FX’s What We Do in the Shadows series has been a bright spot in a year full of great TV. Jermaine Clement and Taika Waititi continued the world they built in the original film, only this time the series follows Nandor, Laszlo, Nadja and Colin, four vampire roommates living in New York City, along with Nandor’s familiar, Guillermo, played by Harvey Guillen. We talked to Harvey about his summer, what he learned from the first season of Shadows, and what he’s looking forward to in season two.
Great to catch up with you, Harvey! Are you back in L.A. now?
I’m home now, but I head back to Toronto in two months.
What have you been up to this summer?
I’m trying to direct my first short film. I wrote it based on my first experience watching someone entertain and realizing I wanted to be an actor. I remember seeing Annie on TV during a Christmas break. That’s when I knew I wanted to act and I told my Mom I wanted to be an orphan. My Mom was a single mom and immigrant, and we didn’t have money for classes. If i wanted to do it, I had to find the means to do it. One day walking home from school, I saw homeless guy collecting cans from the trash. I remember asking my mom what he was doing. She told me and I started doing it. It took me 4 weeks to make enough money for my first class.
The short film will walk through that struggle. We forget how privileged we are to be able to easily pay for and do things like that.
Sometimes, the universe just says not today, and sometimes that’s okay.
Do you think going through that experience made you appreciate the work you do a bit more?
Yeah. I remind myself not to get a big head; I know what it took to get here. It’s like I win the lottery when I get the part. [It’s like] How awesome and lucky are you to get a part? Luck is part of it, but tenacity and hard work is equally important. You only see the celebrations, but you don’t see how many things you missed.
How do you deal with those jobs you don’t get?
There are things i don’t get, and you think you know whats right for you because you have a goal and an idea. Sometimes, the universe just says not today, and sometimes that’s okay. I was up for [the voice of Steven on ] Steven Universe. It was down to me and guy who got it. It ended up being that person’s journey. I still watch it. Everything happens for a reason.
Voice work seems like it would be a lot of fun.
You can show up in pajamas. There’s no waiting around. It’s just: here’s your script, you do it, and you leave. It’s so competitive. Anyone with a cool voice can go for it – no matter your race, weight, or gender. Way more people try for those jobs.
I loved the first season of What We Do in the Shadows! You’re going back to shoot season two this fall. Looking back, is there anything you learned from doing the first season?
I’m definitely from California and Toronto is cold! [laughs] I learned what it is to be in a cast where everyone is so solid. It’s like playing hot potato with everyone, but they never drop the potato. We support each other on set. It’s so free and I’ve never been on a set where improv was so welcomed. I’m gonna be spoiled going to any other project!
Were you nervous on the first day of shooting?
Its like the first day of school. Kayvan, Matt Berry, Natasia, Taika, Jermaine – they’re in based in the UK and they knew each other. You’re the new kid. Kayvan and I never had a chemistry read. We just walked to the set and started shooting. I hit it off with him and and it worked out so well.
What are you excited about for the second season?
I can’t wait to see how the story with Guillermo progresses. There’s a twist at the end of the first season and i don’t know what might happen. We don’t really know ahead of time; not until table read. We shoot out of order, for example, we’ll shoot episodes 2 and 5, then 3 and 8. We go back and forth, which keeps you on your toes as an actor.
Are there any shows out there that you’re absolutely loving right now?
I’m obsessed with Euphoria on HBO. I love the cast, Barbie Ferreira, the story line, everything. The Filth is a project I’m excited about. It’s an LGBTQ+ web series directed by my writing partner, Jamie Holt.
Season one of What We Do in the Shadows is streaming on Hulu right now. Follow Harvey Guillen on Instagram here.