Sam Johnson and Chris Marcil Interview: ‘What We Do in the Shadows’
“It’s so funny, inventive and season two came at the perfect time, just as people were locking down,” says Chris Marcil about “What We Do in the Shadows.” His writing partner Sam Johnson adds, “There are a lot of ways that this show is different from other sit-coms. There’s a lot more collaborating on stage. Improvisation is encouraged which is different than most shows.”
The FX vampire mockumentary broke through at the Emmys this year with eight nominations, including Best Comedy Series. The series tells the story of three traditional vampires, an energy-sucking vampire and a familiar. It is created by Jemaine Clement from “Flight of the Conchords” and produced by the Oscar-winning Taika Waititi.
Johnson and Marcil have scored one of “Shadows” three writing nominations for penning the episode ‘Collaborations.’ In the episode Lazlo (Matt Berry) and wife Nadja (Natasia Demetriou) write music for an open mic night. Johnson reveals, “Matt is extremely musical. We were very excited to have a musical episode. Jemaine is very musical and Paul Simms, the showrunner, is as well. They had given Matt a keyboard to have around so he could noodle. It was really a great joy to get to set and he had worked out all these songs and great tunes. There were a couple of great moments of just Matt and Jemaine with guitars playing together. It’s great to be back stage with these great musicians and watch them jamming.” Marcil adds, “Our job with the script as far as the songs went was to put the ball in play. They can take it to the next level.”
The episode also delves into the familiar relationship between Guillermo (Harvey Guillén), and Nandor (Kayvan Novak). Johnson says, “There’s this almost rom-com situation where they are so close but there’s this thing that separates them. Part of it’s the status difference between the vampire and the familiar and now it’s also this thing that makes Guillermo very powerful as a vampire killer. It’s a great tension to play. I really liked the arc of season two and in our episode I really liked the evolution for Nandor where they have a moment.”
The writing duo have been working together on comedy since their days on “NewsRadio.” Marcil says, “Sam and I have written together for thirty some odd years. It doesn’t feel like a challenge because it’s fun to do. Sam and I worked for Paul Simms on “NewsRadio’. Paul likes to give a lot of discretion. So that was fun. It’s nice with a partner because Sam and I had written together for so long. We are like a room of two. It doesn’t really feel like a challenge, this is like a fun project.”