Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.
Fresh Fiction had the opportunity this past week to speak with Natalie Brown, who plays the now strigoi (vampire) version of Kelly Goodweather in Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan’s THE STRAIN. Her character has come a long way since being turned, and now that the close of Season 2 is rapidly approaching, the stakes are only getting higher, and the episodes are only getting better and all the more intense. Brown’s Kelly definitely contributes on that front.
We spoke with Brown about the darkness and evolution of her character, what she taps into to get through it, the makeup process, and what lies ahead.
You makeup is so good! Can you tell us about getting into your strigoi makeup? And now that you’re kind of back to your human version, do you have a preference?
Natalie Brown: “I’m not going to lie. Costume change and a little bit of lipstick can go a long way to making even Ms. Strigoi happy, but the four and a half hours of the prosthetic makeup process is something that I really enjoy. The gifted artists that work on the hair and makeup make my job really easy. They definitely bring the terror before I’ve even set foot on set, but being able to experience Kelly as a human turned vampire turned back to human looking is a challenge that I really relished, and the products are a lot better smelling, shall we say. A little more pleasant. It’s like a day trip to the spa for Kelly.”
What about getting into the character itself– your movements and manner of speaking now that you’re evolving?
Brown: “After having gotten the hang of the physical expectations of a newly turned strigoi, the challenge at the beginning of Season 2 was letting go of a lot of those expectations of a newly turned strigoi and becoming a more sentient being, more regal if you will. And in Episode 8, ‘Intruders,’ then it was a matter of restraint. Keeping a lid on my own human tendencies and speaking less articulately and moving more mechanically is something you’re required as an actress to not do, but our director, Kevin Dowling, was quick to remind me of when to hold back and when to let the foot off the pedal, so to speak. She does now have access to all of her memories and emotions, and it’s like hearing an old familiar song and knowing all the words. It’s like an old familiar sweater.”
Now that you’ve played through three phases of the character (human, strigoi, and now sort of a hybrid), have you approached it as three different characters, or just sort of three evolutions of the same character?
Brown: “You hit the nail on the head. It is three different evolutions, and it’s been a process of adding and eliminating and being expertly guided by our vamp choreographer, Roberto Campanella, as well as the writers and directors. And it’s just a matter of choosing what to keep and what to throw away, what to layer on, and just knowing– having that sense of restraint at all times. The character just keeps growing in complexity and more nuanced, and with each evolution of Kelly I enjoy more and more. You’ll just have to see what’s in store to see how much better things continue to get, or worse, depending on your perspective.”
When you’re this strigoi character and you have to go to some pretty dark places, what do you tap into to get you through that darkness of your character?
Brown: “It’s that burning desire to connect with her dearest one… that has not gone away. It has changed. Human love does turn to vampire need, but that longing, that yearning, that fight for Zach is still very much alive. That’s what makes vampires different from other monsters… that they still feel. They still have purpose. They have drive. There are different levels of course, and Kelly, being a more sentient one, has special gifts bestowed upon her, and what a blessing because all vampires once newly turned want to connect with their dear ones, and she’s just very fortunate to have been blessed with the assistance of Eichhorst and Feelers, and she’ll stop at nothing. So she’s still very much focused and driven by that desire and need.”
Now, I have to ask about the creepy “Feeler” kids. They are the stuff of nightmares. I’m curious how it was working with them and the casting process for them.
Brown: “They had castings at dance studios in the greater Toronto area, and they hired some of the most gifted dancers and acrobats. Most of them were girls, but we had a few boy Feelers, and they’re so physically gifted that they’re creepy looking enough on their own, but they are also aided with the help of speeding up their movements with visual effects, and they would employ the use of trampolines to help with the springing side. Generally, they become pretty creepy once they’re processed in hair and makeup, and they were just a joy to work with. They were so enthusiastic, and they loved the makeup process. They did all of Kelly’s dirty work. They’re the ones down on their hands and doing her bidding. So we had a lot of fun playing make believe and turning some of the darkest subject matter into the most fun days on the set.”
In the last episode your companion Feelers were killed. Is it safe to assume we might see more, or were they the last two? If you can say, that is.
Brown: “I may not be able to say, but there just might be a couple still lingering in the nest.”
Also, last episode, which is my favorite of the season thus far, we got to see Kelly and Eichhorst kind of bond when he was teaching her how to apply her makeup, etc. How will we see that relationship progress throughout the rest of the season?
Brown: “Well, I will say that one of the most poignant scenes from Season 1 was Eichhorst’s ceremoniously putting on his face, and I had joked with some of the writers last season that now that Kelly has become a strigoi, my only wish would be to hang out with Eichhorst and maybe borrow some concealer. You can only imagine how thrilled I was when that wish came true. Eichhorst would be one of my favorite characters from Season 1, and being one of the most fully fleshed-out strigoi, I couldn’t ask for a better mentor. Richard Sammel portrays Eichhorst superbly, and he has coined the relationship a ‘Bonnie and Clyde partnership.’ I’m just very fortunate to be in his—or to be his people. I look forward to more of the Eichhorst/Kelly relationship.”
Me, too! What can fans expect the rest of the season and into the next? Because it seems like the stakes are getting higher and higher.
Brown: “I know! The battle lines continue to be drawn, alliances continue to be formed and made, alliances continue to be crossed– This story just get richer and more exciting by the episode, and I’m as anxious as everyone else to see what the writers have in store next season and can’t wait for everyone to see how the rest of this season unfolds. It does only get bigger and better and bolder.”
THE STRAIN, Episode 9 of Season 2 – “The Battle for Red Hook” airs tonight at 10 p.m. e/p only on FX.