TV Interview: Samantha Mathis Sinks Her Teeth Into FX’s ‘THE STRAIN’

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11745926_992302197455616_1434239134140817414_nPreston Barta // Features Editor

Vampires and BlackulOps— things have truly kicked into high gear lately on THE STRAIN. As characters develop further, back-stories come forth and the vampires grow in numbers and intellect, THE STRAIN shows its true colors, and does it put the fangs in your this season.

Part of the reason this is so is the addition of Samantha Mathis (AMERICAN PSYCHO, UNDER THE DOME), who really lights a fire under your ass as Councilwoman Justine Faraldo. She’s a no hold barred kind of character, and she is sure to do big things on THE STRAIN as the series continues with its fourth episode on Sunday.

Fresh Fiction had the opportunity to speak with Mathis recently. You can view the transcript from our talk with her below, where we discuss her infectiously good character and her take on the world that Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan created.

THE STRAIN -- "Fort Defiance" -- Episode 3 of Season Two (Aired July 26th). Pictured: Samantha Mathis as Justine Feraldo. Photo courtesy of Michael Gibson/FX.

THE STRAIN — “Fort Defiance” — Episode 3 of Season Two (Aired July 26th). Pictured: Samantha Mathis as Justine Feraldo. Photo courtesy of Michael Gibson/FX.

There are so many movies and television shows out there that I feel have affected how people kind of go about their daily lives. I mean, if you look at movies like PSYCHO, it makes people scared of showers, and JAWS for going out into the water. For THE STRAIN, I feel like it kind of induces paranoia and makes you a little more of a germophobe. What was that film or television show that affected how you went about your daily life growing up?

Samantha Mathis: “Oh, wow. I remember going back to being five or six years old and sitting in my father’s living room in the summertime, in Brooklyn at night, sort of cuddled between him and my stepmother watching Dracula movies. To see those movies, maybe I wasn’t five or six, maybe I was seven or eight, but those, just the really old Bella Lugosi movies, they terrified me. I think that that sort of continued thematically through several horror movies. Things that go bump in the night. That sort of evil lurking outside your window has always been something that terrified me.”

So how do you feel about Guillermo del Toro’s and Carlton Cuse’s take on vampires? Do you like the way that they handled it?

Mathis: “They’re really horrifying. I think they took it to the next level, and it’s almost zombie meets vampire. I’m a little bit of a wuss. I’m not going to lie to you. On the opening episode, when that scene happened and the one elder vomited all those forms into the other one, I was just like oh God, oh Jesus, oh wow, that’s… oh my gosh. It grosses me out, but in a really fun way.

The reason we’re attracted to something like THE STRAIN is the same reason we want to get on a roller coaster. It’s that adrenaline rush, and we love being afraid and being freaked out. There’s a great sort of practical use for it as a human being. I think we love it.”

Were you a fan of the show before you became involved?

Mathis: “I had seen the posters for the show. Living in New York City, I had seen them all over the city last summer. I was thoroughly freaked out and disgusted by them – as I think most people were.

The worm in the eyeball was an incredible ad campaign. I have to say just a mad shout out to the FX, not a plug but I just have to say it anyway, I think that the people who were doing the advertising campaigns for the show are phenomenal. I love the art that they’re coming up with.

They really captured my attention in that regard. Then, obviously, I’ve known Guillermo’s work for a long time. I hadn’t seen the show, but I was a huge fan of his work. He’s such an artist. He’s such a visionary.

And, then Carlton obviously has a tremendous track record in television and creating really compelling television. Then, on top of that, I am a huge fan of Corey Stoll’s work. So all of those things combined immediately drew me in, and then I got the role the same way that anyone else gets a roll. You audition. So, I just went in, and I went on tape, and they responded to what I did.”

Samantha Mathis as Justine Feraldo, Ron Canada as Mayor George Lyle. Photo courtesy of FX.

Samantha Mathis as Justine Feraldo, Ron Canada as Mayor George Lyle. Photo courtesy of FX.

Your character has been very interesting character thus far, to say the least. As of now we don’t know much about her. How much of what goes on within her is driven by her lust for power or need for power, and how much is just keeping her people safe?

Mathis: “Well, I think that that’s a really excellent question. I mean, this is a woman who certainly has a past, as exemplified from the episode just this last Sunday night. She lost a brother and a husband in 9/11.

Certainly, Staten Island has received sometimes less than stellar treatment from New York City. So, I think that she is very protective of her people, and she’s very dedicated to her people, but there’s always a potential, when you’re in a position of power, to be corrupted by it. I think that her intentions are really true to protect her people, but that was one of the aspects that intrigued me about playing this character.

It’s never black-and-white. I love that in a character, that it’s not black-and-white because human beings aren’t black-and-white. Certainly, when it comes to being given a certain amount of power, the question is what do you do with that power? With power comes great responsibility and we’re getting to see that Justine’s getting a little more power, and what will she do with it.”

Did you take any inspiration from any real-life politicians?

Mathis: “I had a very brief conversation when I was brought on to play Justine. I mean I watched some footage of Geraldine Ferraro. I really tried to draw from what Staten Island is like today and looked at footage from some council people from Staten Island. I live in New York City, so there’s no shortage of access to that. In fact, our NY1 news station on Time Warner is incredible in terms of covering Staten Island news.

I was striving to really create someone who felt authentically Staten Island and what that entails. As I was saying earlier, I think that there, in my experience, is an element for Staten Island natives, that they haven’t always been done right by New York City. There’s a healthy level of skepticism in terms of how the mayor deals with Staten Island. I think that was really the most important thing to me.”

Will we see her intersect with the other family that we’ve been following since Season 1? Will there be a point where those characters finally do realize that they’re both working to the same end?

Mathis: “I think that all roads will be colliding. You’ll have to tune in on Sundays.”

THE STRAIN airs on Sundays at 10 p.m. only on FX.

About author

Preston Barta

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.