You might know Kevin Durand as Martin Keamy, the cold-blooded mercenary from LOST who met his bloody end at the hands of Benjamin Linus. The Canadian-bred actor donned a 100-pound fat suit to bring the Blob to life in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and he played Barry Burton in Resident Evil: Retribution. And now Durand is playing yet another beloved character: Vasiliy Fet, the Ukrainian rat exterminator turned vampire killer in The Strain—the FX series produced by Carlton Cuse (LOST) and based on the trilogy of horror novels by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan.
Durand, along with some of his Strain costars, recently promoted the coming of the next season in an unusual way. Believe it or not, the towering 42-year-old actor dabbled with hip-hop music early in his career. He put his old musical and comedic talents to work and co-wrote a music video called “Vamps Boom,” which debuted at Comic-Con last month. We called the actor to ask him about the video as well as his other on-set shenanigans. We also talked about specific plot points from the shocking Season 2 finale (on that note, major spoilers ahead) and how it affects Fet’s headspace in the upcoming season. Proceed with caution.
How did the “Vamps Boom” video come about?
On set, I would keep pulling David Bradley aside, and I’d say, “Alright David,” [rapping] “Don’t push me ‘cause I’m close to the edge,” and then we’d shoot these funny little videos of he and I doing Grandmaster Flash or some OutKast, and then I’d post them up on my Instagram just for a kick. Carlton had seen these videos and said, “At Comic-Con, we’re thinking of doing a sketch kind of thing. Maybe you guys can do something.” So I talked to Miguel Gomez and he was excited. We told them we were down. I wrote my verse, Miguel wrote his, and we just took off from there.
We hear you have a background with hip-hop music.
When I was a kid, I knew this guy who was kind of like the Godfather of Canadian hip-hop. His name was Maestro Fresh-Wes. We used to do shows in Ontario. I used to do the roller rink on Saturdays when I was 13-years-old.
So were you impressed with your co-stars’ rapping?
Miguel Gomez was actually signed to Roc-A-Fella before. He’s done a couple of tracks with Jay-Z. He was actually the real deal.
And what about David Bradley? It was pretty amusing to see him rap since he plays a cranky old man on your show.
David had never rapped before. That was his rap debut. But he killed it. I wrote his chorus. I believe [series writer] Regina Corrado wrote that kind of Vincent Price Thriller-like outro. Miles Dale, who is one of the executive producers and directed a few episodes, jumped onboard. He wanted to direct the video and he just killed it. We had a blast.
It sounds like you’re the ringleader for all the fun that goes on between takes. Are you also a prankster on set?
I’m constantly finding opportunities to scare the bejesus out of Ruta Gedmintas. Probably almost two to three times a week during filming. I’ve gotten Miguel a couple of times. I actually have all this documented on my Instagram. There’s these short videos of me scaring the crap out of them.
When you first got the part, did you hang out with a real-life rat exterminator for research ?
I read up a lot on extermination. And actually, we found a rat in the house that we were renting while we were shooting in Toronto. The guy that came over to the house was actually a Ukrainian rat catcher, if you can believe that. And we shared a lot of stories. I can’t believe that out of all the rat exterminators, this badass Ukrainian muscle-bound rat killer comes into my house and has the accent.
Season 2 ended with a shocking death that deviates from the source material. Carlton Cuse worked on LOST, so we know he has no issue killing off beloved characters. Does that make you feel that Fet might not make it to the end either?
Nobody is safe. The show is its own independent, living organism. Chuck Hogan and Guillermo Del Toro wrote the books, so they’re just kind of constantly evolving the story for where it wants to go onscreen. I think it’s going to bigger, better and more compelling places. I really love the books, but there’s certain things that wouldn’t have worked in a show. Every week, when we get a new next script, I have no idea what’s going to happen. It makes it all that much more visceral and exciting and kind of scary. I don’t want Fet to die, but you just never know.
In the books, Fet lives happily ever after with Nora. But that’s out the window now. So what type of ending are you hoping to see for Fet?
Well I’m hoping he’s alive and that the plans he’s putting out there help end the “Vampocalypse.” And I would hope he finds the girl of his dreams, walks off into the sunset and starts a family. All that would be amazing, but obviously it won’t be with Nora. We’ll have to wait and see.
