WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS, the vampire comedy spun off from the film of the same title, is now in its third season on FX Thursday nights, with episodes available the following day on FX on Hulu and FX on Demand. Before Season 3 had even premiered, FX announced it had renewed WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS.
At the start of Season 3, our houseful of vampires in Staten Island have been promoted to leaders of the Tri-State Vampiric Council. Nandor, played by Kayvan Novak, and Nadja, portrayed by Natasia Demetriou, have settled into being co-leaders, as Nadja’s husband Laszlo (Matt Berry) wants nothing to do with running things, and energy vampire Colin Robinson (Mark Proksch) just wants to be Council secretary, the better to bore everyone.
Meanwhile, the vampires’ erstwhile human servant, Guillermo de la Cruz, played by Harvey Guillėn, has been promoted to vampire protector. This is because it’s been discovered that he is a hereditary vampire hunter, from the famous Van Helsing bloodline. This means he’s expert at killing vampires, so he is in fact great at protecting his employers – although this makes them a little nervous.
Guillėn, who recently had a musical arc on ZOEY’S EXTRAORDINARY PLAYLIST and who will be seen in the upcoming series REACHER, is a native of Orange County, California. His speaking voice is much like Guillermo’s.
Novak, whose credits include FOUR LIONS, PADDINGTON, SYRIANA, and CRUELLA, was born in London, England. His real speaking voice is very dissimilar to the one he uses as the centuries-old Eastern European warrior Nandor.
Novak and Guillėn join in a Zoom call from separate locations to discuss all things WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS Season 3.
ASSIGNMENT X: When you got the news of WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS’ Season 4 pickup, were you surprised that came so early, or were you just gratified?
HARVEY GUILLĔN: I think I was gratified. I think I just wanted to know what the next step would be. Because you get excited, you finish this chapter, and you want to read the next one, right? So, you can’t move on to the next one unless you know that there’s another chapter. So, it was nice to know that there was another chapter coming that we can look forward to.
KAYVAN NOVAK: I just kind of jump up and down for a bit and scream.
NOVAK: No one has ever told me that my show’s been renewed for a fourth season before. It’s a special feeling.
AX: Prior to being cast in WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS, had either of both of you ever wanted to play vampires, or play in the world of vampires? Was that like a career aspiration, or was that just, “Well, here it is” when you became involved in the show?
NOVAK: When I was younger, I never really wanted to be Dracula. I would say I wanted to be Indiana Jones, or James Bond or John McClane from DIE HARD, Han Solo. Basically, I wanted to be Harrison Ford, pretty much. But I was a huge fan of the [WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS] movie, way before any of this [series] came about. So, that was extra-daunting and exciting for me, when basically, they were like, “You’ve got the opportunity to audition for this. They’re making the TV show of that movie that you love very much.” I love playing a vampire now.
GUILLĔN: I’ve always been drawn to dark comedy, or sci-fi, whimsical, that world. I’ve been lucky enough to play characters in those worlds, in the past, and so it kind of felt like the next avenue to try. Even though he’s not a vampire, Guillermo is very different from a lot of the characters that I usually play, because I usually play big and broad and loud and farcical, almost, and Guillermo is so grounded that it’s just like an anchor for me. It was a challenge. I like to get challenged, so I continue to be challenged every day on set [laughs].
AX: At the end of last season, and all through Season 3, Guillermo has turned into an action hero. Did the producers ask, “Okay, what kinds of moves do you know how to do, and let’s enhance them,” or did you or they decide, “This is his style of fighting, and let’s train you up in this,” or how have you mastered your action skills?
GUILLĔN: I think they came up to me and said, “We’re going to do a little bit of stunt work, so we want to see how comfortable you are.” So, they tried a little bit of, “Can you do this, a little kick and a little punch?” I was like, “Sure.” So, they kept adding onto it. We do have stunt doubles on the show, but I wanted to see if I could do as much as I could. And eventually, it escalated into, “Can you do this, and that, and can you jump out of a third-story window?” “Sure, why not?” [laughs] I do the double bird flip and fly out of the window, that’s all me.
When I’m doing that kind of stuff, and Kayvan knows this, it’s really exhilarating, and it’s really fun, because you didn’t expect this from this character. As the actor, I didn’t expect it at all. So, it was a nice little treat, and I got to work with our stunt coordinator, Tim Fong, who’s amazing, and directed an episode this season. It’s just like a ballet, it’s like a dance. If you’re on the wrong beat, or the wrong foot, someone’s going to get it in the face, so you have to be on time [laughs]. I love it, and I hope to do more of it next season. So, it was super-fun. And the fans have loved it as well. Guillermo’s such a badass now.
AX: With Guillermo and Nandor, Nandor has commanded armies, so does he just see Guillermo as a loyal lieutenant, or does he understand that there’s something more complex going on there?
NOVAK: I think that Nandor has now begrudgingly found a new respect for Guillermo, and he’s definitely wary, because how could you not be? Guillermo is now an ass-kicking vampire slayer, with a lot of kills under his belt in a very short period of time, and I think that’s got to mess with Nandor. Because their dynamic was always, Nandor is high-status, and Guillermo is low-status, and Guillermo will do anything for Nandor, because he thinks that Nandor is going to make him a vampire. And now, all of a sudden, the power balance has switched quite dramatically and quickly, and I think Nandor’s got to decide where his loyalties lie.
