What We Do in the Shadows Cast Break Down Their Season 5 Mall Adventure

The vampires of Staten Island hit the mall, steal a cop car, and translate a hex just like regular people in What We Do in the Shadows season 5.

Kayvan Novak as Nandor in What We Do in the Shadows season 5
Photo: Russ Martin/FX

This article contains spoilers for the first two episodes of What We Do in the Shadows season 5.

After the arsonist’s inferno, neglected fire insurance premiums, and financial ruin which befell Nadja’s (Natasia Demetriou) vampire club last season, and the final growth spurt which marked the return of the once and future energy sucker Colin Robinson (Mark Proksch), What We Do in the Shadows season 5 returns to bloody basics. The opening double-header episodes, “The Mall” and “A Night Out with the Guys,” lean into Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi’s original 2014 comic creature feature film by putting the supernatural immortals in mundane modern settings, and newly adopted olde world recreations.

“We want to be seen interacting with something like trams, trains, and all sorts of different things,” Kayvan Novak, who plays the ancient vampire warlord Nandor the Relentless, tells Den of Geek. “For an audience, that’s always exciting to see. Because they can feel the sense of ‘I want to be like these characters.’ These characters are doing normal things. The same way that movie did. They’re going to nightclubs, hanging out in public places, eating chops.”

The season 5 opener, “The Mall,” written by Marika Sawyer and directed by Yana Gorskaya, spends the majority of its run in the very mecca of well-marketed mass groupings: a mall, complete with Build-a-Bear, a Goth gift store that takes expired oil change coupons as legal tender, and a carousel.

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As the actors enter the location shot, most of the action has already been specifically worked out. “The carousel riding was in the script,” Novak tells us, as are most of the set dialogue sequences. Demetriou agrees, adding “Like the whole show, there’s always a fully finished script, but the writers and the directors give us the space to try stuff if we’ve come up with something. Sometimes we don’t come up with anything. Kayvan always comes up with something, whether it makes it or not.”

Expanding on this, Natasia notes specific gags may make it into scenes if circumstances evoke spontaneous convulsion. “There’s always room to try stuff out, if you want to,” Demetriou says. “If you have an idea, they’re open to that. But we always have an amazing script to fall back on. Most of the time, they’re gonna be the better option.”

The production team is also open to impromptu shots using unexpected natural settings. As the vampires discover the magic of the mall, the crew is on the lookout for unexplored possibilities. “There is definitely some on-the-fly scouting to find things like, ‘Oh, that’d be a fun bit,’ so it’s a mixture,” Demetriou says. While the location shoots are mapped out by the script, some items scream to be played with. “They had the Teddy Bear factory set up, but then there were other bits that were fun to use.”

The more uncomfortable any character is in a setting, the funnier they turn out to be. Early in the episode, Nandor hypnotizes an entire sports arena to forget a simple clumsy misstep in the stands. The scene is one of the most populated sequences on the show, even if it is only used for a small insert gag.

“It was a basketball stadium, and they filled it with extras in a way that we hadn’t seen for two years,” Novak tells us. “It was a welcome return. You want to see these characters in populated, recognizable locations, in the way that we did with ‘Baron’s Night Out’ in the first season.”

“Baron’s Night Out” unleashed Baron Afanas (Doug Jones) onto the vast smorgasbord which is Staten Island by night. This is far more apparent in the second episode of the evening, “A Night Out with the Guys,” written by Paul Simms, and directed by Kyle Newacheck. The installment is a master work in crowd control and human settings run amok.

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After a promise not to erase what might turn out to be a memorable evening, Laszlo invites Nandor to spend a night on the town bonding with their next-door neighbor Sean Rinaldi (Anthony Atamanuik) and his friends. The location shooting takes on new heights of neighborhood inclusivity, as the socially awkward humans lead the incompetent human imposters into the biggest and most crowded mess they’ve faced in a long time. The sequence includes a police station, local jail, and an arsenal of heavy-duty peace-keeping vehicles squealing into the quietest of streets of Staten Island. It is the largest movement of extras the series has offered so far, but it careens into the most intimate, detailed, and populated locations of the evening’s bemusement.

Concurrently, during “A Night Out with the Guys,” Nadja experiences a string of bad luck, and suspects she is the recipient of some kind of curse. The Guide (Kristen Schaal) dismisses the superstitious conclusion as laughable, and diagnoses Nadja with a generations-old supernatural hex, which are real things: targeted harassment brought on by your own past actions. The Guide traces it to a portrait of Yaya Nakiya, a very-bad-luck witch from Antipaxos’ ancient past. The portrait has writing on it, but Nadja is a little rusty in her native language. Luckily, at Colin’s suggestion, the crew gets to move on to a new and intricately detailed location, populated by not-your-average-everyday people.

Nadja seeks help translating the occult writing in a Staten Island neighborhood called “Little Antipaxos,” and bonds with a new family from the Old Country. Even the flavors were geographically specific. “They cooked some Greek food to use in this shot,” Demetriou tells us. “It’s just so funny how Greek culture, no matter whatever Western city it’s popped up in – London, America, Canada – the smells are the same. The stories are the same. The cast they got to play the acting Antipaxon family all had the same jokes, had the same memories.”

The locales were authentic, even to one who knew the setting intimately. “It reminded me of my Greek family and my childhood growing up spending lots of weekends at my godfather’s house in Palmers Green in North London, which is a very Greek area,” Demetriou says.

What We Do in the Shadows will continue exploring the dangerous terrain of Staten Island as the season progresses.

What We Do in the Shadows airs Wednesdays at 10pm on FX.

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