15 Trivia Tidbits About ‘What We Do in the Shadows’

It’s hard playing a flying vampire when you’re afraid of heights
15 Trivia Tidbits About ‘What We Do in the Shadows’

When Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement set out to make a short film back in the early 2000s, they had no idea their vampire spoof would sire a popular and critically-acclaimed franchise. What We Do in the Shadows went from wowing audiences on the big screen to one of the best contemporary comedy-horror shows on television; because who doesn’t want to see actors like Matt Berry play an ancient vampire stuck in Staten Island?

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Inspired by genre favorites like The Office and the mockumentaries of Christopher GuestWWDITS takes that dull and, more often than not, absurd look at a group of people who spend too much time together. Only these folks are mythical bloodsucking creatures who dress funny and morph into bats by yelling, “Bat!” With Season Five about to drop its dung on us, here’s a bunch of trivia about the show harnessing the power of monsters for laughs...

Kayvan Novak Says Playing Nandor the Relentless Feels Like a Breath of Fresh Air

Novak, the English actor of Iranian descent, once said he was getting tired of being typecast in movies when WWDITS came along. “I played Middle Eastern assassins and doctors and pimps and nightclub managers. I did all that,” he remembers. “I enjoyed them, but they just became a bit repetitive. I was bored of playing the bad brown guy all the time. Now being able to play a period character that looks like me, I love it. I’m over the moon.”

How They Do Their Stunts

Showrunner Paul Simms (who also produced Flight of the Conchords) explained that there were no fully digital characters in the show and that they worked hard to make the vamps morphing into bats look authentic. “You really set out to say if this were a real-life situation, what would this look like? What would it look like when someone turns into a bat?” Simms continued. “Sometimes there have been other shows that made fun of old vampire movies where you can tell it’s a bat on a string, but we really wanted to do everything we could to see what it would look like if it was a real thing.”

All the flying scenes, he said, were done using wire removal, and Bram Stoker’s Dracula gave them many tips on how to do things old school and in camera. “One of my favorite supernatural moments is completely in camera. It’s where Beanie Feldstein’s character (Jenna) is walking along in the park, and Nadja appears walking next to her. That was all just done completely the old-fashioned way where Natasia was hiding behind a tree, and the camera was tracking along, and at the right moment, she walked out from behind a tree. I think there’s something about that old-fashioned way that makes things more interesting than when you can tell it’s digital and rubbery and fake looking.”

Mark Hamill Kept His Fangs From His Guest Appearance on the Show

In Season Two, Hamill shows up as a vampire at the Pennsylvanian bar Laszlo (going by Jackie Daytona) is running after fleeing financial responsibilities. “They let me keep my fangs,” Hamill once said. “Because when we were shooting, I said, ‘Wait a second, since these were fit directly to my mouth, can I keep them?’ And they said, ‘Absolutely, be our guest.’ So I do have my fangs.” The actor also said that the props department gave him a dagger from the What We Do in the Shadows movie as a souvenir.

The Origin Behind the Big Movie Vampire Cameos Episode

In the episode “The Trial,” there are a couple of cameo appearances from famous pop-culture vampires as these bloodsuckers gather to form the show’s Vampiric Council. It turns out that Tilda Swinton (who played a vampire in Only Lovers Left Alive) was the one who gave Clement the idea. “I’d been to SXSW with (the movie) What We Do in the Shadows, and Tilda Swinton was there (with Only Lovers Left Alive), and our films were playing almost together, two vampire films,” Clement told Entertainment Weekly. “She said, ‘Do something where our vampire characters are together.’ I just locked that away in my brain.”

’The Real Housewives’ Served as Inspiration

“You can definitely look at the way those (reality) shows are edited,” Simms told Slash Film. “In a real reality show like The Real World and (The Real) Housewives, they’re walking a line between capturing dramatic events and manufacturing dramatic events. That was one thing that Jemaine talked about a lot is really adhering strictly to documentary rules the way those shows do. Sometimes a moment won’t be perfectly on camera the way it would be if it was a real movie, but it just feels more real if it’s a little more sloppy the way the Housewives are. Although I feel like back in The Real World, they hadn’t quite perfected it the way they have with the Housewives. Housewives almost seems written. They never miss a moment. Nothing ever happens off-camera.”

