‘What We Do in the Shadows’ EPs on That Cameo & ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ Shout-Out
[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for What We Do in the Shadows, Season 3, Episode 10, “The Portrait.”]
Fans of What We Do in the Shadows know that it’s filled with pop culture references — even if most of its vampire characters are unaware of their significance.
But in the show’s Season 3 finale, there was a deliberate callout to another TV hit, RuPaul’s Drag Race, that, according to showrunner Paul Simms‘ wasn’t even planned. “Taika [Waititi], when he was doing that videotaped message, improvised the thing about, ‘You’re not taping over RuPaul’s Drag Race?'”
Waititi, who is the show’s executive producer, briefly appeared via VHS recording in a message from the Supreme Worldwide Vampiric Council as his vampire character Viago who first appeared in 2014’s What We Do in the Shadows movie. As he relayed a message of invitation for Nadja (Natasia Demetriou) to join the Council in London, Viago couldn’t help but ask whoever was recording him if they were taping over the fellow TV favorite.
The tee-up from Waititi allowed the writers to play with the reference later on in the episode as Nadja prepared to head overseas. “That led us to [think], if Nadja’s going off to work for this guy, she would probably go, ‘I’ve got to catch up on everything about RuPaul’s Drag Race. I don’t know what this show is, but I have to watch it.'”
By the episode’s end, Guillermo (Harvey Guillen) had loaded Nadja’s laptop with every episode of the reality staple. “RuPaul’s Drag Race is just fun,” Simms says. “I think even if you’re a vampire who doesn’t pay attention to anything in pop culture, you probably have some awareness that there’s a fun TV show called RuPaul’s Drag Race.”
“Yeah, it’s high camp and big costumes and life or death stakes. It feels very vampiric in a way,” echoes episode writer and co-executive producer Sam Johnson. The allusions are something he doesn’t take for granted creatively. “I worked on Frasier years ago, and the rule in that room always was no pop-cultural references,” Johnson recalls. “You didn’t want to date the show… Now I work at this show where there’s an actual Frasier reference, and I think it’s funny as hell.”
The show’s more recent references are due in part to Guillermo and energy vamp Colin Robinson (Mark Proksch), but after the latter’s rebirth as a baby-like being, it’s unclear if he’ll be able to pitch in on that dynamic in Season 4. Stay tuned as the show enters a new phase in its upcoming fourth season.
What We Do in the Shadows, Season 4 Premiere, TBA, FX