In anticipation of The Strain Season 1 finale this Sunday, Kevin Durand (Vasiliy Fet) took part in a Q&A with members of the press to discuss his character and the series.
Below, the star talks about being offered the role, Fet's accent, making vamps scary again, the joys of Twitter - and plenty more.
In case you were wondering, yes, Kevin Durand has read The Strain Trilogy. As a matter of fact, he read the first book to prepare for his meeting with Guillermo del Toro and Carlton Cuse. He shared the story of that first meeting with us.
"I was prepping for a film at the time called The Captive that I did for Atom Egoyan; I lost like 40 pounds, and I had this little mustache, and I looked like a very different person. Then I found out that Guillermo and Carlton wanted to meet me on this project. So I had three days. I read the book, went in, and after I read that first book I was like there is no way that Guillermo del Toro and Carlton Cuse are going to see me at this big, robust, heroic, stoic fella Vasiliy Fet, because I was so skinny and sick looking."
"And we had this meeting and sat down and I assured them that I was kind of starving myself just for this project I was going to do and then I was going to get back to normal. In the room they asked me if I wanted to be Vasiliy Fet. Every day since I’ve been so grateful for that meeting, because in playing him I don’t know if I’ve ever had so much fun, ever. And also in watching it, it’s been so incredibly gratifying to watch the season unfold."
Durand went on to talk about his inspiration for playing Fet and the character's evolution.
"I read all three of the books before I fully signed on. And my inspiration to play Fet, I guess in reading the books I kind of saw him very similarly to the way that I’m playing him. I feel like a lot of it was on the page."
"Fet has this inner kind of warrior, this Viking warrior inside of him, and it was always kind of living within him. But in this specific circumstance, when all hell has broken loose and the vermin have turned into human bloodsucking vermin, it feels like way more of a natural transition than probably you would assume. He’s a master at exterminating, and this new world really needs him and I think he’s so happy to step up to the task."
Because Vasiliy Fet spends the first half of the season on his own, Durand felt he knew the character pretty well before joining the group.
"I really, really appreciated the opportunity to have the first half of the season to find Fet. I was really kind of exploring, trying to really feel him out, and by the time we got into the group dynamic I felt like I had a good hold on who he was."
When asked about the lone wolf becoming a full-fledged member of the team, Durand said "Well, I don’t think he’s used to playing with other kids in the sandbox, but he’s a smart guy and he understands that there’s a lot of power that comes with numbers."
"He looks around the room and he has a genuine respect for everybody in that group and knows that we can all play our role in taking down the Master."
Fet has been called unsentimental by Setrakian, it's part of his strength. What would unnerve this guy and put true fear in his heart?
"I think the idea that Fet will develop feelings for people within this group would definitely raise the stakes for him and probably put fear in his heart."
"It’s just like Setrakian has told us before, he said love is our downfall. And I think of him being a loner up to this point, like even seeing that he hasn’t seen his father or mother, he’s been estranged from there for years. He hasn’t really had to account for anyone for a long time, and now he seems like he really, genuinely respected Setrakian at this point and I see a relationship budding there, like a father/son relationship. It seems like he’s kind of interested in “Dutch” as well. I think that that might be the thing his connection to these human beings under that duress may take him to that point."
Speaking of Dutch, is Fet into this girl or is it just harmless flirting on his part?
"We haven’t really explored it a whole lot. I think that he sees a spectrum of things in her. Obviously, she’s not hard on the eyes, but she’s hyper intelligent, she’s rebellious like him, she’s tough like him, she doesn’t take any crap like him, and he really gets a kick out of it. I think he sees she’s kind of reflecting to him kind of like a mirror in some ways in the short time that they have known each other, so he’s just intrigued."
Fet's accent has been a point of contention among fans. Some find it difficult to understand the character. Durand was asked if he worked with a dialect coach.
"I have a funny kind of OCD. I’m a little obsessive compulsive with sounds and people’s idiosyncratic behavior, and I generally I don’t work with anyone."
"With Vasiliy I wanted to find a way to meld a Ukrainian sound with a New York sound. Because Fet to me is like I mean he is New York, but it depends. If he’s hanging out and talking to his dad, like that one scene, it gets a little thicker, because it kind of brings out the Ukrainian. If he’s just hanging out with some dudes from the neighborhood then he definitely gets more New York. So it’s been really, really fun finding it, and I’m excited to keep finding it every day."
