dutch Velders in ‘The Strain’ (Photo by Michael Gibson / FX)

Episodes ten and 11 of FX’s The Strain season two featured Dutch Velders (Ruta Gedmintas) kidnapped by Thomas Eichhorst (Richard Sammel) and held chained up in a soundproof, padded room. Their scenes were some of the most disturbing yet from the series, with Eichhorst completely in control and demanding Dutch comply to his every whim. Creepy on multiple levels, the torture room scenes were difficult to watch but Sammel and Gedmintas said that while they were challenging, they were made easier by their respect for each other and the friendship they’ve developed while working on the horror series.

Sammel and Gedmintas teamed up for a conference call to discuss the much-talked about “Dead End” episode as well as their characters’ motivations:

Can you talk about filming the scenes in the torture room?

Ruta Gedmintas: “It was torturous, but it was really fun.  It was really nice to work with Richard.  He’s a brilliant actor and it was a really crazy experience for us both to have, to film these quite, intense, dark scenes and but be friends too, I think it brought us closer together.”

Richard Sammel: “I would agree to that. These were the kinds of scenes that you long for as an actor, professionally you’re longing for difficult stuff, but once it’s written and in front of you in the pages, you’re [thinking], ‘How am I going to do this?’  t was a torture scene, an action scene, very emotional scenes, but this was very creepy stuff. I was kind of really apprehending how are we going to work this out? Then you stick to your professionalism and you talk yourself into it. You have your character anyhow in that situation, so you have a lot of backup from that side. But the thing for me was that actually really something special happened between me and Ruta. I’m not talking about the creepy stuff;  I’m talking about the friendship. I’m very convinced now that doing those scenes you are able to do them in a professional way when you bond. You need to bond. You have a friendship that sustains you to go to those dark places together. The confidence was building up little by little and it was mixed with a lot of fun to get rid of all the dark side.  I remember we had after work we had sessions of drinking beer, or cocktails, or ice cream, or whatever to get rid of that s*it. Sometimes I needed an hour of a hot shower to bring me back somewhere to a human place.”

Ruta Gedmintas: “It was really dark and there were a couple of moments where when we were filming these very intense scenes, and I would be in tears and Richard would be very creepy and dark, and then we’d just burst out laughing.  It was a good, safe environment for us. It meant that we could push our emotions further because we knew that we were safe in each others hands, and afterwards we would be able to have a hug and go for a dance.”

Will the tragedy of being kidnapped by Eichhorst permanently traumatize Dutch?

Ruta Gedmintas: “It’s definitely a huge trauma.  It would be for anyone.  I think that slowly as this season continues and into the next potentially she will have to deal with that experience. It touched her on many levels, on a very dark, emotional scrutiny that Eichhorst did of her.  Her whole being was completely under scrutiny and it’s made her question herself and who she is in this life.  Before she even gets to answer those questions and to take anything from it, she has to get over the initial terror that happened that at any moment they can get snatched and tortured.  That’s the world that these characters live in now. It’s a trauma that she’s definitely going to have to prep herself to deal with.”

How did you prepare physically for the scenes in the torture room?

Ruta Gedmintas: “There definitely were for me. I had to have stunt molds made of my back so that Richard could drag me up the stairs safely.  There’s a scene where he was pulling me along the floor and pulling me up the stairs, and that would have hurt a lot if the amazing stunt team hadn’t stepped in. I remember when I had the mold of my back. I was sort of bent over a table having plaster put on my back and when we tested the plaster I had to come out of that. We walked around and I had to kind of be curved, so I’m walking like a hunchback. They put me on the floor and they dragged me up the stairs, and I was just hysterically laughing, screaming how fun it was.  And they were like, ‘We’re going to have to work on that acting, Ruta, because you’re having too much fun.’

But it was quite strenuous on me and on my skin.  The chain around my neck, and just pulling the chain constantly to try and make it not choke me gave me huge blisters on my hands so we had to develop these see-through gloves that I could wear.  There were so many tricks that we were using to try and stop me from hurting myself and bruising my neck. It was 16 hours chained up to a wall and it was quite difficult, but we did it.”

What would Eichhorst have done with Dutch if she hadn’t been able to disable him with pepper spray?

Rich: “I would just say it’s a very strong metaphor for what he’s lost.  He’s lost Helga and he’s lost his genitals. He’s consuming, he’s drinking, and he’s basically nourishing himself but in a very perverted and special way. Whether he would kill her or turn her depends on how much worth he would think Dutch would have as a fighter for the right cause. I tend to think that he would’ve turned her.  I’m tempted to think he wouldn’t just kill Setrakian, he would turn him. They are the real valuable fighters, you know? They would be as valuable on our side.”

Palmer has been getting on Eichhorst’s nerves. What do you think about the tension that is brewing between the two of them?

Richard Sammel: “There is definitely a tension growing from the very beginning.  From Palmer’s point of view Eichhorst is accepted as a necessary evil, if I may say so.  We need his funds, his means, in order to realize our plan. It’s a business relationship, but there are parallels. I think the reason why they are so emotional with each other is because they want to go the same path.  Palmer wants to go the same path as Eichhorst did.  Eichhorst wanted to be turned in order to get eternal life and in order to do so, he needed to do a lot of stuff for the Master. All that was told in flashback the first season, like the coffin and stuff like that. And Palmer goes the same way but the problem with Palmer is that he’s a self made man, he never accepts anybody above him.  Whereas Eichhorst is a guy who was trained to lead, he was trained as a leader and he was trained to submit and that gives him, in terms of the Master’s breed, it gives him an advantage over Palmer. Palmer from Eichhorst’s point of view, he will never get it.  If you project yourself into the future, we have overthrown humanity and all is good and Palmer will become a vampire. Do you really believe that Palmer will be satisfied sharing the CEO with the Master?  He would immediately start intrigue against the Master in order to overthrow the Master and become the Master himself, and I think Eichhorst knows that. That’s vampire world politics.”

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Our interview with Richard Sammel at Comic Con:

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