The Strain Set Visit Diaries: Natalie Brown

Natalie Brown has been, without a doubt, a standout in Season 2 of The Strain. During our visit to their Toronto set, she gave us an in-depth look into Kelly’s transformation and motivations. Most importantly, she shared a bit about last episodes’s pivotal scene, with Eichorst helping Kelly look human again … or as I like to call it — “Extreme Makeover: Vampire Edition.”

Here’s our next chapter in The Strain Set Visit Diaries, featuring Natalie Brown.

How has Kelly’s physicality changed now that she’s not a newborn vampire?

Brown: [She’s] a little more upright. One of the things I had difficulties doing was scampering on all fours, and luckily that is for the drone vampires. Some of the twitchiness has slipped away, and I don’t want to say she’s a bit more regal, but she’s more highly functioning. And The Master has plans for her, so there are certain skills that are bestowed upon her in the second season. I’ve got some special assistance from people skilled in different ways, so it’s been an interesting evolution for Kelly.

Kelly gets some help from Eichorst, including a makeover. Can you talk about that dynamic and working with Richard Sammel?

Brown: That was on my wish list from last season, when I was speculating what is in store for Season 2. I said I didn’t know what they would keep from the books, or how they would venture off, but I would love to work with Eichorst, and it’d be great if he could teach me some makeup tips. Working with Richard Sammel is such a gift. He definitely has his vampire down. Richard is a mentor of mine both as a person, and as a vampire. Eichorst is also a mentor to Kelly; he can show her the ropes.

Is it like a father/daughter relationship?

Brown: To use his words, it’s Bonnie and Clyde. It is like tutor and pupil. We’re hardly lovers, boyfriend/girlfriend, but it’s the closest thing to an ally Kelly has. The Feelers are her children, and Eichorst is daddy, partner-in-crime.

So Eichorst and the Feelers are Kelly’s new family in a way? 

Brown: It is the brood that Kelly always wanted that Eph never wanted to give her. Kelly, in the books, always wanted more children but Ephraim was a little bit resistant to that idea and focused on his career. Now she finally has the large family she’s always wanted. But they are really only there to aid her in her quest for Zach.

Is there a possibility that the student will usurp her teacher?

Brown: [Eichorst] has decades of experience on me, and Kelly is very singular in her focus. Although she has certain abilities bestowed upon her, her mission is simple — to find her son and connect with him. That is what The Master is looking to exploit. Although she is given a higher ranking and special abilities, it’s really all about Zach. She is purely focused on Zach. I don’t think she has any illusions of exploiting new abilities and talents unless it’s going to help her with her ultimate goal.

Does this makeover mean a different look for Kelly?

Brown: A new color palette. I was happy to get out of the many shades of brown Kelly wore last season. And to get out of that sweater! That vomit-stained sweater. I have been dying for a costume change for a while. The fun was, it could be anything. Eichorst has exquisite taste, so the sky was the limit as far as what I could be wearing, or the look, or the haircut. I am really pleased with what he chose for me.

Is it more difficult to play a parasitic vampire, or a vampire trying to suppress the ticks and appear human?

Brown: It was an interesting challenge because all the things I was striving for last season were now things I had to resist. Just when I got my twitch on? Now not so twitchy. Finally got my flexible to be down on all fours, now they want you to be upright. It was a much more visceral and physical way of working. I didn’t have to worry as much about dialogue as I had when I was a human. So, certain pressures were eliminated and other challenges added. I really relished in it.

Does Kelly experience emotion in her vampire form, especially when it comes to Zach?

Brown: She is very driven. There is a supreme longing we feel from Kelly. It’s longing, yearning, desire. There is a certain amount of anguish if she does get close but doesn’t quite achieve her goal. I really feel for Kelly. It is tragic to want only one thing, to be with your most beloved, and not be able to have that. She is still Mama Bear, who wants desperately to protect her son in this new world. And he is vulnerable. He is not safe with dad [but Kelly] never thought he was safe with dad! Those things haven’t actually changed all that much. She ultimately wants to protect her son, and wants custody very badly, and will stop at nothing to achieve that.

Is there any humanity left in Kelly?

Brown: She’s not human anymore, but there are emotions she is still able to feel. Longing and yearning, and I think [she] can still feel rage. You can feel sadness. You can feel the void of not connecting, because that’s all you want to do is feed and nourish yourself, and be with your loved ones. Those human emotions turn into vampire emotions. The feeling of human love turns into vampire need. So whether you want to still call them emotions, I think they still qualify.

What are Kelly’s plans for Zach once she gets him?

Brown: It’s to turn him; it’s not to drink him. Ultimately she wants to have him, be with her, become like her. We haven’t seen that yet, and what happens if you get to turn your loved one. Then what? Do you go hang out? Do you play? Do we have play dates with other vamp children? I’d love to have Zach to meet the Feelers because I can only imagine the fun they’d have together!

Where is the line between love, hunger, and appetite?

Brown: I think it’s all about connection. It is not about thirst, it is about the desire and need to connect.

What is Kelly’s relationship with Eph now that she’s a vampire? Is he just an obstacle in her path to Zach?

Brown: Kelly never stopped loving Eph. It was just a dysfunctional relationship that had to end. So it will be interesting; if you do turn the ones you love the most, Zach is first and foremost. I wonder how long it would take for [Kelly] to go after Ephraim. He is still an adversary. It is the vampire custody battle that never ends.

Is Nora also an obstacle for Kelly?

Brown: They’re both looking to nurture Zach in each their own ways. Even before Kelly turned into a vampire, Nora was her nemesis, in a way. She knew that was the other woman. She remains the other woman, and not just with her husband, but now with her son. I’ll say she does remain a nemesis of sorts, but she’s no match.

Does Kelly spend much time with The Master himself in Season 2?

Brown: In a way, because The Master communicates through his various vampires, so [Kelly is] always in contact with The Master. He is in [her] head, and speaking to [her] through various characters. But thus far, I haven’t had a lot of interaction with The Master.

How would you describe Kelly’s relationship with The Master?

Brown: I would like to think she is emerging as one of his favorites, although you could see Kelly as a pawn of The Master. He is exploiting her love for Zach and her connection to Eph for his own purposes. I don’t know how cognizant Kelly is. He has given her a very long leash to do what it is she set out to do. If he happens to benefit from that, then great; it is a win-win situation.

Would you say that you’re enjoying yourself playing Kelly this season?

Brown: I am having so much fun! The conditions are grueling. Vampires don’t like sunlight, we shoot at night, Kelly’s days in the kitchen are over, [and] so are interior scenes. We’re pretty much outside, at night, and Toronto had an unforgiving winter yet again. These kids were just so much fun (The Feelers), so playful and joyful, and so physically gifted. They would go from being intense little creepy things in a scene – menacing and terrifying to watch – and as soon you’d hear cut, they’d be breaking out in choreography and telling jokes. We were hanging out in churches at four in the morning playing word games. Again, I didn’t have to worry about long scenes of dialogue as much this season. It was just a lot more playful, physical, and visceral. I have had a ton of fun, and cannot wait for people to see how much fun we had.

Photo Courtesy of FX

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