Taika Waititi, Jemaine Clement Show Off 'What We Do in the Shadows' TV Series

Taika Waititi NYCC - H 2018 Getty

Following the success of their beloved 2014 mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows, which follows the domestic life of a group of vampire housemates, writer-director-stars Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement have adapted the film into a half-hour series for FX. At a New York Comic Con panel Sunday, the duo discussed the origins of Shadows, which started life as a microbudget short film in 2005.

“We first played vampire characters at a stand-up night,” Clement recalled, “where one of us, I think it was me, got up and started telling vampire jokes. And Taika, also as a vampire, gets up and starts heckling me, like 'Ah, it is you, my old vampire rival! Every gig I do you come and you heckle me!' This was 15 years ago or something.”

It was this spontaneous stand-up moment that inspired the short film, which “cost 200 bucks,” and is still available to watch on YouTube. While the 2014 movie starred Clement and Waititi, the FX series introduces an entirely new cast of characters played by actors including Matt Berry and Kayvan Novak, and moves the action from Wellington, New Zealand, to Staten Island, New York.

“We liked the idea that these vampires had maybe 200 years ago been sent to conquer America, but they’d sort of lost their way,” said executive producer Paul Simms. While many settings were considered, including Denver and Los Angeles, the team ultimately landed on Staten Island, but added that the characters will venture to New York’s other boroughs during season one. “We’re about to shoot an episode where they venture into Manhattan for the first time,” Simms said. “They had assumed Staten Island was all of New York, or maybe even all of America, so there’s a whole story where they go and meet the Manhattan vampires, who are a little bit cooler than they are.”

When the show’s pilot was screened before the panel, one of the characters that drew the loudest laughter was an “energy vampire,” who endangers his victims not by sucking their blood, but by boring them slowly into submission with mundane, droning conversation. “I think we all know a person like that,” said Clement. “We hadn’t thought of anything like that for the movie, but when I was reading about different kinds of vampires, that was one that people mentioned as a real type of vampire that exists, and that we all come up against. I can think of conversations I’ve had where I’ve been trapped by someone. Everyone who watches the show says, ‘We have someone in our office who is like that.’”

Waititi and Clement do not act at all in the series, which Clement joked made their behind-the-scenes roles easier to enforce: “In the movie, when we were wearing these ridiculous outfits, no one on the crew would take us seriously.” Asked about whether the original movie’s characters could ever cross over into the show’s New York-based world, Waititi — who directed last year’s Thor: Ragnarok — joked, “Yeah, we’re creating a universe to rival that of Marvel. We’re taking one idea, and stretching it out for years and years.”