This past Sunday evening, a new name in television horror was born… or hatched. The Strain, a series from one of the masters of horror, Guillermo del Toro, along with author Chuck Hogan and Carlton Cuse, takes a different sort of approach to the vampire horror genre. Nothing sparkly, funny, or romantic on this series. Just a tense, dark, and very realistic concept of vampirism as a contagion that has followers and influences among all walks of life.
The first episode begins on a plane, a nice container for the release of some sort of chemical agent or contagion or some other bad thing. In this case, some thing being transported on a flight from Berlin, kills all of the passengers, over 200 people. There are four people who wake up and are the only survivors, a female lawyer, a thin man with glasses, a long haired death metal rocker, and the pilot of the flight. Of course, the rest of the “victims” are not really down for the count… The all have a new purpose now.
The tension and drama of this show is not limited to the activities surrounding the victims on the plane. One of the main characters, Abraham Setrakian, is played by David Bradley who may be best known for his role as Argus Filch in the Harry Potter movie series. He plays an old man with a secret understanding of this contagion and how to stop it. I get the feeling from this first episode that he failed in his duties in the past, not destroying the source of this death.
Corey Stoll, from the Netflix original series House of Cards, plays Dr. Ephraim Goodweather, a man with a troubled family life, fighting to save himself while torn between his drive to succeed at his job as Medical Examiner for the CDC and his love for his son. The internal struggle with his responsibilities makes him a very real character, and I immediately liked him. He is also the eternal skeptic, so this adds the fish out of water concept in this story by taking someone who will try to use science to explain everything when somethings may be beyond science.
The main villain of this series, although we only get fleeting glimpses of this character, is the Master. He seems to be the “Dracula” of this story, the main carrier of the virus that hastily battles to spread itself from host to host. Every good villain needs an awesome voice, and this voice is provided by Robin Atkin Downes, a renowned voice actor, actor, director, and music producer. Mr. Downes’ list of credits is very impressive and includes over 300 credits, most of them as voices in popular video games and cartoon series. He even had a recurring role in the late 1990’s on Babylon 5.
I got the chance to interview Robin Atkin Downes this last week, prior to the premier of The Strain on FX on Sunday evening. Check out our exclusive interview below as we get in to the mind of the Master.
Comic Booked: Mr. Downes, thank you for taking the time to talk with us here at Comic Booked. The Strain is a series that plays to what we are all about, a TV series based on a comic book based on a novel. You voice the Master in the upcoming series. What can you tell us about your part and what you like the most about it? What drew you to this role?
Robin Atkin Downes: Portraying the Master takes playing the bad guy to a whole new level. This character is very dark, powerful and supremely evil. I’m having a great time bringing him to life! For an actor it doesn’t get any juicer than this.
CB: Have you read the comics? How close is this series going to stick to the plot lines of the comic series or the novels? Are we in for something more like The Walking Dead where there have been some real variations to keep the story fresh?
RAD: Yes… I have been reading the comics. After being cast… I immediately dove into them for research. I think you have to ask Guillermo about the plot and his plan for the series. Let’s just say that what I’ve seen of the first season is mind blowing! It’s raw, horrific and brilliant!
CB: How did you get into voice acting? Were you a class clown?
RAD: I was always interested in Voice Acting. I pursued it as a way to make money in between on camera gigs when I moved to Los Angeles. I was very surprised to see my Voice acting career take off quite quickly along with my passion for the industry. I soon found many different niches in the business to offer my talents.
CB: What would you tell someone who aspires to be a voice actor? Any pointers?
RAD: I always tell aspiring Voice actors to go to Voicebank.net to listen to demo’s of actors who are working. It’s a great introduction to the amazing talent that’s available. It’s also a great way to steal some ideas for your demo. If you think you’ve got the chops to compete…
CB: Are you a regular comic book fan? If so, any favorites?
RAD: I think I can now say that I’m a comic book collector!!! I certainly have a many copies of The Strain!!!!! Growing up in England… My brother Simon and I enjoyed reading comics. We used to buy Marvel’s Fantastic Four with our pocket money. Many years later… I’m very proud to be voicing iconic characters like Abomination and Baron Zemo!!!!
CB: You have definitely been in the world of Marvel Comics with the video games and the animated shows. What would be your dream role for voice acting, a character you would love to voice or maybe already have?
RAD: I’ve come so close to voicing Batman several times…I’d love to bring him to life…
CB: Any other upcoming projects that you can tell us about?
RAD: I have been very lucky to have been cast in a vast array of roles over the years…And I have many exciting upcoming projects coming soon!
I really want to send out a big thank you to Robin Atkin Downes for taking the time to give us a little glimpse into his world and what it takes to be a voice actor. The Strain looks like it will be an awesome show. The first episode was out last Sunday and you really should not miss it. If you are a fan of The Walking Dead or even shows like 24, this is one you should at least check out. Keep it here on Comic Booked for future news and more more video game, movie, and comic book reviews and interviews.
You can find out more about Robin Atkin Downes by following him on Twitter: @Robin_A_Downes and also see all his works on IMDB.