When you think vampires, you think horror and mystery — OK, even sexy sometimes a la “True Blood.”
“What We Do In the Shadows” shows what a group of vampires do the rest of the time when they’re lounging around in Staten Island.
The new FX comedy, premiering Wednesday (10 p.m.), is based on a 2014 movie of the same name starring Jermaine Clement (“Flight of the Conchords”) and Taika Waititi (“Thor: Ragnarok”) — and plays like an extension of “The Office,” only this time with vampires. The mockumentary follows a trio of undead roommates living in Staten Island and captures the mundane moments of their daily existence — from squabbles over household chores to the difficulties of procuring the blood of virgins.
“I saw the movie when it came out, just as a fan,” says executive producer Paul Simms, who previously worked on “Conchords” with Clement. Simms says even though it’s been five years since the film, the FX series hasn’t been in the works this entire time.
“Jemaine and [Taika Waititi] made the movie, and they were not actively trying to make a show,” he says. “Then [co-executive producer Scott Rudin] said it should be a show. So it’s only been about a year that we’ve been putting it together. I liked the challenge of trying to figure out how to make it a new setting and new vampires, but still maintain the comedy of what the movie was.”
Kayvan Novak as NandorJohn P Johnson/FX
The main challenge? Finding vampires who could hold a candle to Clement and Waititi, who co-created and starred in the film but opted not to appear in the FX series (they’re both executive producers). “The vampires are, in their own strange way, immigrants — both to America and immigrants in time, since they’re from a different time but live in the modern time,” says Simms. “We felt like British actors were the right way to go.”
That led to the show’s main trio of Staten Island vampires: Lazlo (Matt Berry, “Toast of London”); Nandor (Kayvan Novak, “Danger Mouse”; and Nadja (Natasia Demetriou, “Stath Lets Flats”). Each plays an aristocratic, Bela Lugosi-type vampire dealing with life in the New York City borough.
“[The film] stuck out in my mind… I was like ‘Oh my god, they’ve come up with the funniest idea, they’re brilliant, I’ll just give up!’” says Demetriou. “It was such a fresh way of using the mockumentary style … so funny to take it and send off vampire culture. When [I auditioned for the show], me and my ex-boyfriend were supposed to go on a holiday, and I was like, ‘I have to cancel it!’ It was the most exciting audition I’d ever had in my life.”
Demetriou’s presence is one of the main differences between the show and the film, since the latter’s vampires were all male.
“All the writers were incredible, but it was very collaborative,” she says. “I really didn’t want [Nadja] to be just the clever one. Often it’s seen as empowering if you’re cleverer than the men, or more aware — then you’re giving the woman a great strong role. And that’s true to an extent. But when it’s a comedy, you want to be as mad and silly and funny as the men. So I pushed [for that].”
The other main difference is the show’s setting (the film was set in New Zealand).
“We wanted them to be in New York, but I feel like every show that’s set in New York is either the glitzy Manhattan or the hipster Brooklyn,” says Simms. “No one ever gives any love to Staten Island. It’s a little more suburban — it’s New York’s version of the rest of America.
“We also found it funny the vampires were so lazy that Staten Island is where the boat dropped them off and they never ventured any further — and just assumed that Staten Island was the center of America.”