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What We Do In The Shadows Star Harvey Guillen Talks Werewolves Within - Exclusive Interview

If anyone knows horror-comedy, it's Harvey Guillén. Not only does Guillén play the long-suffering vampire familiar Guillermo de la Cruz — who, as fans know, also happens to be a descendent of legendary vampire hunter Abraham Van Helsing — on the hit comedy "What We Do in the Shadows," but he's also part of the ensemble cast of "Werewolves Within," based on the social-driven virtual reality game from Ubisoft.

In "Werewolves Within," Guillén plays Joachim Wolfson, Beaverfield's resident yoga instructor and half of the town's only same-sex couple. Unlike most of Beaverfield's other residents — Sam Richardson's Finn, the new ranger, and Milana Vayntrub's mail carrier, Cecily, being the other notable exceptions — Joachim and his husband aren't originally from the area. For better or worse (okay, mostly worse), that makes them prime suspects when a werewolf begins chomping down on the small town's citizens.

"Werewolves Within" is heavier on the laughs than the scares, but it really does capture the tension of the game it's based on, as well as similar experiences like "Werewolves," "Mafia," and "Among Us." And of course Guillén, who identifies as queer, makes it even better, using the finely honed comedic skills and subtle character work that's made him a favorite on shows like "Shadows" and "The Magicians" to make Joachim a compelling and memorable character. Here's what Guillén had to say about fighting werewolves, vampires, and more.

What Harvey Guillen loves about horror-comedies

In addition to "Werewolves Within," you're also a lead on "What We Do in the Shadows." What made you decide to take on another horror comedy?

I mean, honestly, for a second, I kind of debated. I said, "Do I want to do this? I've been on a show that's so amazing already, successful and whatnot."

What really sold me was talking to Josh, the director, who over the phone sold me on the character and the story and the vision. I was on board just because he was so passionate about this project. This is his genre. This is what he lives and breathes for. After talking to him on the phone, I said, "Yes. If I'm going to do this, I feel comfortable doing it with him at the helm." That's pretty much the reason why I did it.

I love being with people and working with people who are passionate about what they do, because they give it their all. They give it 150% every time. If everyone in the crew, in the cast, is going to do that, then success is the only option. This is going to be a great project. That's kind of what made me jump on board.

Horror and comedy have been such a potent combination for so long. Why do you think they work so well together?

Yeah. I think they work well because you need both of them. You need to be terrified and you need to laugh things off. That's kind of a metaphor for life, I guess. We need suspense. That's what keeps us going. Just like, the excitement of the unknown of what's coming up. What's behind that corner? What's on the horizon for your life? But also enjoying life along the way. It goes hand in hand. It's a perfect formula because sometimes in terrifying moments you have to — I know people personally that have to laugh [things] off because it's so uncomfortable.

You know what I mean? People who laugh at a funeral because they don't know how to be there with the intention of mourning. The two things that people are really familiar with are fear and comedy. Those are the two things that, if people ask you to describe them, are probably the two things that are most likely to be described perfectly because everyone has, at one point or another, felt those two things. Hopefully more laughter than fear, but everyone's felt it.

Do you have a favorite horror comedy, aside from the ones you've worked on?

Nope. Only the ones that I work on. All the other ones suck.

That's fair.

No. I mean, there are different ones. Just thinking of recent ones that have come out, like a whodunnit. Kind of like fun horror, but it's a thriller instead of horror. "Clue" or "Knives Out" is a good one. "Clue" is a great one because the comedy in that is so great. "Let us out, let us out, let us in, let us in." I like a lot of them, but I still have to say, probably, this movie.

The best Werewolves Within moment you won't see in the movie

"Werewolves Within" is based on a video game. Were you familiar with the game before you started?

I wasn't familiar with the game. I knew there was a game for it, but also, the same rules from the video game have been adapted into other forms. I have played the in-person [version], whether it's called "Werewolves," or "Mafia," or something. But I think "Werewolves" is the main one. That was where it was taken from.

I've had the pleasure of playing in person, which is very telling. Those social games really show your true colors. When given authority and power, people make decisions based on their needs and wants, or their personal vendettas or whatnot against certain people. There's no justice. It's all injustice because it's all driven by personal gain.

It feels like those sorts of games are having a moment. There's another video game, "Among Us," which is a similar thing, and it's huge. Do you have any thoughts as to why these kinds of social experiences are resonating so heavily at this particular point in time?

I think it's very telling of the time that we live in, and all these video games, again, are social games that are played by human beings and are made by choices that are driven by every single individual. Again, it is the wants and needs, and what each one of us has to gain from getting rid of another player or taking them out of the game. It's kind of very telling. That's human nature and it's kind of terrifying. I guess at the end of the day, the real question is, "Who are the real monsters?"

Given how broad the movie is, your character, Joachim, could have easily become a stereotype. He's not, but you can imagine how, in a lesser version of the movie, that might have happened. As an actor, how do you avoid falling into that trap?

