Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi adapt their ‘mockumentary’ for TV
Vampires have meant big business on television.
Reaching back to “Dark Shadows” and progressing through “The Vampire Diaries” and “True Blood,” dwellers of the night have put their bite on popular shows. Now hoping for a similar effect is “What We Do in the Shadows,” FX’s take on a 2014 New Zealand “mockumentary” that premieres Wednesday, March 27. Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi, the writers, directors and stars of the original movie, remain involved as executive producers and also in other ways: Clement (“Flight of the Conchords”) wrote the series pilot, which Waititi (“Thor: Ragnarok”) directed.
The saga sees a film crew follow several longtime – as in hundreds of years – roommates in Staten Island, N.Y., where the vampires have individual aims while pursuing their shared mission of conquering the world. Kayvan Novak, Matt Berry, Nastasia Demetriou and Harvey Guillen play the horror-comedy’s central quartet, with Mark Proksch and Beanie Feldstein also among cast regulars.
Describing the show’s approach in discussing other creatures present in it, Clement says, “There are some werewolves in the series. They’re not New Zealand werewolves. They’re American, so they swear a bit more. They’re East Coast and New York werewolves.” Clement adds that the supernatural characters are affected by situations “that are happening in the moment, as well as stuff that happened 200 years ago that is informing how they react to the world now.”
After experiencing what it’s like to make a Hollywood blockbuster, Waititi muses, “What happened to my career? It was really comfortable going back to (‘Shadows’) because we’d spent so long doing the film. And we edited the film for about 14 months, so we lived in that world for what seemed like an eternity. Going back on the set felt very natural; we’re used to that style of working.” However, Waititi allows that now “with ten episodes, we have full character development and a lot more.”
As much as the style of “What We Do in the Shadows” is well-planned, there’s room for the unexpected when the cameras are rolling. “There’s some improvisation going on,” co-star Proksch confirms. “We may be in a scene, and Kayvan will come up with something on the moment that we don’t know that he’s going to say, and it will be really funny. That will always crack us up, so there’s a lot of that type of situation.”
Feldstein notes, “My character doesn’t really know these people, so she’s really taking it in — and I was taking it in. As Beanie, I was like, ‘These are the funniest people I’ve ever seen in my life.’ And then as my character, I had to keep a straight face, which was very hard.”