‘The Strain’ Brain

David Weddle has worked on other Sci-Fi shows such as “Battlestar Galactica” and “Falling Skies.” 

After writing and producing for shows such as “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” and “Battlestar Galactica,” local David Weddle has a new one to add to the list: “The Strain.”

The science fiction show, which drew 8 million viewers in its July 13 premiere on FX, is unlike any other vampire series. Based on a trilogy of recent best-selling books co-written by Guillermo del Toro (winner of 2006 best screenplay Oscar for “Pan’s Labyrinth”), the vampire mythology returns to its roots with vampires as monsters. Modern twists are woven in, with scientific investigation of the vampire viral strain by the Centers for Disease Control.

Weddle, who’s lived in Malibu’s Paradise Cove for the past 26 years, is a veteran writer/producer of science and sci-fi television shows that include “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,” “Battlestar Galactica,” “CSI,” “Falling Skies” and “Defiance.”

“These vampires are not young  fashionistas with relationship problems,” Weddle laughed in an interview with The Malibu Times, referring to popular vampire shows and movies like “True Blood” and “Twilight.” 

“There’s nothing remotely attractive about these vampires. The show begins with a slow infestation of the population of New York after the head vampire lands.”

Weddle describes the show as “a vampire genre reimagined and reinvented through the incredible mind of Guillermo del Toro. This is reclaiming the origins of the genre. We take a lot of archetypes and set pieces from the mythology, like the head vampire and a vampire hunter that’s a Holocaust survivor.”

Weddle and his TV-writing partner Bradley Thompson began the campaign to win a spot on “The Strain” as soon as they heard about it last year. 

“When my agent told me about del Toro’s project, I about jumped out of my seat…‘Get me on that show!’” Weddle said. “I think ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ is a masterpiece, one of the best movies of the last 15 years, and I also love his other work. To get a chance to work with Guillermo del Toro was the whole reason we wanted to do it.”

Behind the scenes, Weddle said del Toro always has index cards and plot points ready to go when the crew of writers and producers sit down to plan episodes. 

“Then he starts talking story, and he has a wonderful childlike enthusiasm.”

Weddle describes the writing product as a “television adaptation” of the book trilogy. 

“It loosely follows the narrative and characters, but isn’t a strict adaptation. It’s a creative entity on its own. We do quite a number of drafts, and our executive producer tweaks and enhances it. Del Toro does some rewriting as well. But sometimes he’s off directing a movie and can’t always be there day-to-day.”

Writing a series based on books makes it easier, Weddle said, “Because you already have a sense of the characters. It’s a fantastic foundation for a show.”

The Weddle-Thompson team wrote three of the first season’s 13 episodes. But “we work on story development for every episode, and contribute scenes, etc., except for the pilot,” Weddle said. “I was on set for a number of episodes as executive producer, watching the story and performances.”   

Thompson noted that he and Weddle are very similar yet very different. 

“We both went to USC and have a twisted sense of humor, but he’s a liberal from Malibu and I’m a Libertarian from Altadena,” he said. “It’s really wonderful to go into a writing room with someone you absolutely trust. David tends to be very emotional and funny. I’ll hand him a script with blank areas marked ‘put joke here.’”

Weddle said Thompson is “good on story structure, scientific sequences and action sequences,” whereas he writes more “character, psychology and quirky scenes.”

“‘The Strain,’  ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ and other works of del Toro incorporate Gothic horror with fascism,” Weddle noted. “You can enjoy it as a horror story, but there are also themes about the human condition. It’s a delicious meal for the viewer.”

Prior to working in television, Weddle wrote for publications like Rolling Stone, Los Angeles Times Magazine, The Washington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle and Variety. He’s written two books, including the bio, “If They Move, Kill ‘Em! The Life and Times of Sam Peckinpah.”

No stranger to controversy, Weddle also raises the ire of film academics with articles like “What My Daughter Learned in Film School” and “Film Theory Sucks.”

“The Strain” airs Sundays at 10 p.m. on FX.