“What We Do in the Shadows” follows the night-to-night lives of four powerfully stupid vampires and their underappreciated yet strangely optimistic familiar/bodyguard. The group, who all reside together in a house on Staten Island, are eternally cast into new and bizarre circumstances, each episode pulsating with fun and comedic elements.
The Dawning of ‘What We Do in the Shadows’
It all began in 2005 when Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi, hailing from New Zealand, assembled to forge a short film titled “What We Do in the Shadows: Interviews With Some Vampires.” The mini mockumentary provides a glimpse into the mundane lives of three vampires: Deacon Brugh (Jonathan Brugh), Count Viago (Taika Waititi) and Vulvus the Abhorrent (Jemaine Clement). Though the film didn’t gain much ground, the idea of a vampiric mockumentary engraved itself into the creators’ minds.
Four years later, Clement and Waititi convened to inscribe a full-length version of their vampire mockumentary. However, their dreams would not see the dark of night until the passing of another four years. In 2013, production finally took flight.
By the time filming ended, they had 125 hours of footage. The editing team faced the dreadful task of pruning the footage down to a mere 87 minutes. Thus, “What We Do in the Shadows,” the full-length film, was born. The film focused on four vampires sharing a flat in Wellington, New Zealand: Vladislav, Viago, Deacon and Petyr (Ben Fransham).
During the making of the movie, the idea of a TV series still lingered in the air. Waititi could not join Clement on this journey, for he was already slated to direct “Thor Ragnarok” and “Jojo Rabbit.” So he departed from the “What We Do in the Shadows” franchise, leaving Clement to carry the mantle. Waititi participates from time to time, but Clement holds the title of program creator and serves as an executive producer.
On March 27, 2019, the breathtaking TV series “What We Do in the Shadows” finally materialized on FX.
For the casting of “What We Do in the Shadows,” Clement demanded fresh blood. He had no intention of recreating the film. Instead, he wanted a different take on the series.
The first initiated into the new coven was British actor Matt Berry whom Clement envisioned as the oversexed English nobleman Laszlo Cravensworth. Laszlo’s vampiric transformation came at the teeth of Nadja of Antipaxos (Natasia Demetriou), also known as Nadja Cravensworth. In Episode 1, Laszlo recounts the tale of Nadja appearing at his window one night, hypnotizing him before draining him of all his blood, turning Laszlo into “a blood-thirsty creature of the night.” Not long after Laszlo’s metamorphosis, the two marry.
An English Cypriot comedian, Demetriou acquired the role of Nadja after her sensational answer to the improv question: “How did you become a vampire?” Her ancestry inspired the revamping of the character’s ethnicity, which changed from Mediterranean to Greek. The story Demetriou contrived for Nadja stuck as well.
Kayvan Novak, an English actor of Iranian ancestry, conquered the role of Nandor the Relentless, the Iranian vampire and self-proclaimed leader of the household. Clement described Nandor as the most complex character to cast due to his savage yet sensitive nature. Novak embodied the essence of the character splendidly. Clement said he was “warm and friendly, but it also feels like he could kill people.”
A unique concept for the franchise was the addition of an energy vampire. Instead of feasting on blood, this creature sucks the emotional energies from its victims. Mark Proksch received the part of Colin Robinson, the mind-numbing American energy vampire. Blessed with the gift of gab, Proksch improvises most of his lines. Energy vampires follow different rules and abilities than normal vampires, which create exciting scenarios in the show.
The most revamped character is the bodyguard Guillermo de la Cruz (Harvey Guillén). As the most challenging vampire to cast, finding the right actor to portray Guillermo took some time. For starters, the “What We Do in the Shadows” team envisioned Guillermo as an older man. However, when Garrett Basch’s (executive producer) fiancée happened across Guillén at a party, she encouraged him to audition for the part. An hour after his audition, Guillén secured his role.
Season 1 introduces the characters, their mundane lives and how their humdrum lifestyle meets its end: They receive a letter stating that The Baron, a powerful and high-ranking vampire from the Old Country, plans to visit.
Upon his arrival, The Baron expresses his grave disappointment when he realizes that the group did not conquer the New World as ordered. He allows them another opportunity to redeem themselves while he slumbers to regain his energy in their attic.
When The Baron awakes from his slumber, he requests a night on the town. Left with no choice, Nandor, Laszlo and Nadja accommodate him. After a night filled with excitement, they return home late and stoned off drug-blood, where The Baron meets his demise when he accidentally fries as Guillermo walks through the front door.
At the end of the season, Guillermo makes a remarkable discovery about his lineage that changes his life forever.
In the second season, Guillermo spends most of his time secretly protecting his vampire companions from the hands of the Vampiric Council with his newly discovered abilities as the descendant of the great vampire slayer, Van Helsing. About as relentless as Nandor, the Vampiric Council repeatedly sends assassins to kill the unsuspecting vampires who think life has returned to normal.
Not until the last episode do they realize the constant danger they unknowingly endured and how Guillermo rescued them again and again with his vampire-slaying skills.
Knowing of Guillermo’s potential, the vampires lock him in a cell while deciding his fate. However, Guillermo outsmarts his more powerful roommates and continues to patrol and tidy up their Victorian-style home while the vampires slumber. At night, he returns to his cell to give the false impression of his imprisonment.
Soon the household learns that the Vampiric Council has more business with them. The Guide (played by Kristen Schaal) appears in a cloud of smoke and delivers the news of their promotion to the Vampiric Council, which Nandor and Nadja reluctantly agree to share. With their newfound privilege, the vampires enjoy their unique power and luxuries.
With Laszlo’s help, energy vampire Colin Robinson begins a journey of self-discovery. During the expedition, Laszlo makes a grim discovery about the fate of energy vampires when they turn 100 years old. For energy vampires, their 100th birthday means the end of their lifespan, which Laszlo keeps to himself as he does his best to give Colin Robinson the time of his (short) life.
By the end of the season, circumstances lead the roommates to go their separate ways. Nandor travels abroad, Nadja and Laszlo plan to head to Europe and Guillermo persuades Nando to take him along. At the same time, Nandor promises to finally give Guillermo his greatest wish, the gift of eternal life, once they reach his homeland. However, Guillermo’s plans disintegrate when Laszlo locks him in his coffin and ships him off with Nadja to England. Nandor, sad and confused when Guillermo doesn’t show up, boards his train and sets off on his voyage alone.
The show returns to a previous scene where Laszlo snuck off downstairs to gaze at the body of his deceased friend, only to find that Colin Robinson now has a gaping hole in his core and a wet slimy trail leading off into another room. When Laszlo reaches the trail’s end, he finds a tiny baby Colin Robinson crying in a corner. At this moment, the show reveals Laszlo’s intentions to secretly care for baby Colin Robinson alone so Nadja can follow her dreams in England.
Many unforeseeable encounters await the unknowing characters of “What We Do in the Shadows” when they return in 2022. Without a “How To Raise an Energy Vampire” guide, Laszlo must figure out how to care for the newly reborn Colin Robinson, and Nadja faces an unsettling surprise once she reaches England to find Guillermo in her husband’s coffin. Nandor, abandoned and lonely, must learn how to manage without his ever-faithful familiar.
With everyone scattered across the globe, the fates of Nandor, Guillermo, Nadja, Laszlo and Colin Robinson lie under a massive shroud of darkness. So far, little is known, but much is possible.