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Harvey Guillen Talks What We Do In The Shadows Season 2 - Exclusive Interview

Harvey Guillen has been making you laugh for years, even if you didn't realize it. He's popped up on an eclectic array of TV shows over the years, including Crazy Ex-GirlfriendiZombie, and The Good Place. But he's found an entirely new fanbase thanks to his excellent performance as Guillermo on FX's What We Do in the Shadows. The show recently aired its season two finale, and Guillermo has come a long way since the first episode. Now, he's a butt-kicking descendant of Van Helsing who's confident enough to stand up to his vampire, Nandor, to actually get days off from work. 

Recently, Guillen sat down with Looper to talk about Guillermo and season two of the fantastic series. Guillen touched on everything from his favorite scene of the season to the improvisation that takes place on set, and spoke at length about working with a certain Jedi who made a guest appearance on the show. Here's Looper's exclusive interview with Harvey Guillen. Just don't call him Guillermo Biermo. 

Favorite season two moment and hopes for season three

What was your favorite scene to film for season two?

I think for me personally, it was the finale. Just because it really showcased Guillermo coming into his own and taking initiative and actually saying his full name out loud for the first time, where we set up the vampires don't even know his last name.

The joke was, "Guillermo Biermo." They've been working with someone for so long [...] 10 years have gone by. You don't bother to learn someone's last name. And the power in that, that it's like someone... You don't know somebody. You think you know somebody, but you don't, and the power that they have. And so for me personally, it was just a great trajectory for his character. Just Guillermo coming to his own, which leads to the great cliffhanger, and now where do we go from there for season three? 

Guillermo becomes a badass in season two. You have a lot of fight scenes, especially in that finale. Was there any kind of training or stunt work you had to practice on or work on?

Oh, yeah. Well, first of all, I didn't know that that was going to happen. We know that we left season one with the cliffhanger of the DNA testing with Van Helsing in him. But the first day or week on set, when we got to table read the script, and I was like, "Wait, what's happening? We're actually going to fight like vampires?" And it's like, "Yep, that's happening." I was like, "Oh cool." And I was like, okay, so maybe there will be a little bit... Of course, we're really safe on set and we have a stunt coordinator. Tig, our director for stunts, is amazing, and I have a stunt double as well, which I was like, well, to have a stunt double, it's great, but I was like, you know what? I want to do the stunts that I can if it's possible for me to do it.

So they did a little test. So they had me meet with one of the coordinators, and it was like, okay, let's try a couple things. And I think I surprised them because I have a dance background, so for me, people would make an assumption, just because you're a bigger guy, you can't move well. And I was like, well, I got dancing feet. For me, it was a nice, extra thing to add to the character this season, where I learning the stunts. They had taught me a couple of things to see how far I could go, and they were like, "Wow." And then even our stunt coordinator was like, "You could do this, Harvey. You could actually be a stunt guy with the mobility that you have."

And my stunt double was amazing too, but he was like, "Man, you're going to put me out of a job." He was like, "I haven't gone on for you at all." So he would get dressed up, put on a wig and the outfit for Guillermo and just... He was on the sidelines. He was like, "Put me in, coach." And we rarely got to send him in, but he loved it because he was there to help me with the techniques. He was like, "Yeah, Harvey, when you jump out the window, make sure that you bounce on your knees. Drop your knees and fall back." So it was a team effort, but I'm glad to report that I got to do the majority of my stunts, with the exception of falling down stairs. For legal reasons, I couldn't do that.

Are there any directions you'd like to see Guillermo go in for season three?

I mean, every time I think I have an idea of what I want Guillermo to be for the new, upcoming season, the writers and the producers always have something up their sleeve that gives us a curveball and it's like, "Oh, I didn't see that coming, but that works, and I love it." For me personally, I would love to dive in more to his heritage and how he got these kind of natural powers, to be this vampire killer, and to see the family lineage.

We introduced his mom and his household, which I loved, and I was very hands-on with. I wanted to make sure that we were authentic to the character as possible, being of a Mexican background and the household and his mom, who was amazing, and just the small little details. So I would love to see more of that. Maybe the talk of where he came from. Where is his father? How does this connect to the Van Helsing side? All of these questions are up in the air that could easily take a whole season to answer — or several. Who knows?

Improvisation on set

How much improv went into the second season?

I'd say about the same amount of improv for the second season and the first season. We always do a take with the actual scripted version, which is always great and fantastic, and lives and breathes on its own. It doesn't need any help. And then we just get to do... We get to have fun. We always have that freedom where Paul and Stefani and Jemaine always give us that freedom where like, okay, do it again. You know where we're going. We're going to get from A to B and C, and just have fun with it. And so whatever we do, I'd say the ultimate, like, goal is to just tell that story in that scene. But really at the end of the day, what comes together is 50-50. It's 50 scripted and 50 improv, and the product that you see on TV is amazing. It's just a great... because even as the actors, we don't know what the final product will look like, because we improvised a whole scene, and then we also do one scripted. And so when we see it edited, we are surprised just as much as the audience is.

