Based on the feature film by Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi, who both executive produce the series along with Paul Simms, the FX comedy series What We Do in the Shadows tells the story of the nightly exploits of vampire roommates Nandor (Kayvan Novak), Nadja (Natasia Demetriou), Laszlo (Matt Berry) and Colin Robinson (Mark Proksch), as they navigate the human world. And with their human familiar Guillermo (Harvey Guillén) wondering whether he’s destined to be a vampire or if he’s truly a vampire hunter, there’s always a crisis of character, just around the corner.
During this 1-on-1 interview with Collider, actor Mark Proksch talked about why What You Do in the Shadows is a dream job for a comedic actor, the encouragement of creativity that occurs on the set, the struggle that he had with his character this season, playing the lurker, and how this literal energy vampire is easily relatable for anyone who’s known a metaphorical energy vampire.
MARK PROKSCH: Yeah. It’s that dream job, for a comedic actor, which is getting to work with people that you liked before you ever met them and got to work with them. You just know that their talent is bringing exactly what you wanna see, every time that you start acting with them. That’s not always the case. Sometimes in comedy there are different levels of what people consider perfection, and with these guys, it’s the highest level of perfection for them, every time.
Is there an encouragement of creativity, on this set?
PROKSCH: I’m always trying to get out of my head, but it’s a very comfortable set. We all know that we’re trying stuff, and some stuff will work and some stuff won’t work, but you never feel pressure not to do something because you may look foolish, or you’re worried about what someone will think, which is rare. In real life, we’re constantly thinking, “Should I do this? Should I not do this? Will people make fun of me for this? For wearing that?” Luckily, on set, (executive producers) Paul Simms and Jemaine [Clement], and those guys, have really allowed us to feel very comfortable, and we can ad-lib and improvise, all we want. In fact, they encourage it, sometimes over what’s written, and you have to say, “No, this is actually really funny, what you guys wrote.” They’re also just fans of watching us come up with our own stuff, so they’re very encouraging, that way.
The more you get to know your character and the better you feel that you know who he is, does it make that kind of improv easier?
PROKSCH: For me, the struggle this season was, “Am I too comfortable with this character, right now? Am I doing something that is just an easy joke, or am I doing something that feels more like Season 8 of the show?” If my character is just doing something that he wouldn’t really do, or it’s just over the top, I’m not a fan of that style of comedy. You have to be as true to the character as you can be. Sometimes not saying a damn thing is the funniest thing that you can do. That’s learned, over a long period of time. So, there are times where I’ll do something, and then I’ll be like, “Maybe I should just not do anything here. Am I going too far with the character? Am I throwing the character under the bus?” That was my issue, this season, trying to find that balance.
Colin Robinson seems like a tricky character because he is someone who could easily be the one that people forget about in the room, with these other very big personalities who are in outrageous wardrobe.
PROKSCH: And a lot of times, they’re driving the story. I have to remember that that’s what the character is. He’s a lurker. He’s part of the wallpaper. Every once in awhile, he’ll peep up and you’ll see him.
What did you enjoy about Colin’s journey, in Season 2?
PROKSCH: Colin decided to upgrade his lifestyle, for just a little while, so he bought a fancy convertible and became a little bit of a bachelor. He was a little more sexual this year. He was at the orgy, too, so it was hard to top that, but it was in a weirder way. At one point, he had a promotion at work, which was to the detriment of everyone in his life, that he, all of a sudden, was given even more power and a captive audience. It wasn’t to the benefit of the world, when it comes to Collin Robinson.
This seems like a show where anything could happen, if you can figure out how to sell it.
PROKSCH: Yeah, it’s like a cartoon, in that way. When you’re dealing with supernatural stuff and comedy in one, you can get away with so much that you couldn’t, on a show like Baskets, where it’s grounded in reality. We’re really lucky, in that way, that we’re allowed to go for the joke, as hard as possible. That’s really an interesting thing, especially in this day and age of sad comedies. We’re one of the only straightforward cable sitcom comedies, and I hope people appreciate it and like it. There’s no message. There’s no hugging. Well, there is hugging. They don’t like hugging me, but there is hugging. We’re not pushing any agenda, whatsoever, other than that this is funny. It’s The Munsters. They’re absolutely idiots, all of them. You can’t rely on them to get something done, and they get scared so easily. One of my favorite comedic actors of all time is Don Knotts, who did the arrogant idiot. He was this blustery person, who’s terrified as soon as anything scary happens, but talks a big game, up to that point. Bob Hope did the same thing. I love that type of humor. That’s the entire cast of this show is. All of the characters are terrified, as soon as anything scary happens. That, to me, is really funny.
Is it sad to play a character like this, who wants to have relationships and friendships, but can’t when he sucks your energy away?
PROKSCH: Yeah, all he wants are friends, but at the same time, he can’t have that. He doesn’t live to feed, he feeds to live. He wants these relationships, but he has to eat you to have a relationship. So, it’s pretty one-sided. I think we’ve all been in those relationships. Everyone is always suspicious of him, at least in the house. They know he’s an energy vampire, so any kind gesture that he gives is met with suspicion.
Are there things that you’ve grown to appreciate about this character, the longer you’ve played him?
PROKSCH: Yeah. He’s one of those people that you really do meet in real life. For me, what I’ve learned to appreciate about him is really how he is able to maneuver relationships and use that to its advantage. There are other energy vampires in his world, and he knows that people see that in him and recognize that, but he still has to keep up some sort of relationship, for them to buy into it, each time that he opens his mouth. I worked a lot on that, this year, and that was a revelation to me, after watching Season 1. People are aware and they know what he is, to some extent. They just don’t know that he’s a literal energy vampire. That balance was fun to work with, this season.
What We Do in the Shadows airs on Wednesday nights on FX.