Q&A: Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi of 'What We Do in the Shadows'

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Life Sucks: Imagine 'Real World' set in the unreal world of vampires. What We Do in the Shadows

Early in the new comedy What We Do in the Shadows we see three vampire flatmates arguing about stuff less eternal roomies might, with a twist: "You have not done the dishes for five years," one complains, and he's not exaggerating.

The living dead not quite living together in New Zealand (played by co-directors and writers Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi, actor and writer respectively of HBO's Flight of the Conchords, and Jonathan Brugh as the kid of the bunch, at 183) squabble, sleep and give each other fashion tips before heading out for a night of disco dancing and virgin hunting. And since vampires can't see themselves in the mirror, they do the companionable thing and draw likenesses of each other. "I go for a look I call dead but delicious," says Clement's Vladislav, an 862-year-old vampire with some anger issues.

Newsweek talked to Clement and Waititi about the movie's gestation and what happens to vampires' clothes when they turn into bats.

Have you invented a new genre, mashing up vampires and the housemate reality show?

Clement: We wanted to mash up genres, yeah. But because it took us a long time to get the script done and actually make it there was always a fear that it would be done quite a lot. And it started to happen anyway with things like Cloverfield.

You have fun with some of the less-known complications in vampire lore, like them not being able to go in where they are not invited.

Clement: They only mention it briefly in a lot of those [vampire] movies. There was one thing in the Lost Boys with the guy who was trying to date Corey Haim's mum; he wants to come into the house.… There's a chase scene in Fright Night, and I remember watching it and thinking, How did he get in the bar? Was he invited in; was the bouncer involved? We were both thinking about that kind of thing. We both wondered where their clothes came from ["You might bite someone and say, 'Those are nice pants!'" says Brugh 's Deacon]… We had a lot more that didn't make it into the movie, like what happens to the clothes when you turn into a bat?

How much improvising led to scenes?

Waititi: It was all improvised, actually. We wrote the script but we withheld it from the actors to keep their performances natural. So they're always coming up with their own lines to make it feel as real as possible. It was already sort of over the top with the kind of characters we were playing, if it was scripted I think it would have felt a bit too fake. Obviously the story was heavily scripted; we knew everything that was going to happen.

Why does one of them stop the others from cursing, saying, "We're werewolves, not swearwolves?"

Clement: That was in the script.… The idea was to get them to become animals by making them swear.

Any thoughts on the timeless appeal of vampires to young people, especially young women?

Clement: I think casting has a lot to do with it…. The male vampires have powers, and the females are in love with a tortured soul…. They're the perfect bad boys because they act like they're very vulnerable as well.

You have four eternally eligible bachelors as flatmates; what would change for them over time?

Waititi: Without giving anything away, I like to think things worked out quite well for my character and maybe he's even moved into a new place.

Clement: My character is still stuck where he was, just in a different place.

Why aren't they happier? They get to live forever.

Clement: It's pretty rare to have a happy vampire character.

Q&A: Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi of 'What We Do in the Shadows' | Culture