‘The Strain’: Kevin Durand channels his inner Viking warrior for Fet

Sept. 25, 2014 | 2:21 p.m.
strain 112 00259 hires1 The Strain: Kevin Durand channels his inner Viking warrior for Fet

From left, Mia Maestro as Nora Martinez, Corey Stoll as Eph Goodweather and Kevin Durand as Vasiliy Fet in "The Strain." (Michael Gibson/FX)

afp getty fxs the strain panel comic con international1 The Strain: Kevin Durand channels his inner Viking warrior for Fet

Actors Sean Astin, left, and Kevin Durand attend FX's "The Strain" panel during Comic-Con International 2014 at the San Diego Convention Center in San Diego. (Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

There are few things that will bond a cast of actors more closely than two consecutive weeks of filming at night in close confines during a polar vortex event in Toronto, according to actor Kevin Durand, who plays the towering exterminator Vasiliy Fet in “The Strain,” FX’s hit series adapted from the novels by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan.

But the experience of shooting the eighth episode, “Creatures of the Night” — which sees the show’s ensemble of heroes fending off hordes of attacking vampires from inside a Brooklyn convenience store — didn’t just help him forge lasting connections among the actors, Durand said.

It also allowed him to channel his inner action hero.

“I love getting physical with characters,” Duran said in an interview earlier this year on the Toronto set of the show. “With this guy, there’s this wonderful insane Viking warrior inside him and he’s kept it repressed all these years because he would have ended up in jail. Now he’s in a world where those primal instincts that were born into him are thriving. ”

In the world of “The Strain,” physical dexterity and grim determination are useful survival tools — especially for Fet and his allies, an unlikely group of survivors led by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention epidemiologist Eph Goodweather (Corey Stoll) and experienced vampire hunter Abraham Setrakian (David Bradley).

Kevin Durand as Vasily Fet in "The Strain." (Michael Gibson/FX)

Kevin Durand as Vasiliy Fet in “The Strain.” (Michael Gibson/FX)

As the first season of the show, co-created by del Toro and Carlton Cuse (“Lost,” “Bates Motel”), nears its finale, the heroes are finding themselves significantly outnumbered by rapidly multiplying vampire hordes in the service of the Old World monster known as the Master.

“They’ve got a hell of a mountain to climb,” Durand said.

The actor, however, is excited by the opportunity to see Fet rise to the challenge. Originally from Thunder Bay, Canada, Durand is a film and TV veteran whose early career involved stints on genre series including “Stargate SG-1” and “Dark Angel” and whose big screen credits include “3:10 to Yuma,” “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” “I Am Number Four” and David Cronenberg’s “Cosmopolis,” among others.

He met Cuse during the fourth season of “Lost,” while playing a mercenary hired by the evil Charles Widmore (Alan Dale) to capture Michael Emerson’s Ben, and when Cuse and del Toro sat down with him about starring in “The Strain,” he said he was immediately intrigued by both the concept for the show and by the chance to play a man on the right side of a fight for a change.

PHOTOS: Hollywood Backlot on the set of ‘The Strain’

“I really wanted to be a part of it — it’s such great escapism,” Durand said. “For me,  character-wise, he’s so textured and rich, I saw a lot of opportunities to have a lot of fun with this guy. Ultimately he’s a good guy –a lot of people haven’t cast me as a good guy in a while so it’s nice to get to play someone heroic.

“It’s kind of an interesting thing that an exterminator really finds what he was born to do in this apocalyptic kind of setting,” Durand continued. “He kind of disappeared in the crowd when everything was going fine in society and then all of a sudden, his skill set, the value of it shoots through the roof all of a sudden. And he loves it. He feels more alive in this world than he did when things were OK.”

Durand said he’s welcomed the chance to work closely with Bradley, pointing out that their off-screen dynamic in some ways resembles Fet and Setrakian’s onscreen rapport.

“There’s a mutual love and respect between them and understanding,” Durand said. “I think he’s pretty relieved and happy that he’s met someone who can take him under his wing and help him be better at what he thinks he’s already great at. With Setrakian having this vengeance inside of him that’s been bubbling for decades, he just wants to kill the Master. Then all of a sudden he meets this giant guy who’s just a natural born killer and kind of in a sense pledges allegiance to him – he’s like, you know way more than me so let’s do it.

“Just from a human perspective, between David and myself, it’s very similar,” the actor added. “It’s such a wonderful career that he’s had, spanning all these decades. He comes to set with the brightest smile and the most energy and you look at that as a young character actor, and you are like, ‘Man, I want to be just like you.’ It’s fantastic.”

Thanks in part to its B-movie elan and accessible popcorn-entertainment approach, “The Strain” has become a welcome hit for FX, ranking as the top new scripted series on cable this year, with each episode attracting an average of 4.4 million total viewers, 2.5 million in the coveted 18-49 demographic. It was renewed for a second season last month.

From left, Mia Maestro as Nora Martinez, Corey Stoll as Eph Goodweather and Kevin Durand as Vasily Fet in "The Strain." (Michael Gibson/FX)

From left, Mia Maestro as Nora Martinez, Corey Stoll as Eph Goodweather and Kevin Durand as Vasiliy Fet in “The Strain.” (Michael Gibson/FX)

Durand said he welcomes the chance to spend more time in Fet’s skin — for the actor, who in person projects a calm, quiet intensity, portraying a ruthlessly efficient dispatcher of pests of all biological stripes provides its own unique catharsis.

“It’s one of the cool things about my job,” he said. “You’re driving down the highway and someone does something really stupid, all of us have these impulses – ‘I’m going to run you off the road!’ – just terrible thoughts that come through your head and you’re like, ‘Wow, I have to go back into my meditative state and find the zen again.’ [With acting] you get to go there.

“We were doing this great big action sequence and at the end of it, Corey and I come over to each other with grins on our faces. All the demons have been released.”

— Gina McIntyre | @LATHeroComplex

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"The Strain" (2009 book): Partnering with author Chuck Hogan, Del Toro penned an apocalyptic vampire trilogy that he now hopes to translate to television. He's currently directing the pilot for the show in Toronto. (William Morrow)

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