Were there any moments or jokes people might be surprised to learn or improvised for any of the season two episodes?

I think, well, for Guillermo, falling out of the window [in "The Curse"] and flipping them off was improvised. That was not in there. That was not in the script, but I was running on adrenaline. It was just this moment of, "Yeah, I'm doing this." He just defeated a household of vampires, a full household, and without trying, he has to go back and save them. So at the end of the day, Guillermo has these powers, but he's still very loyal and a softy at the core of it all. And he had already exited the house in that episode. He was ready to leave and he realized nobody was with him. None of the group that he just met, which is the whole Mosquito Collectors of the Tri-State Area, are such an amazing group of actors and so lovely.

And so when he leaves the house, it was just like, "I can't leave." He couldn't live with himself, and he goes back in and literally rescues everyone, with the exception of one, but literally goes and saves everyone. And I think that really kind of speaks to Guillermo's character. That's who he is. He's fine using powers, but at the core of everything, he's still a good-hearted person.

Working with some amazing guest stars

Getting into the Vampiric Council, who we got to see one member of in the finale, there are a lot of other famous faces. Are there any vampires from a movie or TV show in the past you'd like to see make an appearance and become a surprise member of the Council?

Oh, yeah. I mean, there's so many. Of course, there's Antonio Banderas. There's Brad. There's Tom. I also would love a little crossover between getting more of Guillermo to be trained by a professional, so it would be great to bring back someone like Buffy [the Vampire Slayer]. And that would be a great moment, if that pans out. But there's all kinds of ideas that can really work with Guillermo's storyline, where the sky's the limit.

What's it like working with Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi? Are they on the set a lot as the producers of the show?

Yeah. Well, Taika, season two, not so much, because Taika, he's busy. He has so many projects that he's working on, so we were lucky enough to have Taika and Jemaine the first season, and then in season two, Jemaine as well, he's busy and is working on his project. So we got lucky enough that we could pull him away for a couple of months to come do the show, but they've left us in really good hands. The show runs with Jemaine, Paul [Simms], and Stefani [Robinson] at the helm, and it's just like a well-oiled machine. We work long hours, but we get the work done. And we shot closer to the holiday, so we really kind of shoot 10 episodes in about two months, which is unheard of. That's pretty quick. So it moves really quickly, but it's really just well-structured, like a system.

Speaking of Taika, he's obviously associated now with Thor 4 and a new, mysterious Star Wars movie. Taika comes up to you and offers you a part in either one. What's your answer?

Yes, please. It would probably be the other way around. I would probably go to Taika and be like, "Hey, do you got anything going on?" But yeah, I would love that, especially with... Someone just wrote that on Twitter. They said... They tagged Taika. "Taika, You need to give him a part in some action scene in the Star Wars movies because of the finale." People didn't expect that from Guillermo. They didn't expect me to be so quick on my feet, so they are really rooting for this character. And just to see something different on TV and on film is so nice. And again, I've always said it, representation matters. And to see someone who looks like me who is a badass, who kicks butt...

I've gotten so many messages from kids and adults from all over, who said, "Watching you on TV kick ass like that was very important to me. It really kind of put my life into perspective." It's like, you know what? People are always making assumptions. There's no reason that bigger people can't dance, or they can't do what they set their mind to. People are making assumptions all the time out of whatever the book cover looks like. And at the end of the day, you don't ever judge a book by its cover.

Speaking of Star Wars, what was it like working with Mark Hamill?

Oh, man. Mark was so nice and amazing. That was just like a walking icon to walk on set, and us to be in front of him, and Matt Berry was so giddy, because what are the odds that this world where they have a fight scene and they break up a pool stick and they fight like lightsabers together? That is every kid's dream, and to watch that, you can just see the smile on his face. He was elated. He was just having the best time. And we all did. He was so kind, and his daughter was also there, and they were just lovely.

And they're fans of the show. They actually truly love the show, which is always nice, because everyone we've had on set has always been a fan of the show. We had Haley Joel Osment, who was amazing. It was just... It's great to have people who are creative and they're artists themselves, and they watch a show and they are fans of our work and they come and play with us. It's always really nice.

Any word on when we might see season three?

No word yet exactly on the shooting schedule and whatnot, but the writer's room has been up and going. So if anything, they just have time to develop and elongate these great stories, which I know they're already come up with. So no word yet officially, but it's good to know that at one point or another, we're going to go into season three. So that's always something to look forward to.