If you don’t immediately know the name David Bradley, you certainly recognize his face: Harry Potter‘s Argus Filch, Game of Thrones murderous Walder Frey (the perpetrator of the infamous Red Wedding), the farmer in the hilarious Simon Pegg comedy Hot Fuzz. The British actor is now the star of Guillermo del Toro’s new FX series The Strain. In The Strain, Bradley plays Abraham Setrakian, perhaps, ultimately, the hero of the entire piece. Bradley and spoke earlier this week via the transatlantic magic of Skype to discuss his The Strain character Abraham Setrakian, working with legendary director del Toro and more.
Although Setrakian is physically fragile in some ways (he has a bad heart), the character is far from defenseless; something the 72-year-old actor found quite compelling. Nearly the first time we see the elderly pawnbroker, he is taking on two young men and the elderly man prevailing, and proving more than adept at wielding weaponry. Hmm. There is something quite different about Setrakian. “He is a survivor, driven by revenge against consummate evil. Abraham is the only one who knows how to deal with this plague, and he has been waiting a long time to confront The Master,” he said.
Bradley was attracted to the project when he learned that the series had been created by acclaimed film director Guillermo del Toro. He noted that working with the legendary horror director was a huge draw, bringing him to Toronto to film The Strain.
Who is Abraham Setrakian? He’s a tough man, but is he more than a simple pawnbroker? He’s nearly a superhero with that sword. He is a survivor in more than one way; what keeps him going? “Abraham is driven. He wants revenge for the death of his wife in the concentration camps during World War II.” Setrakian is a Holocaust survivor, confronted by the real evils of the death camps. But something happened to the brutal Nazi Eichhorst, who does the The Master’s bidding in the series. Not having aged a day in the 6o years since the war, Eichhorst is equally no less menacing. But Setrakian uses his aged appearance and fragility almost as effectively as he does that sword and his intellect. In an early episode, Abraham escapes jail by using his age and depleted mental facility. “I’m an old man,” he pleads, promising to melt the deadly blade of his sword-cane if only judge would return it to him. I have a feeling that sword is key to confronting The Master.
Bradley explained that Setrakian is the only one who knows how to destroy the Master and the virus that is turning much of Manhattan into Vampire City. But his problem is in being believed. Only eventually–and reluctantly–do Nora (Mia Maestro) and Eff (Corey Stoll) come around to trust that Setrakian knows something about these creatures and how to deal with them. But they do not approve of the old man’s ruthless, brutal tactics. In last week’s episode, Vasily, our friendly neighborhood pest control official enters Abraham’s sphere. The two seem almost intrinsically to understand how to do away with this unique “vermin.” Bradley noted that the two men have an immediate connection with each other. “Vasily understands what needs to be done in a way that Eff and Nora do not. Abraham sees the two doctors as more of hinderance,” he said.
Bradley recently attended Comic-Con International as part of the large contingent from The Strain. (Scheduling made impossible for us to speak during The Strain‘s press event at Comic-Con, which is why FX kindly arranged this more long-distance one-on-one interview). The actor is no Comic-Con newbie, having been there in 2013 for An Adventure in Time and Space and Game of Thrones. In Adventure, a TV film that explored the early years of the Doctor Who franchise, Bradley played the very real William Hartnell, the first Doctor. He found the role a challenge, playing a real person, wanting to honor the actor with a performance true to Hartnell and his life.
Looking at his IMDb CV, Bradley has had a bit of a renaissance, appearing in one acclaimed and successful film and television series after the next over the past several years. Often in ensemble pieces, Bradley plays character roles, memorable, but not usually in the forefront. A couple of years ago I came across the small British film I Know You Know (starring Robert Carlyle), and although it’s not the first film I’d seen him in, it was the first role I really remembered his character, Mr. Fisher, a film barely seen beyond the UK.
He also played a pivotal, tragic, role in the British television series Broadchurch (starring David Tennant), memorable amongst the large cast of characters. Broadchurch has been remade for American audiences as Gracepoint, which will premiere next month on FOX. I noted to Bradley that his role in the American version (which I have seen in its entirety except for the last episode) is played by the great Nick Nolte. Bradley hasn’t seen any of the new version, but mentioned that he is fan of the American actor.
Asked about his favorite and most challenging roles, Bradley thought a moment, and mentioned An Adventure and The Strain, both recent projects, which suggests to me that we can only expect more and more prominent roles for the septuagenarian actor!
The Strain airs Sunday nights on FX, and you can catch up with series on the network’s site or via OnDemand.[amazon template=iframe image&asin=B00LPWS2UW,B00KHWSD1O,B00ISSF7S6,B00F98FOL8]