During the Season 4 premiere of “What We Do in the Shadows,” Nandor (Kayvan Novak) drops some unexpected wisdom.
He’s back from a visit to his former home of Al Quolindar, where everyone in his old village is now a vampire. Despite the rare treat of being surrounded by his kind, Nandor didn’t care for it.
“If everyone is a vampire, there’s nothing special about being a vampire,” he says morosely to his familiar, Guillermo (Harvey Guillén). “It was not good for my mental health.”
Season 4 of FX’s gothic mockumentary about a crew of the undead living in Staten Island finds what’s special about everyone: From Nandor himself as he searches for love to Nadja (Natasha Demetriou) starting a vampire nightclub to Laszlo (Matt Berry) caring for the creature that crawled out of his dead friend’s chest. Showrunner Paul Simms spoke to IndieWire via Zoom about what went into those arcs and how they might pan out over the course of 10 episodes.
IndieWire: Leadership looks good on Nadja. How did you land on her nightclub storyline this season?
SIMMS: There were two things. The main one was that we’d always talked about how Nadja had been turned into a vampire at a relatively young age and had never had a chance to have a job or make her way in the world or be in charge of anything, so it’s really fun seeing her in a position of power and calling the shots and realizing the dream with all the frustrations that go along with that. The other aspect was just that from the very beginning of the series, we talked about how all those ’80s and ’90s vampire movies always have a vampire nightclub that’s sort of erotic and dirty and in a warehouse — there’s pounding industrial music and cool people and then blood sprinklers sprang from the ceiling. We just thought it would be funny to to look at what happens if you really try to do that; you gotta get contractors and you have to have contractors put in the blood sprinklers, and do the blood sprinklers work, and what happens when your big act doesn’t show up, and all the mundane headaches of actually running a nightclub even though it’s this weird, Gothic vampire nightclub.
I love watching her both try to be professional with and also butt heads with the Guide (Kristen Schaal).
Kristen did us a huge favor in the first season by coming in just to do that guest star spot and we always wanted to get her back. I think the fun of this season was seeing the two of them together in this way where it’s obvious that the Guide sort of idolizes Nadja and wants to be part of the gang, and Nadja is still not quite letting her into the group. They’re friends, but Nadja definitely keeps her in her place. You can even see in some of the wardrobe that the Guide is always sort of imitating Nadja and trying to be cool. It’s one of those relationships where the Guide has been alone taking care of the vampiric council for so long — she’s a lonely person and now she suddenly has a chance to be friends with the cool girl and it’s fun to watch them together.
How has Nandor and Guillermo’s relationship evolved since Season 1?
From the beginning, Nandor doesn’t treat Guillermo particularly well. All Guillermo wants to do is become a vampire, — even the beginning of this season, Guillermo has finally had it with the neglect and abuse that he’s had to suffer and is like, “That’s it. I’m out of here.”
Then Guillermo has a conscience, perhaps unlike the other characters — the other characters probably have small consciences —[and] realizes he can’t just leave this poor defenseless child behind in this house full of lunatics. Also, Guillermo is flattered that Nandor has asked him to be the best man at his wedding even though Nandor has not actually chosen a wife yet, he’s just made the rash decision that getting married is the answer to all his problems. Obviously as the series progressed, even though Nandor is still sort of dismissive of Guillermo, we’ve shown moments where Nandor really can’t live without him. Guillermo [and] Nandor — I mean, they love each other, even though it’s perhaps not the healthiest relationship.
I gasped in the premiere when Nandor dove into the sewage after him.
He’s got to save his little buddy!
It was beautiful! Why is Nandor so focused on finding a wife to solve all of his problems?
I think that happens every day: People make random rash decisions thinking that’ll fix things. So much of last season was about him searching for love and then having an existential crisis and wondering what his place is in the universe. Also, from the beginning, Laszlo and Nadja have such a strong and healthy relationship. They may bicker, but they are deeply in love with no questions and no jealousies, and I think it makes Nandor feel like he’s missing out on something — but in typical Nandor fashion instead of going about it the slow way he just dives right in and says, “Marriage is the answer: Now I just need to find a wife.”
Now that he has a wife, we haven’t gotten to know her that much, but can we expect to see more of that relationship?
Yes. The story as it progresses is we often think our wives or boyfriends or girlfriends: “Oh, if we could just change one thing about them…” There’s maybe one annoying thing. As the season progresses, Nandor has what he says is a perfect wife and then he starts trying to make her more and more perfect. It looks at it in almost a fairy-tale slash-cautionary-tale type way about what would happen if you actually were able to change the people that you loved.
I’ve lost count of how many wishes he used —
Oh, don’t worry. We spend a lot of the season checking off and making sure that we knew how many, but there’s a very funny point in a few episodes where we realize just how lazy he’s been about keeping track himself and how he’s wasted so many wishes on absolutely frivolous things. He is not smart or frugal about using his wishes.
So we’re going to see more of the djinn as well (Anoop Desai)?
Yes, he’s all through the season. That was fun just because you always hear stories about genies and it’s always three wishes, and the djinn self admittedly says, “My job is to grant people wishes but also teach them a lesson about ‘Be careful what you wish for,'” so there’s a lot of that through the season. Like when Nandor wants to have the world’s biggest penis — that was a fun one where if you made the initial wish, there are a 1000 ways the djinn could really screw you over on that. So it was fun having Nandor and Guillermo sit down almost like a legal meeting trying to second guess every possible way that this could go wrong.
All of these things come up in in a very “What We Do In The Shadows” way — the logistics of the nightclub and the djinn and all — it fits right in and it feels so natural for the show.
People who haven’t seen the show, I always tell them if you’re a superfan it’s great because there are these extended story arcs, but if you’re not you can watch any episode out of order at all. It’s not one of those shows where you have to know the whole mythology and who did this — I mean, it makes it a little more fun, but if you watch any random episode, our goal is to make it just a really funny episode. It’s not that hard to explain: It’s a bunch of vampires living in Staten Island, it’s a pretty simple concept. Once you get that, everything else makes sense and hopefully it gives you lots of laughs.
“What We Do in the Shadows” airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on FX.