The What We Do in the Shadows Team Explains That Whole Colin Robinson Thing

Colin Robinson actor Mark Proksch, showrunner Paul Simms, and writer Sam Johnson discuss delivering a new life to an undead family on What We Do in the Shadows.

Nandor (Kayvan Novak) and Guillermo (Harvey Guillen) on What We Do in the Shadows
Photo: FX

This article contains spoilers for What We Do in the Shadows season 3 episode 10.

Nature or nurture appears to be the theme moving forward, as the What We Do in the Shadows’ season 3 finale dropped a bundle on viewers. The vampire housemates are left scattered on ship ports and train platforms, and may be rudderless as an unexpected arrival throws all their plans to the wind.

The ending leaves Nandor (Kayvan Novak) relentlessly waiting for Guillermo (Harvey Guillén), who has been nailed into a coffin by Laszlo (Matt Berry) to ensure a safe passage for his love Nadja (Natasia Demetriou). She is moving to a position of great power in England, as she takes a seat on the Worldwide Vampiric Council, by special invitation. And the former familiar has proven himself a worthy bodyguard. Meanwhile, Laszlo has found a far more fragile creature which needs care and protection.

Colin Robinson’s (Mark Proksch) birthday celebration went awry at the end of “A Farewell,” and “The Portrait” ended with just the most imperfect tilt. For all the research done, including the hidden discoveries, it seems one small detail about energy vampires was overlooked. They gestate new life inside them, and come out fully formed as newborns. While Colin professed to be unaware of his origins and oddities, we are not sure whether this was a detail he knew and kept to himself, just to annoy Nandor’s “Super Slumber.”

Ad – content continues below

It seems What We Do in the Shadows is celebrating something just short of a blessed event. To celebrate, Den of Geek spoke with Mark Proksch, who plays Colin, showrunner Paul Simms, and writer Sam Johnson about the care and feeding of young energy suckers, and the future of the vampire world as we know it.

Den of Geek: Mark, are you looking forward to Colin Robinson’s terrible twos?

Mark Proksch: I am. It poses a new fun twist for something for me to get to play something other than just an arrogant energy vampire. So, it’ll be fun. I don’t think anyone else is looking forward to him growing up to the terrible twos.

Paul Simms: But bringing up the terrible twos makes a good point. Children, often, in their own way, are like energy vampires. They’ll exhaust you and wear you out, and talk about stuff that they’re interested in that has no interest for you. And that’s something we examine in season 4 that we’re shooting right now.

Do you think Laszlo will be a good daddy?

Sam Johnson: I don’t think he can be judged by human standards.

Ad – content continues below

Paul Simms: He’ll be a very active and involved parent or caretaker. But Laszlo, also remember, is an amateur composer, an amateur scientist, and an amateur everything. I think a lot of what season 4 is about is: is Colin destined to grow up to be an energy vampire, is that his fate? Or is it possible that he can be molded and shaped into something else, and maybe actually be an interesting person?

The first baby, is that a full-on effects creation?

Paul Simms: That’s a combination of everything. Our prosthetics maker, Paul Jones, built the body with an actual head. There is a team of puppeteers operating it. The digital part was Mark’s face put on to it, and a lot of iterations, going “the head’s too big” or “the head’s too small,” “the head’s too dry,” “it should be wetter” and “moister.” It was a combination of every different trick of the trade, I think.

How do you plan to merge Mark into the child’s growth? Is that an effects department problem or do you have a Shadows-y shortcut?

Paul Simms: That is the biggest technical challenge that we’ve set for ourselves so far, and we’ve almost figured it out, I would say, two weeks into shooting. It’s a challenge, but it’s going to be worth it.

Introducing babies into shows has killed some series. Are you going to play with all the I Love Lucy/Mad About You kinds of baby-raising scenarios?

Ad – content continues below

Paul Simms: I think part of it, even if it’s a baby or a child knowing that it’s Colin Robinson, you can get away with a lot more. I don’t think anyone is going to see the show and go, “Oh, but season four, they had to add something cute” because it’s a pretty freaky looking creature. And also, there’s always the question of is it really a baby or is Colin’s mind operating in there? Let’s just say, if they were going to make toys from the show, I think they would probably make a Nadja doll toy before they would make a baby Colin toy. Although I would like both of them.

Sam Johnson: If you come to this show hoping to see an I Love Lucy tribute or Mad About You, I think you’ll be sorely disappointed.

Actually, I think this show is very much like classic TV. I see a Get Smart in it, I’ve seen F Troop. You have new technology, it’s a new concept, the reality show, but you keep the feel of the classics.

Paul Simms: One important thing to us as we’ve done the show is that you can watch any episode out of order. Like the old sitcoms that I love, the Bob Newhart shows and Mary Tyler Moore It’s not serialized. You don’t have to know the history. If you’re a super fan, then it’s fun to watch things develop, but I’ve always imagined you can watch reruns later and you don’t need to be caught up on who did what. They all stand alone, which is how my favorite shows have always been. But it is. I think it’s a great compliment to say that it’s like those old shows because it is. Yeah, it’s insane and it’s vampires and there’s special effects and stuff. It’s a fun story with people you like to hang out with, even though they are murderers.

Sam Johnson: I do think you could draw a direct line from the Cone of Silence to the cloak of duplication. I feel like we for sure have all been influenced because those are some of our favorite shows. So yeah.

Laszlo’s discovery scene, where he finds Colin, looks like the aftermath of the body bursting scene in Alien to me. What was the inspiration?

