The Strain is one of many current television adaptations of literary works, but where The Strain differs from the likes of Game of Thrones or Outlander is in its faithfulness, or lack thereof, to the source material. As Season 1 of The Strain progressed, slight deviations from the books grew into large divergences that became unbearably obvious to readers looking for a literal adaptation of The Strain books by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan.
The variations in The Strain television adaptation are many. For instance, Thomas Eichhorst was only a minor player in the novel, but Richard Sammel turned the role into one of The Strain‘s most threatening villains. Conversely, viewers of The Strain series only see Nora’s mother (Anne Betancourt) briefly, compared to her three-book presence. Unlike showrunners on those other series, Carlton Cuse holds little reverence for the details of the books, instead The Strain showrunner is seemingly more interested in the bigger picture, much like the heroes of The Strain.
Even Guillermo del Toro feels compelled to let Cuse take the reins and lead The Strain‘s story in whatever direction is deemed necessary.
“From the beginning, even in season one, Carlton was going off-book and it’s very clear to me that The Strain needed to be run by the showrunner, Carlton has always been responsible for the screenplay and development of the story. I try to be unobtrusive and not keep quoting the book. I do when it gets really to a point where I say ‘This does not work for this reason’ but you cannot say ‘It’s because the book.’ Carlton is very respectful of the areas that are controlled by me and I’m very respectful of that. This season we knew that if we stayed on-book we would have less discoveries. There’s stuff with Fet that wasn’t in the book that’s been really, really good. The Master, the finale of the first season was not in the books, and it’s really one of my favorite episodes, the final episode. So it’s about saying let these things have a life of their own. There are characters in the book that live and die and characters that could be dead six episodes ago are now alive, and characters that were minor are now gaining a footing. It’s a very different medium, so I watch it with curiosity. So it’s Carlton and Chuck running this season much more than the books.”
Carlton adds that, while he had intended to follow the books closely in the beginning, it soon became apparent that the story needed to be expanded for The Strain television adaptation.
“It seemed like we could take each of the – the first book would be the first season, which it was, and each of the other two books could each be two seasons of the show and so that became the general construct. But I would say somewhere around 80 percent of the creative material in the show this season is invented. It follows the spine of the book but what I think is great there’s two very different experiences: you can read the books, which are one wonderful storytelling experience, and then the adaptation into the show is a different one. We have lots of different storylines, different characters, lots of stuff that we’ve added, rearranged, invented and I think that’s given us the ability to make the show last five seasons.”
It seems fans of the books may be in for some surprises when The Strain returns with its second season, but that may not be such a bad thing. The Strain‘s showrunner seems to keep the story’s best interests at heart and at least Vasiliy Fet (Kevin Durand) will still be lurking about, pulling the others out of trouble.
The Strain‘s second season premieres on Sunday July 12 on FX.
[Featured image courtesy of FX/The Strain]