WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS just wrapped its third season on Thursday, October 28, on FX. The season is available on FX on Hulu and FX on Demand. It was announced before Season 3 began airing that it had been renewed for a fourth season.
WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS, created by Jemaine Clement, based on the 2014 film of the same name, created by Clement and Taika Waititi, concerns a house of vampires un-living in Staten Island with their human familiar/protector, Guillermo (Harvey Guillen). Laszlo (Matt Berry), Nadja (Natasia Demetriou), and Nandor (Kayvan Novak) are regular blood-drinking vampires, but Colin Robinson, played by Mark Proksch, is an energy vampire, who feeds by boring people.
Warning: The following contains spoilers for the last two episodes of WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS Season 3.
In the penultimate episode of Season 3, the audience got a shock. Laszlo revealed that he had discovered that energy vampires only live to be one hundred years old, which meant that Colin was about to die, although he didn’t share this with the energy vampire, not wanting to cloud his final days. This explained why the usually dismissive Laszlo had been relatively comradely with Colin over the season. At the end of the episode, “A Farewell,” Colin died.
This led to some meta questions for viewers. Had Proksch gotten some other job that required him to leave WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS? Had the actor and his hilarious character unnecessarily been written out of the series? If so, had the writing staff lost their collective minds?
Not to worry. In the Season 3 finale, “The Portrait,” Laszlo and the audience discover that when an energy vampire dies, he is reborn by bursting out as an infant from the corpse of his former self – but with his adult face. So, yes, Proksch is now playing baby Colin Robinson.
To discuss this unexpected (at least to the audience) turn of events, Proksch, show runner/executive producer Paul Simms and co-executive producer/writer Sam Johnson get on an exclusive Zoom call together with Assignment X.
ASSIGNMENT X: Did you decide on the birthing process of energy vampires and then decide on how to incorporate it into the show, or were you just thinking of, “How can we apparently write off a character, and then not write off a character?” or how did this happen? I was actually going on IMDB, going, “Did Mark Proksch get some other job? Why would they fire Mark Proksch?”
[Johnson, Proksch, and Simms laugh.]
PAUL SIMMS: That’s good. And just by coincidence, that lined up with us doing a Comic-Con panel that Mark wasn’t available for, so that led to much further speculation, with people going, “Well, he wasn’t at the Comic-Con panel – maybe he’s really left. Maybe he went to do a CBS sitcom about a really cool dad.” It was all very “Paul is dead.” The original inspiration for this whole season came from, we know everything about other vampires, but Jemaine created this energy vampire character that has no pre-existing history to it. And so, we would be in the writers’ room, debating, “Well, was Colin born an energy vampire, was he made into an energy vampire, can he be killed?” All that stuff. And we could never come up with an answer that satisfied all of us, and that’s when we thought, “Well, let’s make that Colin’s own question, and his own search for trying to figure out who he is, and what he was.” And then, from that, we came up with the idea of also wanting to see Matt Berry and Mark together more, and see this friendship that we hoped would appear illogical to viewers, until the very end. There were people online halfway through the season saying, “This doesn’t make sense. There’s no reason for Laszlo to be so nice to Colin. Laszlo is very annoyable, and Colin is very annoying. They must have run out of ideas.” It was very satisfying for us to know that we had a whole plan all the way through, and that we had sprinkled in clues through the whole season to create a fun surprise for the viewers.
AX: How did they approach you about this as an actor? Did they give you the whole pitch of, “Okay, this is how we’re going to do Colin’s species story,” or did they say, “Well, you die, but then, how do you feel about being photographed on a blue screen?”
MARK PROKSCH: It was interesting. Because of the pandemic, we did all of the table reads, we got all the scripts, right at the start of the season. Usually, we get the scripts about a week before we film that episode. And so, I, like the rest of the cast, found out during the table read. And then Paul called me a couple hours later [laughs], to let me know what the plan was, going forward. But it wasn’t something that I was too worried about. This show is very silly, and it’s a cartoon, and you can have characters be immolated and come back and to reappear again. So, I figured they had something up their sleeve, and they did.
SIMMS: One of the most fun parts for us as writers is, our first audience for every episode is the actors, when they have the table reads together, and seeing how they react to the story and what their characters are doing. So, I wanted to preserve that surprise for them. And then, when I got around to it, I did call Mark and say, “You’re not being fired, don’t worry.”
SIMMS: But I think he pretty much knew that already.
AX: How did you accomplish the effect with Mark Proksch’s adult face on the baby body?
SAM JOHNSON: We’d been talking about it a little bit [prior to actually doing it], and it’s a few different effects. It’s a digital effect; it’s also a practical effect, and there are a lot of ways to do it. We had to kind of cobble together a few different ways to make it look great. But when we were looking at the early versions of this edit, before they put all the effects together, what you were seeing is a kind of rubbery baby body, and three guys in head-to-toe green suits, with sticks controlling the arms, and a head on this baby, but that was not going to be the final head. It was really an elaborate process for just a couple of seconds of the show.
AX: So, for WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS Season 4, are we going to find out that energy vampires grow very quickly, or are we going to find out that all babies are energy vampires and most of them grow out of it?