I think that’s a very intriguing dilemma for the audience to go, “Whoa. This relationship is never going to be the same again.” I remember feeling that quite acutely at the end of Season 2. I was like, “Wow.” Once he reveals himself as Guillermo de la Cruz, that’s going to mess with Nandor’s head for the rest of their relationship, unless he can somehow hypnotize him into forgetting that he’s Guillermo de la Cruz. That’s not going to happen, because you cannot hypnotize a vampire killer, according to the scriptwriters. I don’t know. I had an issue with that, but …
AX: And does Guillermo feel like he’s got a little more power in the relationship now, or does he feel like he wants something from Nandor that he’s never going to get, or does he feel like, if he waits long enough and proves himself enough, he may yet get it?
GUILLĔN: I think he’s a little more confident. I think that he felt so powerless before, and that’s one of the reasons he wanted to become a vampire, because it came with all of these great attachments to the job title. And now he’s seeing that he can be powerful by just being himself, and it’s in him, he’s a Van Helsing, and he’s exploring that road. So, he’s a little more confident, he’s not as submissive as he was the first two seasons, because confidence does that to you, right? [laughs] What a difference confidence makes. So, I’m excited for him to continue that journey.
AX: There was an episode this season, “The Cloak of Duplication,” where all of the other regular characters at some point turned into Nandor. I understand that that was you doing all of the voices in the episode where you’re playing everyone else in Nandor’s body. It really sounded like they had recorded everybody else doing the dialogue, and had laid that down as a lip-synch track, but that was really you.
NOVAK: I would say that, in full disclosure, Natasia and Kristen Schaal [who plays the Vampiric Council Guide] actually provided their own voices, because I couldn’t get my voice to be – I couldn’t do an accurate enough impersonation, because the tone of my voice just won’t allow me to go to those levels of femininity, I guess. But three out of five’s not bad, right?
AX: Had you been practicing impersonations of your cast mates just for fun before this, or did you have suddenly study everybody for the episode?
NOVAK: I’ve always been a mimic, and I’ve always enjoyed doing impersonations. Although I would say that Harvey does more impressions. I think I got that all out of my system by the time I was twenty-five, but Harvey, we’ll hang out, and he’ll start doing the person who he’d just been hanging out with, Abbie, so I would stop talking now. I’m just saying, you’re in a dangerous crowd [laughs].
AX: There’s also a sequence with Guillermo’s mother. You said you did some behind-the-scenes baking for that …?
GUILLĔN: We established with Guillermo’s lineage that he is Mexican, that he is also a Van Helsing. So, we wanted that to be represented in the household, so we had an actress, Myrna Cabello, who is of Mexican descent, who is amazing, she’s wonderful. To have that whole atmosphere [on the set for Guillermo’s mother’s home] feel like you stepped into someone’s real home – which I did, I just remembered looking around, and it felt so authentic, down to the figurines, like a glass menagerie in the corner, and even the buñuelos [pastries] that we had to make by hand on the day of [shooting].
Because there are different kinds of buñuelos. There are Salvadoran, there are Colombian, and these were meant to be Mexican buñuelos, and we had the wrong buñuelos on set. So, I said, “It’s okay, just get some flour tortillas, some sugar, some cinnamon, and some corn oil.” And we just made them on the spot, right before we shot the scene. Because it had to feel real. It has to be authentic because it’s a documentary [WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS is shot as though it is a documentary]. At the end of the day, it should feel as real as possible – or real [laughs].
AX: How is it dealing with Nandor’s costumes? They look like they weigh a ton.
NOVAK: Actually, I love wearing Nandor’s costumes. They’re not actually too heavy. They’re a good weight. Some are leather, some are silk. I actually got to wear a very light costume at one point. I would say that the heaviest thing I’ve ever had to wear is a full suit of armor, with real chainmail. And that really is heavy. I wore that this season.
AX: Not asking for spoilers, but do you have favorite episodes or favorite scenes that we’ve seen so far?
GUILLĔN: I think that the casino scene is very close to my heart, just because we finally ask Guillermo about his interests, we finally ask about something that’s personal to him, which is sexuality, and he has that conversation. It’s a tough conversation to have with the people that you love, whether it’s questioning sexuality, coming out, any of that. So, that moment was very sweet and endearing, and I thought it was a nice little touch to add to our episode.
NOVAK: I was present in that scene, and it was awesome, very tender. For me, I guess the scene I was most apprehensive about was my scene with Aida Turturro, [who plays Nandor’s human girlfriend] Gail, where we are basically having sex in a hotel room. Just a bit of makeup trivia – I play a vampire, I have my face painted white, but as you can see, [in reality] I’m a tan gentleman. Because I was naked in that scene, the makeup department took me into another room and painted me in a light foundation from head to toe, for about an hour, before that scene.
AX: What would you both most like people to know about WHAT WE DO IN the SHADOWS Season 3?
NOVAK: That it’s even better than Season 2, and that if you like Nandor, then you’re going to love Season 3, because he’s in it a lot. And if you like Jackie Daytona [Laszlo’s alter ego who appeared in one Season 2 episode], then you’d better watch that episode for the sixtieth time.
NOVAK: [laughs] You’re shit out of luck, yeah.
GUILLĔN: I would say, this season, everyone is on their own journey. It’s great, because everyone’s storyline really fleshes out from beginning to end. Everyone can be pushed to their limits, and Guillermo is definitely pushed to his.
Article Source: Assignment X
Article: Exclusive Interview with WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS Actors Harvey Guillen and Kayvan Novak on Season 3