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It's Alive

Writer-director Guillermo Del Toro offers a sneak peek at the bloodthirsty vampire at the center of his new FX series, ”The Strain”

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Getting the flu is a major bummer. But it’s waaay preferable to a contagious virus that turns you into a vampire, the all-too-creepy premise behind FX’s July horror epic The Strain. Based on the book trilogy by director Guillermo del Toro (Pacific Rim) and author Chuck Hogan, and executive-produced by Lost‘s Carlton Cuse, the 13-episode series focuses on an epidemiologist (House of Cards‘ Corey Stoll) who must battle a parasitic sickness threatening to transform New Yorkers into plasma-loving monsters. The main carrier of the disease? The Master, one of the oldest vampires in existence. The Strain‘s brutal behemoth is so complicated to operate that it takes two men (actor Robert Maillet and dancer Roberto Campanella) plus several visual-effects artists to bring him to life on screen. Del Toro shares this exclusive early sketch of the villain and talks about creating the ultimate bloodsucker.

1. The Origins
Nosferatu is one of my favorite vampire films, both the silent and the [Werner] Herzog version,” says del Toro, and the classic was the main inspiration for the design of the Master on The Strain. ”He has this long, tight coat and the two front teeth are ratlike and he’s balding with ratlike ears.”

2. The Cloak
”We wanted to keep the Master hidden from the audience for at least half of the season. At the same time, he needs to be active,” he says. ”The best way to cloak him, pun intended, was to cloak him. He looks like a mountain of rags. We have a completely digital Master so the cape can move, almost like tentacles.”

3. The Body
”As soon as the disease takes over, your metabolism becomes so rapid, you lose the hair, you develop a new set of internal organs,” says del Toro. “Eventually the older vampires lose their nose and the middle finger gets extended and becomes a talon.”

4. The Mouth
Instead of fangs, the Master unleashes a serpentlike feeler that sucks the life out of his victims. ”It’s almost like emptying a Capri Sun,” says del Toro. ”When you drink one of those cubes of juice, they end up collapsing. That was the way I saw the Master and the undead drinking the blood of their victims. I always liked that it is not a sexy vampire kissing gently the neck of a girl. It’s violent and parasitic.”