SIMMS: That is the big sort of puzzle, and the fun of next season is, number one, no, they don’t grow so quickly that you’re going to come back in Season 4, and it’s going to be a full-grown Colin again, and we go, “Ha-ha, we got you.” Season 4 really examines, is Colin destined to grow up to be an energy vampire again, or is it possible for him to avoid that fate, and grow up to be an actual interesting human being, and are there things that can be done, nature versus nurture-wise, as he’s being raised, to keep him from being an energy vampire? It’s one of those things where it was such a good surprise for the end of the season, we didn’t want to just have it be all undone immediately, so that it’s really what most of the next season is about, is baby Colin growing up and what will he become?
AX: If Colin as played by Mark Proksch is not a full-grown person, are you still working on how to do the effects for that, or do you know how this is going to work?
JOHNSON: We have three babies who have been trained with the most humane baby-training techniques. This isn’t like the old days in Hollywood …
[Simms and Proksch laugh.]
JOHNSON: I will say it’s a challenge, and it’s one of those ideas where you have to, while you’re writing it, not think, “How are we going to do this?”, and just go, “This would be really great.” And then, when you’re done with that, then you find yourself in interminable Zoom meetings, over and over, going, “How the eff are we going to actually do this?” But I think we’ve figured it out, and it’s going to be very fun and satisfying.
AX: Actors very often play younger or older than you really are, but in this case, you’re playing likely the youngest you’ve ever played. What are the challenges of that?
PROKSCH: [laughs] I don’t do a ton of preparation – I feel like that can really stymie comedy and keep you from appearing as a real person, which is basically what your job is as an actor, if you want to get into the annoying weeds about acting. I’ve been watching a lot of YouTube, which is probably puzzling my wife, if she goes on my computer. There are a lot of teenagers on YouTube that are posting stuff about themselves. Paul sent me a lot of references for young children talking endlessly about seemingly boring topics, at least to an adult. And so, I’m probably doing more preparation than I ever have [laughs], going into this season, for Colin.
AX: Because of COVID and/or because of the effects, are you actually on set with other people, or do they have to shoot all of your stuff separately?
PROKSCH: No, I’m around for some of it, and some of it will be done at a later date, just because of the nature of the beast. It’s a really complicated situation. You know, you can always throw a suit onto a person to make them look bigger, or with makeup, you can make them look younger or older, but to put a grown adult’s face and gestures and acting onto a baby requires a heck of a lot of technology.
SIMMS: Yes. Anyone you’ve seen on the show inevitably comes back. That’s why that last episode, Episode 10, was so satisfying, because, except for Colin, who they were all mourning, it had everyone. It had the Guide [played by Kristen Schaal], the Nadja doll, Doug Jones as the Baron’s carcass, the Sire. Everyone was all together in one room, which I thought was a lot of fun.
AX: And Donal Logue, playing Donal Logue of the Vampiric Council.
SIMMS: Mm-hmm. And Donal Logue playing a version of himself, an exaggerated version of himself, which was very funny.
AX: Laszlo seems to have developed a paternal streak regarding Colin.
AX: Where is that coming from, and where may that be going in WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS Season 4?
SIMMS: I think it probably started from Laszlo being the only one who had this tragic information that Colin was living his final days, and wanting to show Colin a good time, the way when you have to put a dog to sleep, you give it a really nice steak and eggs, and treat it really well, so it has a wonderful last few days. And I think over the course of that, probably despite himself, Laszlo and Colin have developed a little bit, as close as either of them can come to an affectionate friendship. And I think also there’s an aspect of Laszlo that, at the very end of the [season finale] episode, he realizes it’s his duty to take care of someone who’s helpless, even if the helpless person is a weird little freak baby.
AX: And what would you all most like people to come away with from Season 3, apart from the desire to see WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS Season 4?
SIMMS: Just that they had a lot of laughs. When we start talking about the relationships and stuff, I do think sometimes, if you’re reading [this] article, you go, “Wow, this show is complicated, and we have to watch it all in order.” But to me, every episode is something you can watch out of order and [that can] stand on its own. If you watch all of them, there’s maybe a slightly deeper story. But our show is pure escapism. There’s no intentional commentary on current events or politics or anything. It’s just about laughs.
JOHNSON: Yeah. I would say that this is the greatest ensemble cast on television. These actors have so many gifts. Just now, I was thinking, all of Season 3 was shot during the worst part of COVID lockdown. We delayed shooting it, hoping it would get better, and it actually got worse. And the restrictions on set, and just the difficulty in producing episodes, but how these actors overcame it was great. Yes, of course, I write for the show, but I’m such a fan. It’s such a joy to watch, and to watch such great performances all around.
SIMMS: And I’ll see the episodes literally probably over fifty times while we’re editing them and sound-mixing them, and still my favorite part is watching it when it goes on the air with my wife at home, and seeing what she laughs at, and my children, if it’s an episode that doesn’t have a lot of f**king and s**king in it.
PROKSCH: I piggyback on what they’re saying. It’s just a funny show. It’s not a moral sledgehammer in any way, it’s not trying to teach lessons, by design. It’s not a feel-good show, yet there are moments where it makes you feel nice. And I think that’s a rarity right now on TV [laughs]. It’s just a hard comedy. And that’s great to be a part of. And I know I can speak for the other actors, that we feel very lucky to be part of a show that we would actually watch.
Article Source: Assignment X
Article: Exclusive Interview with WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS Actor Mark Proksch and executive producers Paul Simms and Sam Johnson