‘What We Do in the Shadows’ EP on Emmy Nom & Working With Mark Hamill for Season 2
What We Do in the Shadows has been making viewers laugh for two years, and it’s getting the recognition it deserves with multiple Emmy nominations at this year’s ceremony.
The FX comedy about vampire roommates living on Staten Island delivered so many hilarious plot lines, ranging from Super Bowl parties gone astray to run-ins with witches in Season 2. So it’s unsurprising to see that Shadows is being recognized in several categories including Outstanding Comedy Series and Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series.
Executive producer and writer Stefani Robinson is part of the team which made it all happen and is nominated for her sure-to-be-iconic episode “On the Run” in which Laszlo (Matty Berry) runs off in an attempt to avoid former acquaintance Jim the Vampire (played by guest star Mark Hamill). Already a prior nominee for her work on FX’s other hit series Atlanta, Robinson spoke to TV Insider about Shadows‘ Emmy nominations, whether or not Laszlo’s alter-ego Jackie Daytona will resurface and what it was like getting to work with Star Wars legend Hamill.
What was your initial reaction to the news that not only the show had been nominated, but you were also nominated for writing “On the Run”?
Stefani Robinson: I was completely surprised. I woke up and my phone was blowing up, and my dad was on the phone like, “Oh my God, I need to talk to you. Congratulations.” I had totally forgotten that the Emmy nominations were even coming out. And it was one of the things that you’re aware of in the recesses of your mind, but I was not thinking about it at all. [It was] pretty shocking, I’d say.
You’ve been nominated in the past for Atlanta — was it the same level of excitement this time around?
I think it was the same level of excitement, but it was a little bit different because I think the shows that I now have been nominated for are totally different. Atlanta is its own thing, it’s a very special show and people really love it. I think What We Do in the Shadows is a specific show that people also really love, but it had a niche cult following until this past season. So the idea that it was nominated and recognized by the Academy and by the voters on such a big platform like this, it was special in a different way.
You’re nominated for writing “On the Run.” How does an episode like that come together? Where did the concept come from?
It was actually a group effort. I won’t take too much of the credit because really it’s shared by our amazing writers. Jemaine Clement, specifically, was the one who has this kernel of an idea. He knew coming into Season 2 that he thought it might be funny if Laszlo was on the run from somebody. It was non-specific. He didn’t really know what the story was or what the deal was. We were going back and forth. He just had this idea — “I think it’d be funny if Laszlo leaves the house and just has to keep running from this person.”
We talked about different ways that might work, what the story was and then it was me and a few other people who just got hung up on this idea of what if Laszlo’s hiding out in a small town, but he just never leaves. It’s not this long cat-and-mouse type chase. We build it up to make it seem like it’s going to be, and then we just pivot. Maybe he’s there for years, for decades, who knows. But that was in the really early stages. The idea felt like it was just too crazy that we weren’t going to do it, but I’m glad that we did.
Mark Hamill played the vampire who was chasing after Laszlo. Was he always going to play that role or was he chosen after the script was finished?
No, it was a role that we had written and we didn’t know who we were going to cast. We just knew it should be someone funny, but also big and interesting. We wanted someone who was interesting and who felt like they were going to live and exist in the world of the show. It was just one of those things that we had a bunch of names and after looking at them, it was sort of, well, “We’ll just try for Mark Hamill.” He’s a fan of the show. He’s so amazingly talented. We had to try to get this guy. And it’s crazy. I think there was a part of me in my mind that didn’t think that we were going to get Mark Hamill.
What was it like getting to see him reciting your script alongside the rest of the cast?
It was so nuts. It was really crazy. I still don’t think that I fully internalized it yet. Because we were on set and he would have the script and come over and be like, “Stefani, what do you think about this line? Or what did you mean here? Or what should I feel here? Or can I try it this way?” and this is Mark Hamill. It was a very surreal experience to have this person check in with me to make sure that he was honoring the character. He’s such a professional. Hanging out with him and talking about Star Wars or his life, it was pretty crazy.
The episode also introduced Laszlo’s alias Jackie Daytona. Do you think we’ll ever see that side of him resurface in the series down the road?
I think so. I think why not? We are one of those shows where everything feels like it’s fair game and can return. I think [we] encourage that kind of thing. In the case of, like, Nick Kroll as Simon the Devious coming back, there’s opportunity for anyone and anything to come back. That’s sort of the fun of a show that is about supernatural creations. I would love for him to come back.
You mentioned talking with Mark Hamill about the script, but how often would you say the writers collaborate with the cast?
Very often. I think it’s less of a formal thing, less sitting down and going over a script and more collaboration in terms of improvisation. The actors will be shooting a scene that’s written a couple of times and then they’ll ask me or the other writers and producers, if it’s okay to try different things. It’s something that we encourage all the time. We love it. The actors are so funny and talented and very smart people. And I think they’ve got a better handle on their characters. So in that respect, they’re much more comfortable with just knowing what their character would say. We give them free range to do those kinds of things whenever they feel inspired to.
This show is famously set in the same universe as the 2014 film What We Do in the Shadows. Do you find that challenging or helpful when it comes to storytelling?
I think it’s easier because the movie is so funny. [Film stars and show EPs] Taika [Waititi] and Jemaine are so funny and smart and they spent a lot of time with these rules to make sense for this world. It’s also good because there’s so many different versions [of vampires]. They’ve been presented in the media so many different ways and there are often contradictory ways that they appear. It’s nice to say, “In our world, this is what is true of our vampires.” I have some guidance, but there’s not enough rules to a point where we can’t have some fun or create something new that feels surprising or different.
Speaking of different, is there anything you can tease about the show’s future? Has work on Season 3 already begun?
We’re writing scripts. So yeah, Season 3 is taking shape. What I will tease is, obviously our vampires have to deal with the consequences of the Season 2 finale, and the fact that Guillermo murdered potentially hundreds of vampires in a theater. But other than that we’re back and it’s taking shape.
And what do you imagine the vampires would be up to in quarantine?
Oh man … whole lot of screwing. They’re very freaky people. I think that it’s probably something very over the top sexual. Either that, or doing a whole lot of nothing. Probably doing what everybody else is doing. Lots of sleeping, eating, killing UberEATS drivers. Somewhere in that range between lots of inappropriate and freaky sexual encounters to sitting around doing a whole lot of nothing.
What We Do in the Shadows, Seasons 1 and 2, Streaming now, FX on Hulu