By Michele Manelis
Congrats on being able to blend reality TV and vampires in such an original way.
Thanks. You'd think that the combination of another reality show and another vampire story almost shouldn't work, given we are so sick of those things, but actually, I think that's what made it fresh. I've always loved Christopher Guest's films like Best in Show and This is Spinal Tap, and we wanted to try and make something that was hopefully as funny as that and make a documentary about something that you couldn't make a documentary about.
How did you explore social and gender issues in the show?
I think the vampires in general live on the outskirts and are pushed into the shadows of society, like immigrants, LGBT-Q, and people who were bullied and people who didn't feel like they fit in. I think a lot of people are like, "Oh it would be great to be a vampire, you could live forever." But you'd have no friends and you'd be shunned from society and you couldn't go out during the day. There are all these things that make it a bummer to be a vampire and that's why they all stick together in these little pockets around the world. I thought it was important to explore their loneliness and boredom.
So you obviously don't think being a vampire would be fun?
I don't think humans are designed to live forever, because our nature is such that we keep putting things off and we are too lazy as a species. We would say, "Oh, I'm going to learn how to play the piano and I am going to start tomorrow." And you'd just keep saying it for hundreds of years. And I think that is the problem with us. We are lonely, we always have regrets and we always get bored with each other.
Will you be in the show?
It's all set in the same universe, so our characters are still in New Zealand, in the same house. They keep in touch, so they may make an appearance. My character falls in love.
Do you think Flight of the Conchords was a turning point for the creative community in New Zealand?
It was the thing that really put New Zealand's style of comedy on the map and in a particular sensibility when it comes to humour and the kind of characters that we like to play, which is very different from the American style. And so once that happened and the show came out, they got more of a taste for it. I remember when New Zealand films would come here to the United States, sometimes they'd have subtitles because the American ear wasn't attuned to this accent.
Was it a challenge finding the right vampires?
Jemaine, I think, had Matt Berry in mind for Laszlo right from the beginning. And then we just did the usual casting call and then we got Natasia (Demetriou) and Kayvan (Novak). We knew right away they were perfect.
Did you cast them all as British on purpose?
To have a movie where they are all British - and I am not saying anything about American talent - but we wanted to have them have this European feel, because all vampires in America are originally from Europe, so it's nice having this. And because a lot of the show is improvised, they can also give their outside view on topics as British people. It's nice to poke fun at America on shows like this, where you focus on those little weird quirks that only a foreigner would really pick up on.
Do you feel very lucky having grown up in New Zealand?
I felt very lucky growing up in New Zealand because it's a beautiful place and there's not many people. It can get quiet and for a teenager, it's pretty boring if you don't play sports or find activities.
What's it like to be a renaissance man?
Someone who does a bit of everything but maybe not very well? Someone who is too lazy to focus on one thing and be a virtuoso in that. I don't have attention deficit, but I do get interested in sparkly things and go, "What's this? What's that?" I just want to be as involved in many parts of creativity and that's why I am constantly busy and spreading myself too thin. I want to have a go at everything.
Aren't you working on the new Star Wars TV show?
Yeah, I just finished shooting The Mandalorian, a Star Wars TV show which is going to be on Disney's streaming service when it comes out. Favreau created it and I am going to help direct it.
How is it going?
It's amazing. It was a dream-come-true for me to be around and immersed in that Star Wars universe, just be next to a Stormtrooper is incredible. So I get to play around in that world. I had a great time doing that and I think the show is going to be amazing.
What's your favourite vampire film?
Oh, man. Well, the ones that influenced me a lot for the movie are Coppola's Dracula, Interview with the Vampire and Lost Boys.
Lowdown: What We Do In The Shadows, Launching on SoHo/Neon, March 27