‘The Strain’ Q&A: David Bradley Leaves ‘Thrones’ Villain Behind For Heroic Role

As Walder Frey, British actor David Bradley had a big role in one of 2013’s most memorable television moments – the “Game of Thrones” Red Wedding. But this summer, he’s set to be part of another television event, as he takes on the role of hero in FX’s “The Strain,” from executive producers Carlton Cuse and Guillermo del Toro.

Beginning July 13 at 10 PM ET/PT on FX, the actor, an alum of the “Harry Potter” films, hits TV screens as Abraham Setrakian. At first, Abraham seems to be a fragile man trying to carve out a living by running a pawn shop in a bad part of town, but looks can be deceiving. Abraham is a powerful and impressive hunter, who Cory Stoll’s Dr. Ephraim Goodweather of the CDC is going to need in the fight against the virus that turns people into a type of vampire previously not seen on television.

In a new interview with AccessHollywood.com, Bradley revealed the magic words that brought him on board to play the unlikely TV hero and what to expect from Abraham. We also found out what he thought about having a photo he was in, related to his “Game of Thrones” character, go viral.

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AccessHollywood.com: Have you seen what the wormy virus looks like in ‘The Strain’ yet? I’m looking at spaghetti very differently of late.
David Bradley:
Well, not on the actual set itself, apart from one wonderful thing that the special effects guys did. … I can’t remember which episode it was [but] they had the actual thing there, squirming away on the floor and it was quite impressive. And, as you say, it puts you off certain foodstuff, but they showed the entire pilot of the first episode while we were having lunch in the studio canteen, so, there were a few people pushing their plates away as they watched (laughs).

Access: They showed it during lunchtime?
Yeah, and it was for all the cast and crew and it was pretty impressive, I have to say, but I’d rather [have] watched from behind the sofa, to be honest.

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Access: I would have imagined you’d be immune to that. But no?
Well, you do get kind of immune. … I suppose if you’re in the makeup department, you’re looking at the makeup; if you’re in special effects, you’re looking at special effects; if you’re an actor, you’re looking at performances. There’s so many specialists on something as big as [this], that you’re all looking at your own department’s stuff, I suppose, so the first time you see it you’re focusing on, did you do a good job. But, you tend to look at movies in a different way, because I’ve seen so many of the vampires throughout the whole series, doing all their stuff, without actually seeing the [stingers] flashing out of their mouths. You know what it’s going to look like because I’ve seen the graphic novels, so you have a rough idea of how terrifying it looks, so you just have to use your imagination. But I was impressed with what they’ve done with the show.

Access: You mentioned you’ve seen the graphic novels (based on the novels from Guillermo and Chuck Hogan). Were you or are you a fan of graphic novels or comics? Or do you collect them?
No, I don’t. I never have. I used to read comics when I was kid and into my teens. I used to love comics, but they were nothing on this level. … I’ve never been [into collecting them], and in fact the horror genre has never been something I’ve particularly gone out of my way to see. But, the films I’ve seen of Guillermo del Toro’s… I mean, ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ is one of the great movies and… the horror side is all mixed in with a philosophy and all about human nature. And the story’s basically about human beings and about relationships. So, as I said, I loved ‘Pan’s Labyrinth,’ but it’s not something I usually go for. I used to do when I was in my late teens and twenties — used to watch all the ‘Dracula’ films with Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing and all those great 1950s and 1960s ‘Dracula’ movies, but as I’ve [gotten] older, I’ve tended to back off them and I prefer smaller films about relationships. … I mean, at that time in my life, it was like the idea of watching a scary movie was to frighten your girlfriend so she would cuddle up closer.

Access: That is a good point. I’m sure there will be plenty of gentlemen doing that with your show.
I hope so. I’d like to think so.

READ: ‘The Strain’ Showrunner Carlton Cuse Talks Vampires - ‘These Are Not Sparkly, Broody Dudes With Fangs’

Access: Who approached you for this and told you about Abraham and convinced you to do this?
My agent told me about it and then I had a phone call with Carlton and Guillermo and it was like — it was the three magic words, ‘Guillermo del Toro.’ If you’re an actor and you don’t want to work with someone like him, then—

Access: Then you have problems?
Yeah. He’s one of the great directors and he’s just got such a wonderful imagination, so it’s something you want to be a part of. I didn’t know an awful lot about it, but he and Carlton described the character and I saw a script and I thought, ‘Wow, this has great potential.’ It was being written as we went along, so I didn’t see the whole story straight away, but as I say, I looked at the graphic novels and saw which way the stories [were going]. … There are quite a lot of vampire movies and TV series out there at the moment, but [the creatures in] this one seemed to be more visceral and unpleasant… than the suave, pointy-toothed guys in evening dress with top hats and old charmers. There was something more earthy about these creatures and I just loved the story about a man of a certain age who is an action hero and he’s a man with a mission, and it’s just an interesting character because he’s got such an interesting past, which the story delves into more and more as it goes along.

Access: I don’t know how you choose your roles, but seeing as you were such a villain at the ‘Game of Thrones’ Red Wedding, I’m curious if maybe the heroic qualities of this character was something you were [looking for] because of how villainous you are on the other series.
Well, if only I could plan my career as such and say, ‘I chose this because.’ But usually, I’ve always taken the first bus that’s come along, whatever it’s been, as long as – it’s not so much doing something that’s so obviously different, but one hopes that you do get offered different stuff because I’ve known and I suppose I’ve experienced it myself at times, when sometimes you get cast to type. If you happen to do a policeman well, or a vicar or a certain type of character, then it sometimes happens that that’s all you get offered afterwards because you’ve done a good job. … I’ve been fortunate in the fact that casting directors and directors have always have a bit more imagination with me. I’ve played a nice mixture. I’ve played quite a few bad guys, which is always fun, but I like the kind of tragic, comic nature of characters — the ones that are more complicated. I mean, Abraham, he does some bad things, but for the best reasons, because of his history and what’s happened to him. I think he’s basically a good man… certainly on the side of the angels, but he has to do some terrible things in his pursuit of his mission. … He’s quite ruthless at times and the people he takes along with him, he puts them into danger as well.

Access: I don’t know how much you go on the Internet, but you took a photo with someone that went viral, related to your Walder Frey character. Have you seen the hubbub over this pic you took with a guy over wedding planning?
(laughs) I think my daughter passed it on to me. I didn’t know. Has it gone viral?

Access: Oh yes. You’ve gone very viral.
I remember it was a convention, a young guy came up to me, said, ‘Would you mind holding this wedding planning for idiots [book]… sort of a beginner’s guide to wedding planning, and I thought, ‘That looks like a fun photograph to do,’ so we just took It very casually and I forgot all about it because you get asked to do a lot of pictures. … Someone sent it to me [the other] week actually and that’s the first time I’ve seen it. I’m told it’s quite popular, but I don’t Tweet or Twitter, or don’t do Facebook or any of that stuff. So a lot of stuff I don’t see, but occasionally I get sent something and people say, ‘A lot of people are watching this.’ And I say, ‘Oh, right. Ok. Thank you very much.’ … I know The Red Wedding episode created quite a stir, ‘cause people have sent me reaction shots of people watching and I was quite surprised, because when I was filming it, I thought this, ‘It’s a good scene, this. Good [directing], and the writing’s good and I think it will be quite good.’ But you have no idea the kind of controversy or number of people that will watch it and film their friends reacting to it. It was much bigger than I imagined when I was filming it.

“The Strain” premieres July 13 at 10 PM on FX.

-- Jolie Lash

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