It wasn't surprising to learn that Durand is a genre fan, here's what he had to say on the subject.
"Yes. Since I was a child, much to the chagrin of my father, my mother would keep me up and I would watch horror films with her since I was about four years old or five years old, so I’ve always been a fan. And they always say that you marry your mother, and my wife is the biggest horror fan ever, so I kind of experienced a rebirth in terms of my interest in the genre since I married Sandra four years ago. So when this opportunity came along we read the books. We were kind of like snickering and giggling like some little kids going, “Oh my God, this is going to be awesome.”
And what about being involved in a show that makes vampires truly scary again?
"I mean, obviously, I can’t take credit for that at all. It lays in the wonderful, crazy, beautiful, dark mind of Guillermo del Toro. Because he’s been having dreams about these vampires and making sketches and taking notes since he was a child, and that’s how these vampires came to fruition. They’ve been a part of his nightmares for decades. So what’s really satisfying is to see Guillermo, who is such a lovely, charismatic visionary, actually get those nightmares out of his head and onto the screen. And I’m so grateful to be a part of it and help him tell the story."
The moment in The Strain Season 1 Episode 11 when Fet gets stuck crawling through that tiny passageway was nerve-racking. Durand shared an amusing anecdote about shooting that scene.
"Well, you know what’s really funny about that is that they brought me in I think a week or two early and wanted to see if I could make it through that hole, because they knew that I was the biggest one in the group. So I came to work and I just shot through it really quickly, because I have way too much confidence in my athletic prowess. I was like, “Yes, look at that, big guy could do it really quick.”
"I didn’t keep in mind, I didn’t realize that Fet has this really thick, bulky jacket plus his knapsack. So I got to set and Mía just shot through that thing like a lightning bolt, and I was like, “Oh, I have to beat Mía’s time,” in my head. I got in there and right from the start I could hardly move, and the panic on my face it was a real panic, like I don’t know how I’m going to get out of this. So it really happened, I really did almost get stuck. So it took a lot of me maneuvering muscles that I didn’t even know that I had just to move like half an inch forward."
Durand said he feels good about his character's journey this season.
"I have to say I feel so good about it. Even the way that from the first time that we get to see Fet and the journey to where he’s at now, I mean, the whole journey I’ve been just kind of tickled by. And to see where he’s at now you could see that things are getting more intense as the minutes roll by, and it’s kind of like seeing a great kind of prize fighter before a big fight staying really calm and relaxed and ready for action, and I think that’s where Fet’s at. I mean he’s making googley-eyes at this girl when the world’s going to crap. That’s because he’s very comfortable, he’s ready, he knows that if there’s anyone for the job that he’s the guy."
I asked Durand if he's already started to prepare for Season 2. Obviously assuming Fet makes it out of the season alive.
"In the second book I have a lot of — well, in the first book it starts and then I have it all the way through the third book as well — but Vasiliy is journaling a lot. So for me I’m starting to read the second book again just so that I can try to figure out how to play that kind of between the lines of just kind of like he goes through this almost like a rebirth; as everything goes to crap Vasiliy keeps getting stronger and more confident and more able. So I’m really looking forward to that evolution."
That's right Kevin Durand is @onemightytree on Twitter. He finally jumped in September 3rd. I had the chance to ask him what his first live-tweeting experience was like...
Kevin: "That live tweeting experience last night - I was so excited and had so much fun. I’ve always been so against doing the social media thing. I don’t know, my head must have been up my butt. I’ve just been so scared to share stuff. I thought I should stay mysterious, kind of. But I have to say since I’ve joined I’ve really enjoyed being able to see immediately people’s reactions and have communications to people who are watching the show or other projects that I might be a part of. Luckily they’re not tweeting and saying, “Wow, Kevin Durand, you really suck.”
Hank: "Yeah, it helps that everybody loves Fet. Absolutely true."
Kevin: "Exactly. Exactly. It could have been a very different experience. But yes, it was just so lovely to get all that kind of support, and, I really enjoyed it. I think I might want to do it again for the finale. I don’t know, we’ll see."
The Strain's Season 1 Episode 13 airs Sunday, October 5 at 10/9c on FX.