WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS was renewed for a fourth season when its third premiered. Season 3 is currently airing on FX Thursday nights, and available the next day on FX on Hulu and on FX on Demand. In the series, based on the 2014 feature film created by Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi (who likewise created the FX show together), a houseful of vampires and their human familiar try to cope with life/unlife in 21st-century Staten Island, New York.
At the end of Season 2, human familiar and secret member of the Van Helsing bloodline Guillermo de la Cruz (Harvey Guillen) had rescued his vampire employers from death at the hands of the Vampiric Council. At the start of Season 3, the vampires are terrified of Guillermo’s newly-displayed vampire-slaying abilities, as in saving them, he wiped out most of the Tri-State Vampiric Council. But good news: the worldwide Vampiric Council thinks our vamps did this, so they are now promoted to running the local Council.
Nadja (Natasia Demetriou) and Nandor (Kayvan Novak) are thrilled and squabble over who gets the actual throne. Energy vampire Colin Robinson (Mark Prosch) takes the job of Council secretary in order to be more boring (that’s how he feeds). Nadja’s husband Laszlo (Matt Berry) doesn’t care about the Council position, but loves the organization’s library due to its huge collection of pornography.
WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS executive producer/show runner Paul Simms, who has been with the series from the start, speaks with us on Zoom from his home in Shelter Island, New York, on all things Season 3 and beyond.
ASSIGNMENT X: Did you have to do anything differently in writing for WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS Season 3 to accommodate COVID protocols?
PAUL SIMMS: When we started planning out Season 3, we had in our minds we should probably not do any big group scenes that would have a lot of extras, or have our cast be around a lot of people that were going to require testing and things like that. But then, we did Episode 4 in a casino, which we had a lot of tricks to work around, making it look like a crowded place that wasn’t actually crowded. So, we did a lot of talking about scaling it back, and maybe more of it takes place in the house, but then ultimately, I think it might have even been [FX Entertainment President] Eric Schrier who said, “Just write the show you guys always write, and we’ll figure out the details after that.”
I do remember at one point, we were worried with COVID, in the early days, when no one knew what was going to be possible with shooting, that the whole show was just going to turn into the vampires wandering around their mansion, and not doing anything. That is one of the reasons why we expanded that second season to be more about the Vampiric Council and build some new big places where they could be that would be visually exciting, but still safe to shoot on.
AX: Was the idea of bringing our leads onto the Vampiric Council to give them more to do, or to get them out from under the Season 2 finale, so Season 3 wouldn’t be, “How do we get away from the Council wanting to kill us” in every episode?
SIMMS: It was definitely all part of the same big puzzle. I think we did talk for a little while about, maybe Season 3 is them constantly on the run. But I think it was a more surprising and fun choice to take these vampires, who are, let’s say, a little bit incompetent, and don’t necessarily get along, as roommates often don’t get along, and give them a much bigger responsibility, and see how that goes. In a funny way, it doesn’t go smoothly.
AX: Are we going to see more of exactly what it is the Vampiric Council does?
SIMMS: Yes. We see their first day actually running a session where they’re sentencing other vampires the way they were sentenced. And the fun of that one is the different approaches. Nandor, even though he’s this bloodthirsty warrior, is preaching more, “Let’s show that we can be calm and fair,” and Nadja is the one who wants to sentence everyone to death and torture [them] in some way or another. And there’s a fun twist also in that episode, where a character that everyone thinks we’ve forgotten about reappears.
AX: Would this be Doug Jones as the Baron?
SIMMS: No, but you know what? If you like Doug Jones, you’re also going to be very happy by the end of this season. He is so fun. And coming up later in the season, he does some of the funniest work I think he’s ever, ever done. There’s an episode with him that’s just one of my favorites.
AX: Kristen Schaal plays the Vampiric Council’s guide. In creating that character, were you thinking of Carol Kane in PRINCESS BRIDE, or is that just how it’s working out?
SIMMS: It feels a little bit like that sometimes, but Kristen brings her own energy. I’ve worked with her with Jemaine and Taika ever since FLIGHT OF THE CONCHORDS [the music/comedy series created by and starring Clement and Waititi]. We didn’t even really give her any specific direction on what the character should be. We just said, “It’s you, and you’re playing this weird, hundreds of years old vampiric guide who’s in charge of the Vampiric Council, and just do what you think is funny.” So, that’s how it came out. She’s just one of those naturally funny people.
AX: Is Jemaine Clement involved in WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS as much this season as he has been in the past, or is he stepping back and doing something else?
SIMMS: He’s been more involved with WELLINGTON PARANORMAL. But we still send the scripts and all the cuts and everything to Jemaine and Taika, and as you saw, in Episode 1, Taika makes a little cameo as his character from the movie. We’re always looking for places for the really hardcore fans, to [put in elements that] keep that whole universe feeling like it’s all part of the same thing.
AX: Are we going to be seeing any more of Jake McDorman as some version of Nadja’s often-reincarnated human lover, or Mark Hamill as Laszlo’s Dracula-style adversary?