Ad – content continues below

Paul Simms: Early on, just as a joke, we talked about how maybe every hundred years Colin molts like a snake and slithers his body off, and is a refreshed Colin. But we wanted his death to be gruesome, because we always remind ourselves that it is a show about vampires, and there should be some scary stuff in it. And also, we’ve seen Colin fake his death before. We really wanted to establish when the skull collapses: that’s really gross and he’s really dead. And then it just seemed completely logical that there was something gestating inside of him that he didn’t even know about. It just gave him a funny tummy and made him want some diet ginger ale.

It seems like the vampires have much more emotional depth this season. Is that conscious, or am I just reading too much into it?

Paul Simms: No, I think it’s true. I think it’s stuff you wouldn’t do in season 1 because it would be unearned and fake. But, like the idea of Nandor realizing that eternal life is not a curse, also that nothing means anything, would naturally lead anyone to an existential crisis. And Nadja also, having been turned into a vampire at such a young age, never having a chance to be a woman in the world and have any responsibility. That’s sort of what led to her running the Vampiric Council, and finally getting some worth out of her life. It’s hard because part of the story of vampires is they sit around forever and do nothing, but you still want to see them have things they want, and goals that they’re working towards

Nadja seems to represent the old style of slit-their-throat vampires, and I was wondering what are her chances of running the Worldwide Vampiric Council.

Paul Simms: I’d say from what we’ve seen this season? Very good. I mean, when she gets a mission. It’s funny that Nandor is the great, unmerciful warrior who’s killed thousands of people. But as soon as he gets a chance to run things, he’s like, “let’s just be diplomatic and let’s be nice,” and she’s just ripping people’s hearts out. I enjoyed that a lot.

The writers have been having a ball with foreshadowing this season. When did the idea of Laszlo knowing about Colin’s fate begin to be incorporated into the action?

Ad – content continues below

Paul Simms: Very, very early on, from when we started the whole thing. We’re not trying to trick people. We want surprises, but they have to be logical surprises. And that’s why in episode 2, there’s the funny moment where Colin’s talking to the camera, and in the background, Laszlo tears a page out of the book. You think it’s just a joke because he’s talking about how he’s going to whack off to it later or something.

We wanted to get to the end, and it was very satisfying to see people online, about halfway through the season go: “Why is Laszlo being so nice to Colin? That doesn’t make sense. Colin is so annoying.” And “Laszlo is a very perturb-able person. They must have run out of ideas because this doesn’t make sense.” It was our special little secret that, no, it does make sense and we’ve laid all the breadcrumbs. And when you get to the end, you’ll understand everything. It’s fun to surprise people, but surprise people in a way that’s logical. And it’s not just out of the blue.

Then I also have to ask about Colin’s feeding choices, they seemed counterproductive. Things that he was doing were more annoying to him than the people around him. Was this consciously part of what was growing inside him?

Paul Simms: I never thought of that. Mark?

Mark Proksch: I didn’t either. That’s interesting. After the first couple seasons, the writers did a great job of moving Colin away from just being an annoying vampire that always has to feed and creating a better relationship between him and his roommates I think, in that I started looking at the character a little differently as well, and possibly what you’re talking to, is coming out of that. Feeling like I have a little more freedom to go into some areas with the character that we didn’t really touch on in season one and two.

Paul Simms: Yeah, I mean, it started in the pilot as a sort of a one-joke character: “What if there is a thing as an energy vampire and he’s boring?” But we consciously were like: we can’t keep doing that over and over again. And there’s so much more fun ways to go with it. We’re always trying to be conscious of not being repetitive with what works. And that’s why everyone’s like “when’s the next Jackie Daytona episode?” And we say, well, no, there isn’t going to be one because we did it and it was good. You might think you want more of that, but as soon as you see a second Jackie Daytona episode, you’re like: Oh boy, they really are out of ideas.

Ad – content continues below

Is that also the same with the flatulence and the shit bucket changings? Were they indicators that Colin would be going back to infancy?

Sam Johnson: That might be somebody here going back.

Mark Proksch: I mean, the shit bucket was taken from when Paul and Sam came to my house for a weekend.

Paul Simms: The poop bucket was one of the few notes we got for this season. When they saw the episode, they were going, “Do we really need that many references to the poop bucket?” And we looked at it, and we said, “Yes, we think we do.” It’s not just the fact that it was poop, but Mark was very good at coming up with different terms to call it that just make you wince and go like: “Oh, do you have to refer to stinky pickles and Lincoln Logs? It’s just so gross.”

If Nandor and Nadja are leaving, and Laszlo has no interest, who’s going to run the council?

Paul Simms: It’s a good question. Yeah, there’s no one left.

Ad – content continues below

Sam Johnson: I think Laszlo has his hands full, caring for this freaky little creature that will die if he doesn’t at least figure out how to feed it. Bear in mind, that’s just the local Staten Island chapter of the council. They could probably bring in someone from New Jersey to fill in.

Was Donal Logue’s line about starting out on MTV autobiographical to you, and did he do those paintings?

Sam Johnson: Well, Jimmy the Cab Driver was one of my absolute favorite things on MTV back in the day. And yeah, I did work there, but we did not overlap. It was more like Donal Logue has done so many cool things in his career that it was impossible to list them. But definitely, Jimmy the Cab Driver was a highlight to me. In fact, when we were writing that, I went to YouTube and looked up a bunch of those old “Jimmy the Cab Drivers.” They’re still funny. It’s crazy that this 25-year-old kid is dressed up, driving around, but I love it.

Paul Simms: There’s also something very funny, Donal was very good about making fun of himself as an actor, about talking about this thing that the vampires have no idea what he’s talking about. I think even half the viewers are probably too young to remember what it was, but I thought that was very funny. And the painting? No, he didn’t do the paintings himself.

What We Do in the Shadows‘ “The Portrait” aired Oct. 28 at 10:00 p.m. on FX.