Guillermo Del Toro on Pacing THE STRAIN for TV instead of Film

Faster, faster, andale, ariba! Yeppers, kids, it’s true. TV and film have as many differences as they have things in common. Who’d a thunk?

by Eric Goldman

Strain-Fall-5Having long established his genre credentials in film, thanks to Blade II, Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth, Pacific Rim and more, Guillermo del Toro recently launched his first TV series with The Strain, airing on FX.

The Strain took quite a path, with del Toro first envisioning it as a TV show, only to not find a buyer. He then teamed with Chuck Hogan to turn the story into a successful trilogy of books (and a comic book adaptation) – and in the process, found many networks suddenly interested in adapting it for TV, before ultimately deciding on FX.

While he’s en executive producer and co-creator on the series, alongside Hogan, del Toro is only credited as a writer and director on the pilot episode for The Strain. But when I sat down with him recently, he made it clear he was still plenty involved in the series, which Carlton Cuse (Lost, Bates Motel) is serving as showrunner on. During our conversation, del Toro explained why he’s not precious about his own books, the joy of collaborating with Cuse and more.

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IGN TV: You were trying to do this as a TV series years ago. When you shifted over to the books, how much were you still simultaneously thinking about it as a series?

Guillermo del Toro: Well, when we went to the books, the deal we made, Chuck and I, we said, “Let’s not talk about movies or TV at all until we finish the books, so we can function as book writers to the best of our abilities.” Without thinking, it was an intermediate step, because then we’d think, “Oh, we’ll get it right later,” and that gives you an entitlement that frankly was not desirable. We wanted to make the most of it writing it, and we did. We had a blast. I think the book we enjoyed the most was the first one, writing it, because we had no pressure. We didn’t have a deadline. We wrote it on our own, so we took longer. The first book hit, and it did very, very well. We were in the Top 10-level. Immediately, we got a date. We had to deliver the second one by “X.” So there was a lot more pressure. But all the while, we were not talking — we actually immediately got inquiries about buying the trilogy for TV or film. My mantra to the agents was, “We don’t even discuss it until we’re published with the third book. So we can take it wherever we want. We want an unhappy ending? We’ll go there. We want to kill all the characters? We can go there. We want to kill most characters? We can go there — we wanted that freedom. You don’t want to be thinking about what would be popular, you know?