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Interview: Drew Nelson from FX's The Strain

We talked to Drew Nelson of The Strain about his character of Matt Sayles and working on the show.

Based off of the novels and graphic novels of the same name, FX's new show, The Strain, mixes a story about a viral outbreak with vampires with a horror twist. While only five episodes in, it has been receiving rave reviews and quickly becoming another graphic novel to television hit. Actor Drew Nelson plays Matt Sayles on the show, the live-in boyfriend to Dr. Ephraim Goodweather's estranged wife Kelly. Drew talked to us over the phone about his series and how he landed the role.

COMIC VINE: Did you read the novels by Chuck Hogan and Guillermo Del Toro or the comic from Dark Horse before you tried out for the show?

DREW NELSON: Yeah. I did. I made sure to read the first one and as the season went on, I read the other two.

CV: What did you think of it?

DN: I think they're phenomenal. I think the whole scope and the idea in general is unique and I feel it was executed incredibly well with such detail and a real brilliance for the material, I thought.

CV: Overall, what attracted you to the role of Matt Sayles?

DN: Well, it was a role I was submitted for by my agent, here in Toronto, and they called me in for it, so I didn't have a choice in the matter, but when I saw the breakdown, I was really blown away by the creative team that was listed, Guillermo's name and Carlton Cuse [executive producer], I've been a huge fan of since Lost, and Chuck as well. The network being FX, they put out so much high quality material lately that... as a Canadian actor, you look at these kinda of things, and when they're looking for such large roles, in such high profile shows, you immediately kinda discredit yourself, in the fact you can actually book it. Having landed this part really changed my thought process on that. The role itself, I looked at it in the books and saw the way they wrote him in the books and I thought there was a real unique spin I could put on him and bring some nice dimension to him and I feel like we accomplished that.

CV: Compared to some of your work in this past, this is very dark. For you, do you have to prepare for a role differently, compared to maybe when you were doing voice over on Total Drama Island?

DN: (laughs) Honestly, I prep differently for each part that comes my way. For this, the Matt, Kelly, Zack, and Eph really is rooted in reality, among all the other chaos and sub-plots happening, so I really felt the need to bring a real grounded and practical sense to this character to offset the rest of the characters. Prepping for it was just delving into myself as much as I could and just putting myself into his shoes. People that would have to go through such a catastrophe in a big city center, like New York or Toronto. So I really related to it in that sense. That was pretty much it. Going further and further, the prep was obviously a bit different, but I don't really want to speak on that. That's pretty much the way I attacked it.

CV: Did you feel because it takes place in New York, and you're from Toronto, they're different cities but did you feel a bit more at ease because you're from an urban element?

DN: Definitely, yeah. I was born in an urban environment and that's where I feel at home. I can really recognize how one operates in a urban environment compared to being in more of a rural environment. That definitely helped. Especially that opening scene, in the pilot, where we're giving Corey [Ephraim Goodweather] a hard time where he can't park on the street in certain areas. It brought a real reality to it. I think it's pretty clear in how we're coming off in the show.

CV: What have been some of your favorite moments in this series?

DN: Thus far, definitely that first opening scene with Corey and I in the street, in the pilot was a monumental scene for me. It was literally the first scene we shot in the series on the first day of production, so that really had a nice sentimental value to it, which I really loved and just going toe-to-toe with Corey, all night, just the two of us was pretty incredible. I think between that scene and there's a scene coming up in episode six that I'm extremely excited to see that was between myself and Natalie [Kelly Goodweather]. Some stuff starts to hit the pinnacle of their relationship and episode six really explores that and the fallout from that and what happens. That was a really great scene to film too.

CV: Has there been anything on the show or set that has grossed you out?

DN: Oh 100%. I had seen the pilot, in the lunchroom, at one point and it was still at a place where the special effects weren't completely finished, but I tell ya, when The Master squashed that guy's head on the ground, I squirmed. That was a really well done scene. That was really really gruesome. And even seeing just recently the autopsy and pulling the stinger out of the body was incredibly well done. I thought that was disgusting. It's so graphic and detailed. When Eph kicks the shit out of Redfern with the fire extinguisher, that was pretty awesome too.

CV: Do you think reaction to the show is what you expected or has it exceeded that?

DN: It's really exceeded my expectations actually. We were just in L.A. for the premiere and they were going crazy for it already, just based on the buzz. The billboards were everywhere in town. Everyone I came in contact with in that city knew everything about that show and the people behind it and how much it was anticipated. So it really dawned on me while I was in L.A. how excited people were about it. All the online love we've been getting is pretty overwhelming especially on Twitter. There's podcasts and after-shows and I've never really been a part of that sub-culture of a series, so it's really cool. We're really lucky that so many people latched on so quick. It's been amazing.

CV: What draws people to a story like The Strain?

DN: I think we delve into the instinctual habits of people and figure out what the hell we would do if we encounter this. In that sense, people can really relate to the show. Obviously, all the horror lovers are really loving it already and it gets better and better and gorier and gorier for sure. I think with the family story line... I think a lot of people don't understand, and you obviously do because you've read the books, they don't understand the importance of that story line yet. They're sitting through the gore stuff and the horror stuff and that's what the show is but as you go on, and get further in, we realize how important that family story line really is. I think hopefully people's opinions turn around, over time, and really start to pay attention to that aspect of the show. It definitely has a lot of value. There's so romance in there too, as Eph and Nora's relationship blossoms, so there's some romance for the ladies (laughs).

Thanks a lot to Drew Nelson for answering our questions and make sure, if you haven't, to check out The Strain on Sundays on FX!