Guillermo del Toro’s The Strain took a roundabout path to the small screen and its new FX home. Five years ago, he tried to get his idea for a new vampire series up and running, but there were no takers. Undaunted, he teamed up with novelist Chuck Hogan and turned his vampire tale into a trilogy of books. They became bestsellers, and suddenly now there were a lot of people interested in bringing The Strain to TV. Things had come full circle, but in a testament to del Toro’s commitment to the story, he opted to finish out the book trilogy before he would entertain the notion of selling the TV or film rights. Because, you see, he had a plan.
Speaking at the ATX Television Festival, del Toro told BuzzFeed:
As soon as the first novel hit the top 10 on the New York Times list, we got calls about the rights. But I wouldn’t sell the rights until the trilogy was published because I didn’t want to be thinking about the movie or TV show during the writing process.
Sticking to his guns, del Toro finished out the story on the page, and now has the chance to bring that story to the medium for which it was originally intended…but with some major differences. While the trilogy has already told one version of the story, FX’s The Strain will tell the same basic story, but with leeway to evolve and spin off in other directions than the books, much like HBO’s Game of Thrones or AMC’s The Walking Dead. “We’re hitting the big guideposts of the book, but … I know that you want to recognize the book but you don’t want exactly the same experience.”
The first season of the TV series will roughly adapt the story of the first Strain novel, but in the long run, should the show be successful, del Toro hopes to expand three books’ worth of story into five seasons of show. “We have enough anecdotes in the second book to do two seasons,” says del Toro, “and I think that by the end of the third season, we’ll have enough threads of story to do another two seasons.”
It’s also worth noting that that five-season number is not just a goal but also an upper limit. Del Toro hopes for five seasons of The Strain…but only five seasons. Like J. Michael Straczynski’s Babylon 5, The Strain is coming to the table with a predetermined narrative endpoint, and a rigid insistence that, when that story is done, it’s done. Think of it as the anti-Lost. Del Toro says:
We will not go beyond the fifth season. I don’t want this to be a show that stays on until it’s not successful. I would like it to end the way the books are mapped. I don’t want to spoil, but we are going to do what we do at the end of the second book at the end of the second season — we will do that big finale. We know where we’re going and it’s exciting.
The Strain is set to sink its teeth into your DVR schedule on July 13 at 10/9c on FX.