Before FX developed The Strain for its lineup, Guillermo del Toro says a broadcast network suggested developing it as a comedy. The Strain, based on the trilogy of novels by del Toro and Chuck Hogan, follows Dr. Ephraim Goodweather (Corey Stoll) as the NYC head of the Centers for Disease Control Canary Team, leading the effort to discover the root of a viral outbreak that seems to have killed all the passengers and crew of a Berlin-originated airplane that turns out to be a strain of vampirism.

Back in 2006, del Toro told TV critics this afternoon at TCA Summer TV Press Tour 2014,  the project was sent around for possible development as a TV project. At that time he said, the the only way anybody envisioned vampires was “as a romantic conception of vampires — that sort of GQ version of vampires,” he said. But he was pitching a show in which vampires would be “truly revolting, physically and spiritually.” At one network, he said, he got asked, ” ‘Could you turn it into a comedy?’ I said ‘no’.”

thestrain01-is-the-strain-posterSeries exec producer Carlton Cuse, meanwhile, says that while there are horror elements to the show, he thinks of it much more as an adventure show, along the lines of Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade, he worked on in its development. “It’s not that scary — it’s not just a horror show,” Cuse insists of The Strain. “The material lent itself to a big pulpy engaging type of storytelling.”

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When a TV critic asked the actors what had scared them most in scenes they’d shot so far, Sean Astin responded “body bags at the airport freaked me out… You wonder, when you see these horrible accidents,” what it’s like for people collecting body parts into body bags, he said. “Most of the time, except the last couple days, you don’t get to see what that looks like,” he said, referencing images on news networks of the Malaysia Airlines flight that was shot down on the Ukraine/Russian border. “I’ve never been that scared in a movie,” Astin said.

“The [newspapers] are more scary, to be honest,” jumped in cast member Jonathan Hyde.

The Strain hit the marketing motherlode this month when the network pulled billboard ads in some LA locations after getting complaints. “It may have been too far out there for some people, but I personally liked it,” Cuse said on a phone call.  The billboards depicted a close-up illustration of a worm coming out of a human eyeball that’s still in the human.