The dangers of filming real vampires

Kayvan Noval in What We Do in the Shadows. (Photo supplied: Showmax)
Kayvan Noval in What We Do in the Shadows. (Photo supplied: Showmax)

Cape Town - What We Do in the Shadows (WWDITS), currently #31 on Rotten Tomatoes’ list of the Best TV Shows of 2019 So Far, is now streaming first on Showmax in South Africa.

The series takes us to Staten Island, New York, where a documentary crew goes behind the scenes to capture the daily (or rather, nightly) lives of a group of vampire housemates who’ve been rooming together for over a century – plenty of time to get on each other’s nerves.

Fans and critics alike are loving WWDITS. It was nominated for two 2019 Emmys and has a 94% critics score on Rotten Tomatoes.

The show is a spinoff of the 2014 cult-favourite mockumentary film of the same name from New Zealand comedy geniuses Jemaine Clement (Legion, Flight of the Conchords) and Oscar-nominated Thor: Ragnarok director Taika Waititi.

The pair met at Victoria University, where they disliked one another on sight … until Jemaine saw Taika in action at an audition and realised how funny he was. They went on to collaborate as stand-up comedy duo The Humourbeasts.

Taika guest-directed on Jemaine’s comedy series Flight Of The Conchords, while Jemaine starred in Taika’s 2007 movie Eagle vs Shark, but even before then, the two had made an unassuming little short film called What We Do in the Shadows, that would, in time, become something of a monster.

We don’t think it’s too soon to list their partnership among the great comedy collaborations like Monty Python, the Spinal Tap crew, and horror-comedy collaborators Sam Raimi, Rob Tapert and Bruce Campbell, who spawned the Evil Dead franchise.

We asked Jemaine for some insight into the mockumentary, only to discover he’s as deadpan as his show.

Describe What We Do in the Shadows in three words.

Terrifying. Serious. Honest.

How does the series connect to the original movie?

This is a different group of vampires. They have some similarities. They love blood, for instance.

Harvey Guillen in What We Do in the Shadows.

How did the costume and make-up departments help define the look of the show?

There’s no costume and make-up departments. It’s all real. ...These vampires are very old-fashioned. They kind of get stuck in the fashion of when they were alive. You know, a lot of ruffs, a lot of black. It’s hard to get them out of the black. Sometimes we’re like, “Why don’t you try a rainbow palette, some peacock colours?” But no. ’Cause they always want to hide in the dark and creep up on people. It’s kind of a camouflage in the night.

Tell us about the stunts and wirework in the show.

There are no stunts. They’re actually flying. For the main part, we let people see that… we don’t always capture it, because the vampires can move fast on occasion.

How much did you improvise on set?

What you do is, you suggest things to the cast, I mean, the vampires, and… they’ll go in that direction.

Harvey Guillen and Kayvan Noval in What We Do in t

What was it like to work with Taika again?

Taika and I have worked together for a long time. Before we did documentaries, serious documentaries, we used to do comedy shows – theatre and film. So we’ve done a lot of different things. I think we even did a drawing once.

What were the challenges of filming this series?

Some people think that you can’t photograph vampires. Well, why don’t you have a look at the documentary and see what the actual truth is? The hardest thing about making a show like this is not being bitten by vampires.


(Photos supplied: Showmax)

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24