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'What We Do in the Shadows' showrunner breaks down the vampire arcs in the Season 4 premiere
What We Do in the Shadows showrunner Paul Simms gives SYFY WIRE a full breakdown of the hilarious Season 4 premiere, "Reunited."
Our favorite dysfunctional vampires in FX's What We Do in the Shadows blustered their way back into our lives on Tuesday in the fourth season season premiere, "Reunited," and we're more than grateful for the laughs. After a year of separation, the housemates found themselves all back in Staten Island facing some major changes including their house, which has fallen into so much disrepair that it's literally caving in around Laszlo (Matt Berry) and Baby Colin Robinson (Mark Proksch). Luckily, Nandor (Kayvan Novak) who is fresh from Fresno, Nadja (Natasia Demetriou), and a coffin-kept Guillermo (Harvey Guillén) are a tiny bit more motivated to clean up the mess.
Along with the home repair, the premiere also floated Nadja's new passion project, Laszlo's tutelage of Baby Colin, and Nandor's intention to take a wife. Showrunner Paul Simms got on a Zoom with SYFY WIRE to exclusively break down the major stories we'll be seeing in Season 4, and he shared some behind-the-scenes secrets like the joy of watching actor Matt Berry make small talk with child actors.
**Warning! There are spoilers for the What We Do in the Shadows Season 4 premiere ahead!**
In Season 3, you and the writers introduced the unexpected friendship of Laszlo and Colin Robinson. Is Laszlo taking Baby Colin under his wing this season just an extension of that absurdity?
The fun part of last season with Laszlo being so friendly with Colin was that it worked out just how we hoped, which was we wanted people to watch it and go like, "This makes no sense. Why would Laszlo be friendly to Colin? Laszlo is sarcastic and irascible and Colin is annoying. They must have run out of ideas. There's no reason for it." And then we were very satisfied to have an actual real reason why Laszlo was doing it. This season amps that up even more because now it's not just a matter of being friendly to Colin. Now it's a matter of Lazlo having to take care of a child which he is singularly unequipped to do. [Laughs.] I mean, it's a child that came out of the stomach of Colin and looks like Colin, but is he going to be Colin? Is he going to grow up to be an energy vampire or not? And Laszlo, being a man of science, is doing everything he can to try to nurture him in a direction where he won't become an energy vampire. But nature has its own ways. [Laughs.
Speaking of Baby Colin, he is essentially the adult(ish) head of Mark Proksch on a child's body. How did that monstrosity of an idea come to fruition this season?
We have our laughs when we put an idea on a note card. And then over the subsequent months, we try to figure out actually how to do it, and then there's a lot of periods where we're like, "Why did we do this?" Initially, I think we thought it would be easier than it was, but we threw every filmmaking and TV-making technique at it. Sometimes, it's CGI. It's real performance. It's practical effects. It's wigs. It's almost puppetry at times. No approach worked consistently for every shot, so for every shot, our directors, Kyle Newacheck and Yana Gorskaya, had to figure out how is this going to work?
Also, we had to figure out a way to keep alive Matt Berry performing with Mark Proksch. We didn't want Matt doing all his scenes opposite a little kid with a wig on. To try to get that dynamic, it was probably [Baby Colin] and the Night Market episode that were the two most technically difficult things we've done. But ultimately, very satisfying. One of the other writers was saying, it was just so much work by so many people to make something so insanely silly and dumb. [Laughs.]
Since you actually did have child actors acting out the body acting of Baby Colin, was Mark there to read his lines off camera with Matt? And how did the adult actors suddenly navigate kids being on the set?
Sometimes we did that. Sometimes we had Mark record his lines. We had a special expert of some kind there reminding the kids that this is all make believe. They might hear some bad words and to ask if they have any questions about it. [Laughs] For a lot of Colin's body, we had to use actual little kids and we had a little team of them because some are good at dancing, some were good at moving, some were good at listening the right way. But one of the most fun parts of shooting it was just seeing, in between takes, Matt Barry talking to these little kids. It's just as funny as you could imagine just him like, "Oh, that's a nice. Where'd you get that hat?"
Nadja's vampire club is going to be a central story. Did you come up with that for this season or have you been sitting on that idea for a while?
That's something we've talked about, basically, since way back in Season 1. Modern vampire movies in the '80s or '90s with Blade and the like, there's always a scene in a vampire nightclub that's got like goth industrial music and very cool people and then blood sprinklers spray everyone. It's an orgiastic ecstasy of blood and perversion. And we just started thinking about like, "Alright, so what happens if you really do that? Like, you have to get contractors to put in the pipes and do the pipes always work?"
It was also fun because Nadja's character was turned into a vampire at such a young age that she never had a job or a chance to have an identity out in the world. This is the first time she's actually in charge of something and has a dream and is seeing it through, even though it's maybe not the smartest dream. When they're all talking about how they need to raise money to fix the house, probably the worst idea is to start a nightclub. [Laughs.] I love the way she just absolutely insists on it for no other reason than it's what she wants to do, and makes everyone else fall in line.
The Guide is also back and together with Nadja, the ladies are giving off some Boss Bitch vibes?
Yes, Kristen Schaal joining us as The Guide didn't become a regular character until last season. And we sort of wrote into that she is this new(ish) vampire who really wants to be part of the group, but they never treat her quite as well as they treat each other. And if you watch, often, her outfits that she wears at the nightclub are a little bit of an imitation of Nadja. Nadja is the cool girl and she wants to be part of it. They develop their own sort of codependency. Every story about someone running a nightclub ends up with the person getting too greedy and wild and running off the rails. And that's sort of what happens in the course of this season.
We know Guillermo has Van Helsing blood lineage and mad fighting skills. He was on the cusp of finally bolting but then he stays for Baby Colin?
The season starts off with Guillermo just fed up with the last four seasons of abuse and neglect that he's taken. Finally, having had it. And then the only two things that pull him back in are realizing that some sane person has to be around to help look after the child, and also that he is so touched that Nandor has asked him to be his best man at his wedding, even though Nandor hasn't picked a wife yet, but has decided that is the answer to whatever his problems are. [Laughs.]
Let's talk about Nandor's need to wed. Was that the nature outcome after his dating woes in Season 3?
I think from last season, so much of it was about his loneliness. One of the things we love about the show is that Laszlo and Nadja just have a perfect relationship. They're passionate for each other. They love each other. They bicker, but it's just about the fact that maybe they're not having sex five times a day instead of six times a today. Nandor looks around and wishes he had someone like that.
Ironically, he has someone like that right there with Guillermo. Even though he is his servant, there's obviously a strong bond and connection between the two of them. But Nandor is also sort of impulsive. We just thought it would be funny for his "quick fix" to be, "I know the answer, I've got to get married! Now, I have to find a wife." And then as you'll see, as the season progresses, he picks the perfect wife, he thinks, and then starts to try to make her more and more perfect. It examines the question of what would happen if we could all just make slight tweaks in the people that we love.
New episodes of What We Do in the Shadows Season 4 premiere on Tuesday nights on FX.
Got a taste for blood? You can stream Van Helsing and plenty more horror on Peacock.