The first thing I ask is for Karen O'Leary and Mike Minogue to tell me about their new comedy Wellington Paranormal.

"It's a really great show," O'Leary says.

"Ehhhhh..." Minogue says, breathing in sharply and leaning back in his chair. "That's not for you to say though is it?"

We're sitting in a compact meeting room deep inside TVNZ HQ on opposite sides of an empty table. The small, bare room coupled with their natural officious demeanour gives it a slight interrogation vibe. Only, I'm asking the questions while they take turns being good cop/bad cop. Although joker cop/joker cop is a more accurate description.


While it may not be for her to say, O'Leary's not wrong. Having had a sneak peek at the first two episodes I can confirm that yes, Wellington Paranormal is a really great show. In their first leading roles, the pair star as cops, also named O'Leary and Minogue, assigned to the secret paranormal division of the Wellington Police.

Created by Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement, the show spoofs police reality shows like Police Ten 7 and Cops, and is the first of two shows they're making off the back of their successful 2014 vampire mockumentary movie What We Do in the Shadows.

"Err... we were pretty important in Shadows," reckons Minogue, when their brief appearance is mentioned. "Pivotal some would say."

"Sometimes it's quality over quantity too," O'Leary adds, backing up her co-star and on-screen police partner.

Karen O'Leary and Mike Minogue star in Wellington Paranormal
Karen O'Leary and Mike Minogue star in Wellington Paranormal

While "pivotal" could be a stretch, their natural bants and easy comedic chemistry obviously caught the attention of Clement and Waititi. Both actors say they weren't aware the show was in the works until they got the call to be in it.

"That's when the terror kicked in," Minogue says.

"I felt really excited until I turned up to do the first day of shooting," O'Leary says. "And then I felt like I was going to..."

"Ruin it?" Minogue asks.


"Do something in my pants," she counters. "Like actually wet myself."

"Really?" Minogue asks, obviously surprised.

"But everyone on that whole shoot was so lovely and kind and friendly and..."

Minogue interrupts. "You don't have to talk bullshit", which sets them riffing.

O'Leary: "I'm telling the truth! Look, as a non-actor person you think 'actors are a bit…'."
Minogue: "Oooo… careful, careful."
O'Leary: "Oh. Yeah. I don't know what I think."
Minogue: "Nah. I know what you mean... Yeah. Because it is… Um… I mean…"
O'Leary: "What do I mean?"
Minogue: "I know what you mean."
O'Leary: "Then say what I mean."

After taking stock for a second and silently working out what he - and she - means, Minogue answers.

"This is gonna be a great show. However, do you want to be in the first thing that Taika and Jemaine make that isn't any good? There's a bit of pressure that comes with it. All the other stuff they've made, they're in."

"You've just got to hope that people are too scared to say, 'it's not good'," O'Leary says. "Even if it's not good."

"Yeah," Minogue agrees. "That's the beauty of having Jemaine direct it."

"Absolutely. And if it's not good we can blame him," O'Leary laughs.

"But we're the faces of the failure aren't we?" Minogue says. "If it goes bad."

O'Leary stops laughing.

"Ohhh…" she says. "I hadn't even thought about that."

Mike Minogue and Karen O'Leary star in Wellington Paranormal
Mike Minogue and Karen O'Leary star in Wellington Paranormal

They need not worry. Clement has not dropped the ball. The humour may be low-key and poker-faced but it's laugh-out-loud funny as outlandish events, like a demonic portal opening on Cuba St, or B-movie aliens invading, are met head-on with Minogue and O'Leary's straight-faced, almost naive acceptance.

"Jemaine's direction was basically just, 'more deadpan, more deadpan, more deadpan'," Minogue says when asked about the production.

"'Maybe just be quiet...'," O'Leary adds.

"'Less acting'," Minogue nods.

"'Just. Don't. Say. Anything'," O'Leary laughs, then adds, "he knows when he sees it. He knows when it's not quite right."

In preparation for their first major starring roles neither prepared. Both admit to not watching any of the police reality shows their show spoofs.

"I don't really watch TV or movies," O'Leary shrugs, before conceding that she did, however, revisit Shadows prior to filming. Kind of.

"I watched my bits," she says.

The mockumentary format of the show lends itself to comedy improvisation. Sometimes from Clement piping up from behind the camera, often from the pair's comic riffing. It has to be said that talking with them is not unlike talking to their characters, although O'Leary insists, "we're not the same person. I'm a very good actor."

When asked about their background in improv Minogue says, "I was in What We Do in the Shadows," and O'Leary says, "I tend to make up everything I say. I never write down what I'm gonna say before I say it."

Zombie cops in Wellington Paranormal
Zombie cops in Wellington Paranormal

Years in the prepping and five weeks in the shooting, the show finally begins on TVNZ next week. I ask how they're feeling. The room falls silent. Eventually, O'Leary answers.

"Pumped," she says.

The room stays silent.

Minogue: "You know that's going in the story?"
O'Leary: "Good. That was an honest answer."
Minogue: "I know."
O'Leary: "Yeah."

Stifling his laughter Minogue points around the room and says, "'Pumped' here sounds… fine. But reading it on the page…"
O'Leary: "Is it gonna sound sexual?"
Minogue: "It's gonna feel weird."
O'Leary: "Shit."

Minogue turns and says, "I've had different experiences with things where you get your hopes up, but there's no point. It's gonna do whatever it's gonna do. I loved making it and that's all you can worry about. We had an absolute ball. I'd hope it's as fun to watch as..."

He cuts himself off.

"Oh no… No. I'm not saying that. No."

Seizing the opportunity O'Leary deadpans, "just say you're pumped."

"I'm looking forward to it," Minogue counters.

"Say it," O'Leary insists, struggling to contain her glee. "Say you're pumped."

"I'm pumped," Minogue sighs. Then he looks up and with a wide grin says, "I'm pumped about it."

Who: Karen O'Leary and Mike Minogue
What: New comedy Wellington Paranormal
When: Next Wednesday, 8.30pm, TVNZ 2