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Remote Controlled: ‘The Strain’ Boss Carlton Cuse Talks Series Finale, Working With Guillermo del Toro

Welcome to “Remote Controlled,” a podcast from Variety featuring the best and brightest in television, both in front of and behind the camera.

In today’s episode, Variety’s executive editor of TV Debra Birnbaum talks with “The Strain” showrunner Carlton Cuse about the series finale, working with FX, and creating a vampire show with a fresh take on its creatures.

Cuse says he felt like it was the right time to end the show. “It felt like we were stalling around,” he explains. “The idea was always to do three seasons of the show when we sold it. Going into Season 4, it really felt like we needed to increase the storytelling velocity and finish the story. It was never meant to be like ‘The Walking Dead,’ an open-ended experience, in part because there’s a main bad guy, and he’s out there and there’s only so many times you can confront him and fail. And it really felt like it was time to deliver to the audience some ultimate resolution of the narrative.” He adds that he felt the fans didn’t mind that the show deviated from the book series it’s based on.

Cuse reassures fans that they will get satisfying endings for each character. “There is a definitive and dramatic resolution for all of our characters,” he says. “‘The Strain’ definitely does not just peter out in some existential angst or something…I’ve always seen ‘The Strain’ as like a summer popcorn movie, it’s meant to be kind of fun and entertaining and larger than life and, of course, any show where the bad guys are these vampiric creatures that shoot six-foot stingers out that suck you dry like a Capri Sun, kind of in a way defines a certain tone on its own. We leaned into that.”

Unlike the vampires in other television shows — of which there are many — the vampires of “The Strain” are definitively monsters; they don’t look or act human. Cuse says getting to explore that aspect of the show and working with Guillermo del Toro, an acclaimed “creature creator,” was part of the reason he signed on. “When you’re working in the vampire genre space, you better have a different take on it,” he says. “I think ‘The Strain’ had a really singular take on vampires, these were definitely not romantic dudes that you wanted to hang out with.”

Before working on “The Strain,” Cuse was renowned for his work on “Lost,” which was a “non-network show on a television network.” Cuse also produced “Nash Bridges” on CBS and in today’s episode, he discussed the differences between working for a network and for a cable station like FX.

FX is really the gold standard of where to work,” he says. “It’s also kind of painful sometimes when you have to work other places that aren’t as enlightened. John Landgraf and everyone there is exceptionally focused on doing what they can so you as a creative person can do your best work,” he says. “Network television is always about finding the lowest, kind of broad common denominator, so notes were always about ‘Clarify this,’ make it clearer, make things more accessible to the broadest audience.”

“The Strain” series finale airs Sunday, Sept. 17 at 10 p.m. on FX.

Listen to the full episode below:

New episodes of “Remote Controlled” are available every Friday, and you can find past episodes here.

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