Spoiler alert: The following contains talk about the final scene of last night’s episode of The Strain.
The White Room was the most memorable set piece from the first season of The Strain last year. Also known as “breakfast nook,” according to executive producer J. Miles Dale, the torture room is where vampire Eichorst (played by Richard Sammel) gets to play with his human food.
In fact, the White Room made such an impact that FX had some fun with the chamber by shooting a behind-the-scenes vid where the ancient Nazi bloodsucker turned it into an Air BnB. And last night, the room made its grand appearance this season when Eichorst was cranking the chain connected to his meal, who was revealed to be ... Dutch?!
On a visit to the Toronto set of The Strain last spring, I walked around the breakfast nook as the production filmed Episode 11, which airs next Sunday. Though the room is brightly lit, the blood splatters on the white surroundings and chopping block creates a disturbing scene. That scene is likely to become even more disturbing in next week’s penultimate episode of the season, in which Eichorst tortures Dutch (Ruta Gedmintas), who was revealed in the final shot last night to be his latest prisoner.
During the set visit, I joined a group of journalists who spoke with Sammel and Gedmintas about their upcoming scenes in the White Room. Also, show creator Guillermo del Toro weighs in on the room, which came to him in a dream. And co-star Kevin Durand, who plays Dutch’s love interest Fet, offers a brief take on how her captivity impacts him.
But first, take a peek at Eichorst serving up something (churros?) to Dutch in a first look photo provided by FX from next week's episode.
As a way to tease the episode you guys are shooting now, we know you've been held captive. Talk about the challenges just in shooting some of that with Richard, as it sounds pretty intense.
Ruta Gedmintas: It was. I take it you guys saw the White Room. It's really creepy in there, isn't it? So, having that collar on my neck for 16 hours on Friday was quite intense, and there is a lot of physical stuff, and I'm dragged around, and we've got all these casts of my back, but it's so much fun. I'm bruised and battered and have to go to physio. It is challenging, but it's what I do this job for, is to have new experiences. It has been challenging, and it's pretty disgusting, those scenes. I think they'll be really good. Richard is so good, and he's so creepy. He's so not like that in life, as well. We'd be dancing in between the scenes, because it got so creepy that we'd have to sing and dance to just be normal people again, because it was so dark. I went home and watched like five episodes of Friends, because I needed to not think about the horrible stuff. But I think it's going to be really good, it's really definitely horror-movie creepy.
Is this episode the most physical it gets for you?
RG: Yeah. I've done lots of physical stuff throughout the show, but this has been sort of full-on every day, and you have to go to a Zen place in your mind, it's going to be over soon. I have really really enjoyed it; it hurts a bit, but I've really enjoyed it.
To Richard Sammel: What is it like working in the White Room?
Richard Sammel: As a normal human being, as I suppose I am, you reprehend those scenes, because you go into regions where you hardly go. And then you ask yourself, how are you going to do that in a believable way? But in terms of the actor I am, that’s exactly where I want to go, not only into perversion, into places where you normally do not go, even in a positive way, not just explore human weakness or being or states of mind.
The good thing with it is ... for me there were two good things. First of all, that I rely and have big trust in the team and in my comrades and in the production and in the writers; there is a kind of protected area. And the other good thing is that -- I forgot. What was it? Yeah, it’s well written. I heard that they pushed it even further and then they dimmed it down because it was still on TV, and we don’t make it too wild, you know? But then, it means that you can, on an emotional level, loosen it. You can let you go, because I don’t cut t-ts or not weird stuff for nothing, you know? So, it’s more suggestions where your imagination goes wild rather than really showing torture or stuff like that, you know?
For me, the other thing that was really good is to work with Ruta, because, as the bad guy, you never hang out with the team. That’s s--t! And here we had some really intense things coming up which brought us both together not only on a personal level, because, of course, we have dinner together and stuff like that, but on a professional level. We sat together; we’re thinking about the scenes; we’re brainstorming and rehearsing and stuff like that, and then, little by little, you get to a more intimate relationship where you deal with those very crucial stuff. And we come out of this White Room as real friends, you know? That’s a good thing.
To Kevin Durand: How is Fet going to react to Dutch being kidnapped?
Kevin Durand: Like an angry sasquatch on drugs. Yeah, I mean, he feels a real connection to her and kinship, and there’s just like a shorthand that flows between them that anyone trying to take her away is going to rattle him for sure. He won’t stop 'til he gets her back.
To Guillermo del Toro: We heard that Eichorst's White Room came out of a dream of yours. How do you decide which of your dreams you want to give to The Strain?
Guillermo del Toro: Well, I dream very little that is interesting. Most of the time it is very boring, but I just thought the idea of Eichorst being a connoisseur, he's so refined and elegant I thought, well -- I remember an old porn story where they said porn actors eat only pineapple [laughs] ... for reasons of interaction, and I thought this guy would probably feed his victims only certain vitamins and juices so the flavor is a little better. I don't dream normal. It's very strange.