How FX's ‘What We Do in the Shadows’ Bleeds Comedy From Vampire Canon

Five years after the release of their acclaimed vampire mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows, Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi have expanded the film’s satirical world into a spinoff series for FX, which features an entirely new cast of co-habiting vampires and transplants the action from New Zealand to New York.

Over the course of its 10-episode season, the show riffs on iconic vampire canon from Anne Rice to Twilight. Much of its humor emerges from the juxtaposition between the characters’ lofty view of themselves as part of this classic vampire tradition and the sitcom tone of their actual humdrum lives n Staten Island.

Interview With the Vampire was something we talked about a lot when we were making the movie,” Clement tells The Hollywood Reporter, noting that the series takes the homage a step further and features an overt reference to Interview. “We’ve always thought of our characters as the 'real vampires,' as opposed to movie vampires, but they still like those movies because they glorify vampires and their lifestyle."
 
 
Such is the case with Nandor (Kayvan Novak), who in the show’s pilot gleefully purchases a container of glitter so that he can sparkle “like Twilight." This, too, is an expansion of an idea touched on in the movie, Clement notes: “In the movie, one of the characters likes Twilight because he knows it’s popular, but he hasn’t actually seen it — he thinks the main character is named Twilight.” Nandor, along with his long-suffering servant Guillermo (Harvey Guillén), represents a slightly more pop culture-savvy kind of modern vampire. “I think Nandor and Guillermo spend a lot of time going to the movies together.”
 
The dynamic between Nandor and Guillermo was an integral addition for Clement and Waititi as they worked on fleshing out new characters whose arcs could sustain a series.
 
“We hadn’t explored the master-familiar thing very much in the film, and we always thought there was more in it," said Clement. "It’s a classic comedy dynamic, where Nandor keeps him strung along just enough to keep working for him. I think of it as like a good assistant; it’s hard for someone who’s good at that job to be promoted.”
 
After 10 years of service, Guillermo is hoping for a very specific kind of promotion — namely, to be turned into a vampire — but has his hopes dashed before the end of the pilot. The question of whether Nandor will ever give Guillermo his wish will be ongoing through the first season, Clement says. 
 
 
The show’s other major innovation is the Energy Vampire, a common variety of vampire that sucks energy from its victims by boring them into submission with endless, droning conversation. “It’s a term I’ve heard used to describe people who are difficult to talk to, and I've definitely been cornered by these people at parties,” Clement says. “Those people that you feel you need to be saved from, and the longer you’re in [the conversation] the more difficult it is to get away. It was just taking that to the supernatural level.”
 
Mark Proksch, who plays the show’s most prominent energy vampire, Colin Robinson, improvises much of his own mind-numbing dialogue, Clement notes with admiration: “The shame of it is that we have so much more stuff with him that we couldn’t fit in. A lot of it’s not on the page, he can just do that endlessly. We were like, ‘Just say boring things to this person,’ and we never got to a point where he’d run out. He’s such a funny guy, but I do wonder how this is gonna affect parties for him.”
 
What We Do in the Shadows premieres at 10 p.m. Wednesday on FX.