Seen at SXSW: What We Do in the Shadows Has a Bright Future

Film-to-television adaptations are a tricky business. They shoulder the burden of staying true to their source material, while also creating enough new story to create a runway for longevity. But as a packed Paramount Theater got to see in Austin on Friday night, What We Do in the Shadows has what it takes to strike the balance beautifully.

 

CO-creators and executive producers Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok) and Jemaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords) were on hand to produce this spiritual sequel to their 2014 film. In the series, the action moves from their native New Zealand to Staten Island, where a new trio of vampires (Kayvan Novak, Natasia Demetriou, and Matt Berry) and their hapless familiar (Harvey Guillén) accept the charge to take over the world. Novak and Berry take on the at once familial and competitive nature of the film’s vampires, while Demetriou’s addition introduces a new relationship that shows what a centuries-old romance between vampires can look like- a dynamic the film didn’t explore.

When the film was released in 2014, the mockumentary format was at its peak, thanks in part to shows like , , Reno 911!, and Modern Family, and films like Popstar and Operation Avalanche. And although the format has died down in popularity, it still works beautifully here. At one point, a visiting vampire cringes at the presence of the documentary crew, but the others are quick to spackle over that fourth wall. And Waititi and Clement were quick to dismiss it further for the crowd at the Paramount, lauding one another for the bravery and honesty it took to “dig for the truth truffles” that lay in the vampire world.

 

After the screening, the full cast joined the producers for a brief Q&A. Among the tidbits we learned:

  • Why Staten Island? Clement’s stated reasons were twofold: first, they had wanted to shoot in New York, and Staten Island has a lot of mansions that worked for setting. Second, vampires coming to America from Europe at the time the characters arrived, likely would have come through ports there. As it happens, the setting ended up being less consequential than expected- which is why Waititi told us to not “worry if parts of Staten Island seem to look like downtown Toronto.”
  • The season ahead will bring more types of vampires than were depicted in the original film. One makes a debut in the premiere- and his arrival brought some of the biggest laughs of the night.
  • While many of the elements of the film did (or will) cross over into the show, Clement and Waititi were tight-lipped about revealing if the film’s werewolves would make an appearance. Clement responded to the question with a series of eyebrow wiggles and slight nods, which by his admission “[counts as] a whole conversation in New Zealand.”

 

What We Do in the Shadows comes to light- for dedicated fans and curious new viewers alike- March 27th at 10pm ET on FX.

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Amma Marfo

Amma Marfo is a writer, speaker, and podcaster based in Boston, MA. Her writing has appeared in Femsplain, The Good Men Project, Pacific Standard, and Talking Points Memo. Chances are good that as you're reading this, she's somewhere laughing.
Amma Marfo
Amma Marfo
Amma Marfo is a writer, speaker, and podcaster based in Boston, MA. Her writing has appeared in Femsplain, The Good Men Project, Pacific Standard, and Talking Points Memo. Chances are good that as you're reading this, she's somewhere laughing.