‘Shadows’ cast delight in these self-absorbed characters

Over the course of three seasons, the FX series What We Do in the Shadows has been reliably hilarious and gory like any decent vampire mockumentary should be. Season 4 kept the gory humor going by taking its main characters to new heights of self-deception, self-centeredness, and even a little self-growth.

In season 4, the housemates reunite a year after the season 3 finale threw them around the world. Nandor the Relentless (Kayvan Novak) searches for love among his dozens of previous wives. After energy vampire Colin Robinson (Mark Proksch) dies and a baby hatches from the shell of his body, Laszlo (Matt Berry) has devoted himself to a fatherly urge to raise him in the most interesting way possible. Nadja (Natasia Demetriou) is thirsty to open a vampire nightclub and nothing can stop her, even when the blood blasters are on the brink. The Guide (Kristen Schaal), an administrator of the Vampire Council, becomes her distrustful partner. And Nandor’s confidant, Guillermo (Harvey Guillén), who despite his Van Helsing heritage aspires to be a vampire, has become all too familiar with the group’s disdain.

Most of the cast, now filming their fifth season in Toronto, gather in the light of the zoom in their separate hotel rooms (Demetriou is out with the flu and later catches up with her on the phone) to reflect on the season’s machinations.

“The writers do a great job of mixing things up so it doesn’t seem like we’re seeing the same thing every time,” says Demetriou. “These characters are all such selfish, horrible people, so it’s fun to do the stuff that they’re all about themselves. For me, the most important thing about this show is that it’s real, no-holds-barred comedy.”

Novak adds, “Somehow our characters reflect our real-life dynamics, and that flows into the show. And then Kristen shows up and just ruins everything.”

Schaal began the show’s first season with a cameo that has since evolved into a starring role. “I never know when I’ll be pulled from the show,” she says, “and I think you can see that hunger in my performance.”

The fourth season gave the Guide more backstory and a new role as a businesswoman. “Whenever demons can get a sweet bow, it’s unexpected, and in a way that makes it more endearing,” says Schaal. “The fun I had on the show with the guide is knowing that she’s a mythological character, she lives for hundreds of years, so it was such a freedom no matter what decision I make about her.”

The opening of the nightclub was “by far the most exciting thing I’ve seen from an arc so far, it let so much crazy stuff happen,” says Demetriou. “A nightclub seemed a perfect fit for these characters; It’s a place vampires would hang out, it’s dark and rambunctious, it’s horny and evil, it’s immoral at times. And Laszlo, becoming like a pushy showbiz mom was super fun.”

Baby Colin grows the most throughout the season as Proksch’s face is superimposed over a rapidly growing child’s body, leaving him largely alone in front of a green screen. When asked if he misses the group, he says dryly, “No, not particularly,” before adding, “Obviously I missed those guys. It was definitely something new for me to try and it was a bit of a challenge that breathed new life into the character. I wasn’t a kid for a long time so I went on YouTube and searched for kids who have crying fits and kids who keep on booming. Paul Simms, our showrunner, sent me some audio recordings of his kids talking about their favorite toys and that really helped speed up the timing. I wanted it to be realistic rather than just, ‘Oh, there’s an actor playing a kid and winking at you at the same time.’”

For all his bragging rights, Laszlo shows his tender side as Baby Colin’s fake daddy, a job that became more difficult as Berry worked primarily with a selection of child actors with spots on their faces. It is difficult for him “about 10 minutes, then you get used to it. They’re obviously very nervous because it’s alien, it’s a very strange thing for them, so you’re doing your best not to make them so nervous. There’s all sorts of things, rats and other creatures, and you don’t want to add any suspense, so just go ahead and make it as easy as possible.

The relentlessly narcissistic Nandor spends much of the season using a Djinn (Anoop Desai) to grant a series of terribly hasty wishes. But the worst part is when Nandor, jealous of Guillermo’s happiness with his first boyfriend, turns his new wife into that boyfriend’s replica. “Going to that extreme created some scenes for me and Harvey that I really enjoyed,” says Novak. “I suddenly had to accept, ‘Oh my god, I hurt Guillermo and I’m responsible for it, I’ll almost admit to myself that I might have done something s—.’ Not quite, but just enough to make it really interesting to play.”

Over the course of the series, Guillermo has gone from being a sad sod to a badass. Guillén credits Emmy-winning costume designer Laura Montgomery with assisting in this development. “She’s always very good at changing his looks a bit. He’s more comfortable in his own skin now, so his bodyguard outfit fits better. He unbuttons the top button.”

This season, Guillermo becomes even more true to himself as he comes out to his family. “Being queer myself, reading the episode was a bit triggering,” says Guillén. “But it was a really sweet moment for Guillermo because both his adopted family and his birth family would destroy each other and Nadja was in danger and the only reason he came out was to protect her.”

For all its absurdity, the show can be oddly touching, which is perhaps key to its enduring appeal. “The best comedy has heart and things to take care of,” says Demetriou. “But they always manage to undermine the sincere moments with a joke.”

One such moment comes after Baby Colin reverts to his deadly boring old self and an abandoned Laszlo plays “Sunrise, Sunset” on the piano. When the credits roll, Nadja sings along with a lot of feeling and without any audible musical ability. “So this is more emotionally troubling than sad,” she says. “It’s more like, ‘Oh, Jesus Christ, why is this person singing like that?'”

https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/awards/story/2022-11-21/what-we-do-in-the-shadows-cast-wildy-self-absorbed-characters ‘Shadows’ cast delight in these self-absorbed characters

Sarah Ridley

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