In an achievement that reflects the genius-level talent of the two Kiwis responsible for it, What We Do In The Shadows is the first American TV series based on a New Zealand film.
Prior to Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi's hit 2014 mockumentary of the same name (which they wrote, directed and starred), no Kiwi movie made enough of an impact to warrant a TV spin-off.
Shadows did so well, it generated two: Wellington Paranormal in New Zealand, and an eponymous series for the FX network in America, which screens on SoHo2 and Neon in New Zealand.
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With Waititi busy off filming Thor: Ragnarok, Clement took charge of the development of the FX series, and eventually delivered one of the funniest shows of 2019. It showed up on numerous "Best of the Year" lists, and revealed the depth of his and Waititi's comedic creation. Naturally, a second season was commissioned.
Like the film, the Shadows TV show is a mockumentary about centuries-old vampires who share a house. Unlike the film, the series is set in Staten Island, New York, and features mainly British actors in the lead roles.
Clement, in his trademark deadpan patois, says he's happy with how fans of the movie have embraced the show.
"Some people were reluctant to try the series because they didn't want, you know, a different version," he says. "But eventually they have enjoyed it and they liked it, [and realised it's] the same kind of thing."
Although the show is set in the same world as the film, Clement has been conscious not to rely too heavily on the connection.
"We try to stay away from the things in the movie. There were some things that FX wanted from the movie. Like, when I was writing the pilot, they wanted some arguing and flying. But otherwise we usually try to keep away. But a lot of things we thought of for the movie, we get to do in the show but we couldn't find a way to do in the film."
Both the movie and season one featured werewolves in addition to vampires. There will be even more supernatural creatures in season two.
"Yeah, we have quite a few in different episodes," says Clement. "Some ghosts. Some witches."
The stars of the series are Matt Berry (Toast of London) as the pompous Laszlo, Natasia Demetriou as his scathing wife Nadja and Kayvan Novak (Four Lions) as the clueless Nandor. Also in their house are a couple of Americans: Nandor's devoted "familiar" (i.e. vampire assistant) Guillermo (Harvey Guillen) and the first season's breakout character, energy vampire Colin Robinson (Mark Proksch).
Clement says Robinson was originally supposed to have a smaller presence in the series, but the character popped so hard in the pilot that his role was expanded.
"I thought of him more like an annoying neighbour character but he happened to live in the same house. But he was just so beloved when people saw the pilot, so then he was in it as much as anyone else. And that's up to Mark doing such a great job."
"It's one of those things where you're not quite sure what you're getting into," Proksch tells TimeOut in a separate, exclusive interview. "I was a huge fan of the movie, as so many people are but I was terrified of screwing that up. When I learned that Taika and Jemaine were going to be involved, I signed on. The reaction of the viewers has been very refreshing to me. I'm playing an annoying character. Who would think that that would be a fan favourite? So it's been great."
Proksch says he took inspiration from Clement's work as a performer.
"A lot of times the funniest thing is to do absolutely nothing. And you get that watching Jemaine's performances, you really do. Jemaine can be very funny doing absolutely nothing. Or just saying one thing. It's all intonation. I've stolen a lot from him. I come from the Midwest of America, and in the Midwest, it's very dry humour. I think it's quite well aligned with the New Zealand sensibility."
Fans also went crazy for the cameo-filled season-one episode featuring a vampire tribunal comprised of a bunch of previous screen vampires, including Wesley Snipes (Blade), Evan Rachel Wood (True Blood), Danny Trejo (From Dusk Till Dawn) and Tilda Swinton (Only Lovers Left Alive), all playing "themselves" as vampires. Waititi, Clement and Jonathan Brough (who played Deacon) also reprised their roles from the film in the episode. Clement says Swinton's participation got the ball rolling on this stunning, one-time ensemble.
"Only Lovers Left Alive played at a festival with the Shadows movie and she said (affects an amazing Tilda Swinton impression) 'Our vampires have to get together sometime'," Clement says. "I remembered that so I wrote that episode thinking 'Tilda Swinton said she would do something with us'."
Who: Jemaine Clement and Mark Proksch
What: Season 2 of What We Do in the Shadows
When: Premieres tonight on SoHo and Neon