SIMMS: Not this season, although I think there are some references to Jake’s character. One of the things we also talked about this season was not wanting to repeat the successes of the previous season. I mean, it would be easy to go, “Oh, everyone loved Jackie Daytona [Laszlo’s alter ego], let’s do three Jackie Daytona episodes,” but we wanted to find new ways to surprise people with each episode. If there was one main theme that we talked about when we were planning out the season, it was finding ways to surprise the viewers in a pleasing way.
AX: When you’re planning a seasonal arc for WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS, do you figure out each character’s individual trajectory, or do you do, “Okay, basically, we want to get from Point A to Point B,” or do you just go, “What would be funny?”, and then try to figure a way to string it all together?
SIMMS: We talk a little bit about having each character at least have a goal that they have that season, but we also are constantly reminding each other that we want this show to be one that’s like an old-fashioned sitcom, where anyone can watch any episode out of order, and still basically enjoy it, the way it was on MARY TYLER MOORE, or one of those shows. We want to make sure that the show isn’t overly serialized. Because I hate those shows where people go, “Oh, you have to watch the first two seasons before you’ll understand Season 3.”
I feel like anyone can dip in at any point and enjoy [WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS]. Then again, for the close fans, we do want to tell season-long stories, but you can understand any episode without those. But it does start from what each character’s goal is that season. But then also, as you’ll see with Season 3, and with all our seasons, then there are a handful of episodes that just sort of have nothing to do with these story arcs.
AX: We can tell what Nandor, Guillermo, and Colin’s quests are this season. Is Laszlo’s quest mainly finding more pornography?
SIMMS: His quest was satisfied very early on. But I think if you’ve seen the first two seasons, there are things that often don’t make sense until the very end. All I will say about Laszlo’s thing is that he has a very definite goal this season that is not apparent until it’s revealed towards the end.
AX: With Nadja, is her quest mainly enjoying finding what she can do with the Council?
SIMMS: Yes, because she was turned into a vampire so young that she never had a chance to have an adult life, and she’s been fascinated by the idea of working women, who actually have a job, and actually have responsibilities, and power to do things. That’s why she takes to the Council so quickly. That’s a drive for her that we’ve talked about from the beginning that not only carries through Season 3, but also will carry through Season 4, about Nadja really wanting to do something with her life, and be out in the world, and run things, and make things happen. She is, in a way, the least lazy of the vampires, she just never had an outlet or a thing to focus her ambitions on before. So, that’s one of the things that really drives her in Season 3, and in 4.
AX: In “The Cloak of Duplication” episode this season, all of the characters tried on the cloak to appear as Nandor, so Kayvan Novak played everybody onscreen. It sounded like the original actors did the voices …?
SIMMS: No. [Novak] did every one of those voices. The only ones he didn’t do were Nadja and the Guide, because he couldn’t get his voice up that high, but all the other ones, that’s him doing the voice.
AX: Oh, my God …
SIMMS: That’s what we thought, too. We wrote it, and thought, “It’ll be a version of that.” And then when they started shooting, I remember I was writing another script at my computer, and then I heard on the monitor, I’m like, “Oh, they’re doing a scene with Guillermo,” and then I thought, “Well, there’s no Guillermo scene scheduled today,” and I looked up, and it was Kayvan doing it. So, we didn’t do any voice replacement for Guillermo or Colin Robinson or Laszlo. He did all of them. It was uncanny. We were worried that people would think that we just used an audio trick, and put it in there. Go watch it [again], you’ll be even more blown away.
AX: Wow. Are there any characters who popped for you over the three seasons, or went in directions you totally didn’t expect?
SIMMS: If you go all the way back to the pilot, Colin Robinson was sort of a little bit of just a one-time joke that we thought would maybe come in once or twice per episode and live in the basement, but other than that, just be more like Carlton the Doorman in RHODA. But then Mark really was so funny that we wrote to it more, and started fleshing out more of his character, and him as part of the group, to the point that, this season, now there’s a whole story about him trying to figure out his origins and developing a sort of odd détente-slash-friendship with Laszlo.
Also, going all the way back to the very beginning, Guillermo was originally the audience’s way in to meet the vampires. Obviously, the twists and the turns of the Guillermo story have surprised us, even though we’ve written it. In the first season, we realized how funny they all were, and that you want to see more of everyone. That’s the hard part, is figuring out how to squeeze everything and everyone into every episode. But that’s a nice way of saying we don’t have a weak link, I don’t think, which is sometimes a problem when you’re making a show is, you’ll have one character you’ll go, “Oh, boy, they don’t really work.” But all of these are people you just want to see more of.
AX: Is your level of gore going up or down, or staying about the same, or is that even something you worry about?
SIMMS: One thing that we’ve all talked about from the beginning of it, including Jemaine and Taika, is that we want to keep it scary. We don’t want the gore to be gratuitous, but we do still want really suspenseful and sort of frightening moments, because we don’t want to forget that these are bloodthirsty creatures who kill on a daily basis, and are capable of doing horrific things, and are also coming into contact with horrific other creatures and people. So, there are still those scares in there. We also wanted to make sure that it’s not like a parody version of horror movies. You’ll be having some laughs, and then someone will tear someone’s heart out, physically, literally.
AX: What would you most like people to know about Season 3 of WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS?
SIMMS: That it’s super-funny and super-surprising, and there are lots of twists and turns.
Article Source: Assignment X
Article: Exclusive Interview with WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS showrunner Paul Simms on Season 3