Working on The Strain a “surreal” experience

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It’s hard not to feel a bit of hometown pride as a Canadian while talking about FX’s blood sucking hit series, The Strain. Not only was the series shot in a Toronto-based studio, but both the cast in front and behind the camera is full of Canadian talent, something The Strain’s own–and Canada’s own–Drew Nelson calls a “beautiful, beautiful thing.”

“You can’t help but to feel hometown pride for sure,” Nelson says. “All these years that I’ve been putting into this career, it brought me to this place where I was ready to book a part this size in this kind of magnitude of a show.”

Nelson says that despite making it through the audition and call back, which included meeting and getting personal direction from series creator Guillermo del Toro, he was still in disbelief for a good two months after securing the role of Matt Sayles, the intrusive new boyfriend of protagonist Ephraim Goodweather’s (Corey Stoll) ex-wife, Kelly (Natalie Brown).

“When you’re auditioning for these recurring roles and get these recurring and lead roles in an American television series, they usually don’t go to a Canadian,” he says. “It’s usually going to an American name, so the fact that Guillermo has really taken a chance on me and has been the one that plucked me out of obscurity per se, I’m just very grateful.”

It would be difficult to feel droll knowing the level of talent attached to the show, with Stoll as the Center for Disease Control’s fearless leader, Lost executive producer Carlton Cuse behind the scenes; and Nelson’s personal idol, del Toro himself, helming it all. Nelson may have filmed the pilot’s first scenes ever alongside Stoll, but he says that del Toro began making the cast feel at ease the minute they got together for the very first script read-through, where del Toro was making sound effects throughout while making fun of his own writing.

“The guy is larger than life,” Nelson says of del Toro. “He was just really, really cool and really allowed everyone to relax for that read through and was open to collaborating and open to improv and all that. So yeah, he did a great job making everyone comfortable that day. That continued into filming the pilot.”

With the show’s rotating directors as episodes progress, Nelson has also had the privilege of working with a constant influx of directoral talent, such as actor-director Peter Weller, who helmed Episodes 6 and 9 (and who apparently did not appreciate the Canadian winter the show was filming in).

“Peter’s a rock star,” says Nelson. “He’s no BS. The guy’s just very honest. If you’re not giving him what he needs he’ll tell you outright and I love that.”

Simply put, Nelson calls working with people at the top of their fields the overall highlight of his experience on The Strain, and the doors that have now opened for the Toronto-born talent thanks to his casting.

“I can’t be more grateful than where I’m at in my career,” he says. “I got a chance to meet one of my idols, I only dreamed that would happen and it did. It’s been amazing, I’m really optimistic, I’ve made some great friends on the show and we’ll just keep moving.”

The Strain airs Sundays at 10 p.m. ET on FX and FX Canada.

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