Yeah, it was really important to me to play the character because I wanted to play the character of Joachim as very flamboyant, very over the top, but I wanted to do it in a way that it's not a stereotype. And it's not what you traditionally see, because that's the way it's been done. You know what I mean? The idea is that there are queer people out there who have mannerisms like this, but for the longest time we've been portrayed in a certain way, where it's always over-the-top and dramatic. I was like, "You know what? Yes, there are people who have elements of that. Why don't we do it where it's grounded, and why don't we do it where we're on the tightrope of what it's like to be this character?"

I'm happy with the result because it's there, but it's not a caricature. If we're going to do something, let's do it as grounded and real as we can, and make it as organic as we can. That was my personal journey, because I was like you know what? I wanted to be big, but I wanted to be a human being, and not a caricature.

You have so many talented, and I think underrated, comedians in this cast. Was there much improvising on the set of the movie?

Yeah, we did a bit of improvising. We're lucky that the director was kind enough to let us do that. To let us kind of do it as it's written, because the script is great, and then have fun with it, because I think the best films and the best shows are always a little bit better when they feel organic. When it feels natural, you forget that you're watching actors portray or say lines. You're just watching these characters live their lives out loud. The best part is about these characters is that you're peeking into a small town, and these are real, believable characters.

Do you have a favorite improvised moment?

Yeah. I don't think it made it into the movie, but we hear a gunshot and Michaela [Watkins] is in the hallway because she heard something. I'm supposed to come out, and the director let me improvise. I come out and I say something ridiculous out of the top of my head. I was like, "What the H-E double vibrators is going on?"

It was too quick to include in the movie because the gunshot happens and something else is happening. That would have been too long to leave in the cut. It ended up being like, I go in and Michaela has a gun in her hand and she looks at me with the gun, and I literally just go in, I go, "Ahh," and go back into the room.

I couldn't stop laughing because she was also ad-libbing when I would come out. She was like, "What's going on? Where's my Chachi?" She was just saying stuff which was hilarious, but of course, that didn't make it to the movie. But I love that we have that, because those are the great memories that you a fellow actor that only you were there for.

What you won't see much of in What We Do in the Shadows' third season

Have you wrapped "What We Do in the Shadows" season three yet?

We did. We just wrapped about four weeks ago. We are in post-production now. That means it's edited, it's being edited now as we speak, and hopefully you'll be seeing it pretty soon.

I know you did a bunch of training for the fight scene at the end of season two. Did you do any more for season three?

Unfortunately, because of the time that we're living in, it was very limited. I couldn't necessarily go and meet with a trainer. I just did it on my own. There is physicality in the next season, but last season was jam-packed. From episode one to the finale, Guillermo was killing tons and tons. This, we have that as well, but we don't have it as heavy because of COVID. This year was a safer version of that.

When did you shoot "Werewolves Within?"

I shot "Werewolves" right after we wrapped season two of "Shadows," which is so timely and perfect. It was like, I wrapped "Shadows" and I went to shoot the film in upstate New York. It was right before the pandemic took over, and we were in our own little bubble in upstate New York in the Catskills. When we got back home it was the day that things locked down.

We were living in our own bubble. We were like, "What?" We heard rumors, there was something about COVID, or something. In a weird way it was the last time we got to do something as a group. And then went into lock down. It's a perfect film to kind of welcome people back into the world of going to the theaters. It's the perfect film to see in theaters.

Have you been back to theaters yet yourself?

I have not. I'm still in Toronto. Even though we've wrapped "Shadows," I've jumped onto a different project. That one I can't tell you about yet, but soon. I'm still here and unfortunately in Toronto, they don't have any kind of pharmaceuticals. We're at the mercy of borrowing a cup of vaccine from our neighbors in America.

Between "Werewolves" and "Shadows" and projects like "The Magicians," you're becoming kind of known as a genre actor, but you've actually done tons of other things. Is there a project or a role that you've done in the past that you kind of wish received more attention?

I mean, I guess you're right. I dabble in a little bit of everything, but lately, I feel like it's been magic, and wizards, and vampires, and werewolves, but I do play a little bit. I pride myself in doing different genres. A horror film that I did was "Truth or Dare." It's such a specific genre. That was so fun. Every Halloween, I like when people discover it on Netflix. They're like, "Oh my God, I just saw that. I just watched it the other day." I'm like, "Oh, there it is. 'Tis the season." That's always fun.

I love stuff that I did early on. My first short film, which is "El Tux," directed by Paco Farias. That is a sweet story of his, a personal story, about when he was asked to be a chambelan at several girls' quinceañeras because he had his dad's tuxedo when he got married, which was a '70s ruffle. It's a really cute story. Actually, my sister in that was played by Becky G, who now is this amazing singer.

There are projects like that that I love, that are little memory nuggets if you go down the rabbit hole. You find really great little pieces in the resume.

"Werewolves Within" is in theaters now, and "What We Do in the Shadows" Season 3 arrives September 2, 2021.