‘What We Do in the Shadows’ Director on Nadja’s Blonde Hair, Newsroom Antics & More

Natasia Demetriou, Kristen Schaal, and Matt Berry in 'What We Do in the Shadows' Season 5
Spoiler Alert
Russ Martin/ FX

[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for What We Do in the Shadows Season 5 Episode 5, “Local News.”]

What We Do in the Shadows brought its vampires into the light…. of a newsroom studio in its latest installment, “Local News,” after the roommates found themselves in a dicey situation.

It all began when Nandor (Kayvan Novak) began oversharing information about himself to a local reporter who was broadcasting about a water main break on his street. With Guillermo (Harvey Guillén) out of the house saying goodbyes to his unsuspecting family, the vampires only made matters worse without him around to guide their actions.

What unfolded was the booby-trapping of their home by Colin Robinson (Mark Proksch) to protect it from humans, the creation of a nine-step plan by Laszlo (Matt Berry), a blonde makeover for Nadja (Natasia Demetriou), and unhelpful assistance by the well-intentioned Guide (Kristen Schaal). Helping to create this chaos onscreen was episode director Yana Gorskaya, who is also Emmy-nominated for for her work on Season 4’s installment, “Go Flip Yourself,” which got a fun call-out in this episode.

Kayvan Novak and Harvey Guillén in 'What We Do in the Shadows' Season 5

(Credit: Russ Martin/ FX)

Considering your work on this episode and Season 4’s “Go Flip Yourself,” I need to know, do you enjoy tearing apart the vampires’ house?

Yana Gorskaya: Well, I do enjoy a gag. I do enjoy a stunt. What I don’t enjoy is the look on our lovely production designer Shayne Fox’s face when we talk about ripping apart the house. That breaks my heart a little bit every time, but it’s always worth it because she rebuilt it so quickly.

What goes into capturing all of the action viewers see onscreen? There’s so much going on when the vampires start booby-trapping the home and planning their escape.

In terms of the gags, it’s a tremendous amount of planning because we are still on a TV schedule and the show is extremely ambitious. What the actors might do around it and the ways they might start to riff is the playground part, right? But the gags themselves and the blocking is very much settled before we even get there and practice. I’ll even go and try things. I punched through that painting to make sure that Natasia can do it. For me, the best gag is a throwaway gag, something that’s happening in the background that we almost didn’t get because the cameras weren’t exactly in the perfect place. So I’m always fighting for those. Paul Simms, our showrunner, loves those as well. It just makes it feel like a documentary and not like a sitcom.

At one point while a TV is running in the background of a scene, does Go Flip Yourself begin playing?

[Yes], because it’s on 24 hours [a day] on network television. Definitely. Go Flip Yourself!

Kristen Schaal in 'What We Do in the Shadows' Season 5

(Credit: Russ Martin/ FX)

This episode takes on various perspectives. Did you have to use different cameras in the newsroom than you normally do with the docuseries team following the vampires?

I mean, we did a ton of research similar to when we did “Go Flip Yourself” in terms of just getting the language exactly right of local news. So we met with camera people and local news producers. The anchor people that we cast were actual local news anchors. The set was based on local news sets. We shot half of the episode that’s in the news space at a different frame rate because — this is super technical, but my editor nerd brain lights up at this stuff — news is shot at 30 frames per second, but you know, regular television is 24 [frames per second] and a more cinematic look. So 30 is what you think of as a video look. The news [segments in the show] were shot at 30. That was really important for it to feel like real local news.

Nadja also really changes up her look by going blonde. What was the biggest challenge in achieving that as it probably impacts the makeup and lighting as well?

Probably the biggest challenge of that is apparently there was a worldwide wig hair shortage while we were making this episode. And our hair designer, our department head, Tamara Harrod, was like, “I can’t pull this off. We can’t get that much blonde hair. I mean, even if I dyed it, there’s no hair.” And I was like, “Tamara, I know you can do this, you can pull this off.” And she made some back alley deal in a parking lot in the middle of the night to get hair. She’s like, “You don’t wanna know how I got this, but I got the hair.” So it was touch and go. I mean, she had to make those two wigs, ’cause Dolly, her hair always matches as do her clothes. So that part of it was a little bit like, “Are we even gonna get this wig? What’s it gonna look like?” But she got real hair in a parking lot at 3 a.m.

The vampires get caught on camera pulling a car out of a hole in the street. How was that achieved visually?

We had the car on set, and we shot it on a stage going into a hole. And then there was a [visual effects] stitch that was seamless and so marvelously planned by our VFX team, led by Stephen Pugh. We had many conversations about getting it right because news doesn’t cut, so it was really important that it just be one continuous take. We couldn’t actually dig a real hole on a street, so we knew it had to be VFX. So, we had many conversations about getting that right because if it didn’t look real, the whole thing just doesn’t work.

While the vampires are getting involved in this silly situation, Guillermo’s just trying to have a serious night with his family. What was it like getting to capture a more emotional side of the action with his story in this episode?

That whole cast is so lovely and so warm with each other and immediately clicked with Harvey. My technique with them was to get out of the way to give them permission to just keep talking and just talk over each other [like] when cameras aren’t rolling, and they did quite happily and brilliantly. I think because they were so natural and warm with each other, that made the emotion of it all very accessible for Harvey.

Now that you’ve tackled the home improvement format like Go Flip Yourself and the local news, is there any kind of show within the show you’d like to see next?

I’m always lobbying for an all-archival episode, like home movies that they took in the ’70s. I want a found-footage episode of Shadows. Like, you know, digging something up from the attic and finding all these film reels from different times, from the ’20s on. I would kill to do that because I love playing with the formats and I’m such a nerd.

What We Do in the Shadows, Season 5, Thursdays, 10/9c, FX