Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi are heavily involved in FX’s upcoming TV adaptation of their 2014 vampire comedy, “What We Do in the Shadows” — with the exception that they aren’t starring on the series.
Instead of reprising their roles as vampire housemates Vladislav (Clement) and Viago (Waititi) alongside Jonathan Brugh’s Deacon, the film’s directors decided to let a new crew of bloodsuckers take over the leading roles for the mockumentary series.
During the Television Critics Association press tour Monday, Clement, who created and executive produces the series alongside Waititi and Paul Simms, told TheWrap why he and his former co-stars aren’t going to be in front of the screen this time. And yes, it’s mainly because Waititi was busy joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But that’s not the whole story.
“For a couple of reasons. For one, Taika had got me to talk to [executive producer] Scott Rudin about making the show, and then just when we’d agreed to do it Taika said, ‘I’m doing Thor 3,'” Clement told TheWrap of his fellow “What We Do in the Shadows” executive producer — who directed 2017’s “Thor: Ragnarok.” “So it seemed like he wouldn’t have been able to be in it. And it would have been weird to have the rest of us in it and not him. And as it happened that didn’t matter, because by the time it was finished he’d finished that movie.”
“But also just that it’s set in America and just felt like it should be different people, you know, different characters,” Clement added.
After TheWrap spoke with Clement, Waititi told reporters following the show’s panel later Monday that once FX agreed to do the series, “then about like a week later I got ‘Thor’ — so I was like, ‘OK, peace out Jemaine. You’re on your own.'”
He added: “I went off and did the movie and so he had to really take over and do all the writing. I was very lucky that I got to come in and put my name on it, and then come in and direct a few episodes.”
With no Waititi, Clement, or Brugh, the TV version of “What We Do in the Shadows” has a new set of housemates, including self-appointed leader Nandor the Relentless (Kayvan Novak), British vampire Laszlo (Matt Berry) and his lover Nadja (Natasia Demetriou), Nandor’s familiar aka servant Guillermo (Harvey Guillén), and “energy vampire” Colin Robinson (Mark Proksch).
So why is it set in America — specifically Staten Island, New York — instead of New Zealand, as the film is? That one is easy: because it’s an American series, Clement says.
“We talked a lot about different places it could be: Detroit, Pennsylvania — because they thought it sounded like Transylvania was one of them, that was probably second runner-up,” Clement told TheWrap.
Fellow executive producer Simms added: “We sort of wanted a part of America that’s sometimes overlooked. Like we knew we wanted it to be New York, but we feel like everyone knows what Manhattan and Brooklyn are like.”
Staten Island is also where the vampires would have landed when they immigrated, which is how Clement said they ultimately justified the location the bloodsuckers came to — and decided to remain residences of for the last 200 years.
Clement created the 10-episode series and executive produces alongside Waititi (who directed a few episodes), Simms, Scott Rudin, Garrett Basch and Eli Bush.
“What We Do in the Shadows” is produced by FX Productions and stars Berry, Novak, Demetriou, Guillén and Proksch, who guest starred in the pilot before being promoted to series regular.
Watch the show’s new trailer here.
“What We Do in the Shadows” premieres March 27 at 10/9c on FX.