Guillermo Was Going to Be a Much Older Character

Nandor’s familiar, Guillermo, was originally envisioned as an older character who’d been working for his master for around 30 years. Harvey Guillen, however, came in to audition, and the producers found him so funny and sweet that they changed the character, rewriting the role for him.

Matt Berry Struggles With the Flying Scenes Because He’s Afraid of Heights

“All of your instincts are telling you to protect yourself and not be up there, yet you have stuff to do while you’re up there,” Berry (who plays Laszlo) told The Ringer. “I’ve got to convince you that I’m not afraid of heights when I’m 50 feet up. I’ve got to look as if it’s completely natural, and that is hard. It’s hard for me, anyway.”

The Basement Scenes in ‘The Prisoner’ Episode Were Completely Filmed with Night-Vision Cameras

“Kyle Newacheck (the director) turned off the lights and said to me, ‘You can do it, right?’ I didn’t know where I was going — it was pitch black when I was crawling and using the sliding doors,” Guillén revealed to The A.V. Club.

Natasia Demetriou Is Obsessed with the Nadja Doll

“I get so embarrassed whenever anyone asks me about the doll because I am absolutely obsessed with it,” the actress who plays Nadja told Collider. “When it’s on set, I feel like she’s my child, and I act like a complete psychopath around it. I feel bad if I’m chatting with Matt, and I realize the doll is just sitting there. Honestly, it’s psychotic. It’s such an amazing puppet that the doll is so lifelike. The puppeteers are there the whole time the doll is there, so she’s moving the whole time, and it’s so lifelike. I really feel so maternal about the doll. It’s a very embarrassing, actor-y thing to do, to be really in love with an inanimate object that looks exactly like me. It’s so narcissistic, but I honestly love it. I really love it. I love it so much.”

The Big Reason Why Waititi Was in the Movie But Not the Show

Waititi told Thrillist that part of the reason he and Clement weren’t in the show is because “we just couldn’t figure out a way to justify our characters leaving New Zealand and being here (in the U.S.) and what that might look like.” The other reason had to do with his character’s preparation. “I don’t like shaving, clean shaving, my face,” he explained. “I had to do that every day for that character. I don’t like putting makeup on. I don’t like the feeling of it on my skin. I know that sounds insane, but that was one of the reasons I was like, I don’t want to be in the show. I hate shaving.”

The Famous Location

The series, so far, has been largely filmed in Toronto, with some scenes taking place at the famous Casa Loma, known by X-Men fans as the X-Mansion. The castle-style mansion was also used in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and the 2019 black comedy Ready or Not.

Filming the Show Hasn’t Been Easy

The cold Canadian weather can be tough on the cast and crew, especially since they mostly film during the wee hours of the morning. “We’d nap all the time,” Waititi told The New York Times. “I’d see a couch and be like, ‘There’s my couch.’ Matt Berry is also a huge napper. On the sets, we’d scope out the beds. And I’d be, ‘Oh, that’s mine.’ And then I’d come in, and Matt would be in it. The college bedroom on the pilot, me and Matt were fighting over that bed all the time.”

Where Nadja’s Name Come From

Clement has stated that Nadja’s name was a tribute to Michael Almereyda’s 1994 vampire film, Nadja.

Mark Proksch Improvises a Lot of His Dull Dialogue

While every cast member has space for improvisational freedom, Clement praised Proksch for bringing those hilariously boring lines to his Energy Vampire character, Colin Robinson. “The shame of it is that we have so much more stuff with him that we couldn’t fit in,” Clement told The Hollywood Reporter. “A lot of it’s not on the page; he can just do that endlessly. We were like, ‘Just say boring things to this person,’ and we never got to a point where he’d run out. He’s such a funny guy, but I do wonder how this is gonna affect parties for him.”

It All Started as a Short Film

As we alluded to earlier, before What We Do in the Shadows first graced theater screens as a feature film in 2014, it was a 2005 short film called What We Do in the Shadows: Interviews With Some Vampires. You can watch the entire mockumentary short below:

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