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On April 15, FX’s What We Do in the Shadows returns for a second season of inappropriate jokes about bumholes, blood-sucking, and BATS!
In 2019, creators Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi successfully transitioned the format and framing of their 2014 cult hit mockumentary, What We Do in the Shadows, to the small screen with a new cast featuring Matt Berry (Laszlo), Natasia Demetriou (Nadia), Kayvan Novak (Nandor), and Harvey Guillén (Guillermo). Season 1 found this dysfunctional brood of vamps (and their familiar, Guillermo) shacked up in a Gothic Victorian in Staten Island. After navigating their ongoing hostile relationships with rival Alpha vamps, werewolves, and their energy vampire roommate, Colin (Mark Proksch), the season finale revealed that beleaguered vampire aspirant, Guillermo, actually comes from a long line of adept vampire slayers.
So, that’s pretty awkward for him.
For the sophomore season, executive producers Stefani Robinson and Jemaine Clement sat down with SYFY WIRE to share how they wove their narrative threads for the year, their plan for guest stars (like Mark Hamill and Haley Joel Osment), and how they lean on the talents of their whole team to make their absurdly funny vampire goulash so good.
Coming off the first season, what kind of stories did you want to create the spine for this year?
Stefani Robinson: We chose to lean into the Guillermo/Nandor dynamic more. It’s more about Guillermo’s backstory and his inner conflict.
Jemaine Clement: But also some high-concept episode ideas that are really specific to the situation.
“The Trial” from Season 1 was the peak example of an event episode featuring an array of classic screen vampires. Was that your benchmark to beat this year?
Clement: We talked a lot about trying to top that, but we actually did stay away from the pressure to top that. But we still have some really exciting guest stars.
Robinson: We are more ambitious, though, with the sets, the set pieces, the special effects, and making it feel more cinematic.
Clement: And the action. The action stuff is really fun, to see people just having a household conversation and then a big fight. [Laughs] We have some big, set-piece fight scenes. We have a really good stunt team in Toronto. I think they are the best stunt team I’ve ever worked with, even in big-budget movies. They’re really top, so we let them come up with more things this year. It was also fun to not have to think about it as they worked it out. And they’re used to working on Resident Evil movies, so they don’t [usually] get to do fun, jokey versions.
The Baron (Doug Jones) was sort of the Big Bad in Season 1. What antagonist route do you take this year?
Clement: Each episode has its own problem. But for Guillermo, he has the problem that he wants to be a vampire but he has vampire killer DNA. And he seems to be really good at it. [Laughs]
Robinson: So, [Season 2] dives even more into that world.
Clement: Over the season, it’s about that, and then episode-by-episode, it’s one problem at a time.
Your cast are all terrific improvisers, but they told us they love sticking to the scripts more. What’s your guidepost for that now that the series is established?
Clement: You could totally just do the script and it would still be good. Sometimes we do that, in that we always start off with [the script], and just see what else might come out of it. I think [improv] can give a good energy and randomness. People in the moment are more likely to think of something you wouldn’t think if you considered it first because they are just saying the first thing that comes in their head, and that has a different energy from a good scripted line.
Jemaine, as an EP, writer, and director on the series, do you have a favorite role to fill?
Clement: The directing is always fun because you get to see the ideas come to life. Sometimes it’s stressful because there’s never enough time. But it’s always fun watching it come to life. And even when it’s not working, it’s fun because then you figure out how to make it work, and that’s exciting.
As for directors, is Taika back this year?
Clement: He isn’t doing any this season.
Robinson: We have Kyle Newacheck (Workaholics), Liza Johnson (American Horror Story, Barry), and Yana Gorskaya (I Am Not Okay With This).
Is the series the kind that really finds its footing in the edit bay?
Clement: The editors do have a big part in the show because of all the improv. Almost every script we write is too long, so they have a lot of choice. Our main editor [Yana Gorskaya] worked on the film, and I’ve worked with her on other things, and she has a really good sensibility.
Robinson: Each step in the process makes the show feel different in some way. I feel like it’s very energizing to begin with talking about the scripts and the writing period. But then it changes so much when you go into preproduction and you actually start to see costumes and locations. And then actually shooting, when the actors come in and throw things in there that we never even thought of. And then the edit of it means it’s an ever-changing thing. It’s super collaborative.
Clement: Yeah, and then a lot of people, like prosthetics, add stuff. And then stunt people add jokes. But the writer’s job is to make sure there is space for all those things. You get good for writing for improv. There are certain things you know, like to make sure there are a lot of [to the camera] interviews so we can cut improv in. Even if the interview doesn’t seem that important, it helps the editors. And if some wild improv goes nowhere in the scene, you can use it if there’s an interview to break it up.
With the success of Season 1, did you reach out to your favorites for Season 2, or did they come to you asking to play?
Robinson: A little bit of both.
Clement: We have some really good dramatic actors that you’re not used to seeing be really funny. We write big lists of people we’d like to be in it. We only have a fraction of the people we’d like to go on that have been on so far.
Robinson: And there are a few times where people we never thought of are suggested.
Clement: The casting people come up with great guests.
Robinson: They are very collaborative and have crazy ideas and throw people our way.
Clement: And with this show, you can almost always make someone funny. It’s just how much you use them, but you have to think of that and find that way. We have non-actors and very experienced famous actors and comedians, and it all works together to make this crazy stew.
What We Do in the Shadows Season 2 begins Wednesday, April 15, at 10 PM ET/PT on FX, and is available next day on FX on Hulu.