Fet had a very up-and-down relationship with the confused and conflicted Dutch, who had a bisexual love triangle going on. Can you tease us on the chances of Fet and Dutch reconnecting?
Since it was pretty clear that she chose Nikki over him, I think Fet might be a little bit embarrassed that he let himself get lost as much as he did. They both have enormous feelings for each other, but things happen. I think that when she left him, she dug herself a really deep hole with Fet. I don’t know if she’s going to be able to make it back. I don’t think he’s in any rush to get hurt again. Fet is in this place where he has this impossible force of darkness that he’s trying to figure out how to conquer. I think he’s on to bigger and more important things.
In this season, almost everyone is in an emotionally dark place except for Fet. Why do you think he’s always so strong-willed and clear-minded?
He is probably the only character in this story who is flourishing amidst all of this chaos. As society fell and keeps falling, people are realizing that if they stick around Fet, they might stay alive longer. He has knowledge of the geography and the history of what went down, the where, the how. He knows so much. It’s hard to find someone who is a specialist in killing but also happens to have all of that knowledge of New York City. I think the more the shit hits the fan, the more important he’s becoming. And the more important he’s becoming, the more he feels empowered by it. He’s happier in the apocalypse than he was when everything was fine and in order.
Are we ever going to see his vulnerable side?
He suffered a pretty big loss when he risked his life to save Dutch from Eichorst, but she still went back to her girlfriend. He suffered loss there, but kind of moves through it pretty stoically. But this season, there are a couple of things that happen that jolt him a lot more than what we’ve seen before. So we’re definitely going to get a better look at the layers of the onion.
Miguel Gomez, who plays Gus, has his own storyline going on but he seems to cross paths with some of your group near the end of Season 2. Will we ever see him team up with you full-time?
Stories definitely interweave this season. Fet and Gus kind of have a mutual respect for each other. He comes from a world where danger is everywhere. He’s been hustling, he knows what it’s like to try to survive every day. When everything starts going badly, he steps up like the champ that he is and I think he and Fet recognize that in each other. I would love to see more of those two together. I think they would make a pretty badass combination.
Does Guillermo Del Toro visit the set often?
We didn’t see Guillermo a lot this year, but when we do see him, he fills you in on what he’s up to. He does a lot of the post work on the show. His presence is always felt, as is Carlton’s. Carlton comes up and visits quite a bit. He actually directed the finale of this third season. It was really cool. We were all honored that after all the illustrious years and all the success he’s had doing this, he decided to direct one of the episodes as his directorial debut.
You guys have a great effects team too. The practical effects are top notch and the show delivers blood in spades. How are you around all of the gore?
It’s really hard to shake me, to be quite honest. I get such a kick out of that stuff. Also, so much of it, you don’t see it until the special effects team goes to work on it. Then we see it once it airs. It’s kind of interesting because you shoot the show, you imagine what it all looks like, and then half a year later you sit down and watch the show—and I’m a fan of the show, too. I live-tweet with the fans almost every episode because I’m getting as just as big of a kick out of it as they are.
Your show has a lot of common themes with The Walking Dead. Both are about a virus that threatens mankind and turns people into killing machines. Both shows focus on a diverse group of characters who band together to survive. What is it about these types of shows that you think resonates with people?
I just think we love to be scared and that we love to be reminded of our own mortality and how lucky we are. You watch these shows and you’re like, “Man, we’re doing OK. No vampires, no zombies, we’re doing alright,” you know what I mean? [laughs]. It’s pure entertainment. You get to escape and see people in situations that are much worse situations than you’re in. It’s kind of like that question you ask yourself: How would I choose to act? Am I going to conquer my demons, or am I going to run away from them? I think that when we watch these shows, it kind of plays with that.
If a real-life vampire outbreak happened, what would you do? Not Fet, but Kevin Durand? What I’ve learned from Fet is to keep calm and get as much information as you can about the threat and act smart and be pragmatic. Physically, I can kick some vampire or zombie ass for sure. But you have to be smart.
What’s else do you have going on besides The Strain?
I just finished shooting a project called The Colonel that I’m really proud of. We’re in post-production on that. I’m going off to shoot a movie called Tragedy Girls this week. I’m trying to spend every moment I can with my daughter before, hopefully, we go back to film more of The Strain in November. If that does happen, I’m going to be really busy for six months again. I’m trying to be Dad as much as I possibly can for now.
The Strain returns this Sunday on FX.