What We Do in the Shadows wrapped up its fourth season last night, ending a hugely enjoyable ride that included a vampire nightclub, a wedding, the Jersey Devil, a very tricky home-renovation project, and some major character growth—including, quite literally, for Mark Proksch’s Colin Robinson. io9 jumped at the chance to speak with Proksch and series producer-showrunner-writer Paul Simms to learn more.
If you haven’t watched the finale, beware!
Cheryl Eddy, io9: Before we talk about the season finale, I have to ask you about Baby Colin’s hobbies this season, because they were so specific—Legos, YouTube, musical theater, Roblox. How did you come up with those?
Paul Simms: Most of it was from my own 10-year-old son, Charlie, and my 12-year-old daughter, Violet. Especially the Roblox. The Roblox and the Legos were from them. The musical theater was a little more from me. But Baby Colin’s habit of just talking about his own interests without really listening to see if anyone else is paying attention also came from them. In fact, at one point I took a walk with my son and I secretly recorded him talking about YouTube personalities. I sent that to Mark to give him some idea of of how children, as much as we love them, can in their own way be energy vampires.
io9: Can you guys walk me through the technology you used this season to create the Baby Colin character? It’s always Mark’s face, but there were obviously child actors involved too. What was it like on set and how did you blend all that together?
Simms: I’ll jump in first and just say it wasn’t easy. And all these people on the internet who were like, “Oh, what face replacement plug-in did they use?” It was not that. We also didn’t know exactly how we were going to do it until we started. We had thought early on, for a long time, that a digital—a purely sort of CGI digital solution was going to work. But when we saw the early tests, we realized it had to be Mark’s entire actual head.
Mark Proksch: Yeah, it certainly wasn’t a plug-in. It was all, for the most part, greenscreen. And you have to—along with acting—you have to make sure that your head is in the exact right position, that your eye lines are correct, and that you don’t really move too much because you don’t want the light to change. It was a process. Frankly, I can’t imagine too many crews being able to pull it off like ours did in such a short amount of time.
Simms: But we also threw every sort of moviemaking trick at it. Sometimes it was an angle that would hide it. Sometimes you were seeing the actual back of the kid. The kids had little wigs that matched his big wig. After all our talk early on about technology and everything technology can do, our director, Kyle Newacheck, said, “You know what, we should just do it the way they did that Wayans Brothers movie, Little Man, because that looked really good.” And we talked to the people who did that and they sort of helped us figure it out. But like I said, it was one of those things where we were figuring it out as we went along. We didn’t shoot Mark’s head portions until the entire rest of the season had been shot. So if it hadn’t worked, we would have had a really short season of 12-minute episodes.
io9: What We Do in the Shadows has a lot of fun pulling from existing vampire mythology and subverting that, but the “energy vampire” feels like one of the show’s most unique and original creations. When did you know how you wanted to evolve the character from the way we met him in season one?
Simms: None of it was planned out beforehand. In the pilot it was sort of a joke: “Oh, there’s such a thing as an energy vampire and that he can drain people by boring them.” And then after that, especially starting in season two, it was us going, “We can’t just keep doing that. We’ve got to find new things to do because it’s just going to get tedious.” And ever since then, it’s just been us trying to sort of challenge ourselves to come up with something that makes sense but not repeating what we’ve already done. And I think that’s helped push the show into crazier and crazier explorations, for lack of a better word.
io9: Mark, what’s been the most surprising thing about playing a character like Colin Robinson? And do you have a favorite incarnation of him that we’ve seen so far?
Proksch: The surprising thing is that we’re able to have a very boring character, an annoying character, and have it still be somewhat endearing to the audience and get people to actually enjoy the moments he’s onscreen. As far as a favorite moment, it’s probably when middle-aged-bodied teen Colin Robinson is singing and dancing on stage and it goes horribly wrong. Any time I can do physical comedy, it’s always fun for me. So those moments are always enjoyable.
io9: Did you know at the beginning of season three that the season would include your death? And then also at the beginning of season four, did you know sort of the progression that was going to happen?
Proksch: I knew—Paul told me after the [season three] table read in which I died, after we read that script, that I’m obviously not off the show, which I figured. I mean, a show like this that deals with the supernatural—it’s almost a cartoon. You can do whatever you want, to some extent, so I figured they had a plan. And then in that conversation, Paul told me that I grow back up and become regular Colin at the end of the season. But, you know, I tried not to let that inform my performance as a teen and child Colin Robinson.
io9: And as we saw in the season finale, he gets basically a reset. He’s going to be the same character again. Obviously you can’t say too much about what’s coming up, but why did you decide to have him not remember anything that had happened during his growing-up time?
Simms: As I mentioned, I have a 10-year-old and a 12-year-old, and I’m just anticipating what I’m going to go through, probably eight years from now, where I’m saying to them, “Don’t you remember all the fun things we did and all the time I spent with you?” And they go, like, “No, I don’t remember any of that. Just, you know, help me out with my rent.” I think that’s really where it came from; another aspect was obviously we wanted him to go from baby to adult again in the course of one season. But we also talked about the aspect of how fast, how quickly time goes, and which is what led to us having “Sunrise, Sunset” be the theme of the last episode.
io9: And speaking of that season finale, at the end we see the vampire house kind of resetting to what we’ve seen in previous seasons. However, it also seems like there’s going to be a big change with Guillermo in season five...
Simms: Obviously, Guillermo making such a rash and perhaps ill-considered decision [to try and pay his vampire buddy Derek to turn him into a vampire] is a lot of what fuels the subsequent season. I mean, what we usually end up doing is having a big—not a cliffhanger, but something drastic that happens at the end of each season, and then we figure out how to address it. I don’t think we’ve ever done one where we were like, ‘Let’s just forget about that and move on from it.’ We sort of paint ourselves into a corner and then try to figure out a way to get out of it.
Seasons one through four of What We Do in the Shadows are now streaming on Hulu; look for season five (with season six on the way too!) on FX and Hulu in the future.
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