If you’ve been wondering what the Kiwi take on vampires is, What We Do in the Shadows could answer all your questions. It opened around the country today, and given Taika Waititi (Boy) and Jemaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords) are behind it, you can be pretty sure it’s not exactly Nosferatu. You can watch the trailer here and thanks to Madman Entertainment we have 10 double passes to give away. To enter, email your name and address here. And as soon as you’ve done that, read Ronan MacEwan’s interview with cast member Rhys Darby, better known as Murray from Conchords.
How would you describe What We Do in the Shadows?
Someone described it as doing to vampires what Spinal Tap does to rock’n’roll. It’s such a great parody and a refreshing look at a genre that’s past its use-by date. Mockumentary is my favourite kind of comedy because it’s combining the ridiculous with the very real.
And you play a werewolf?
I was overseas when Jemaine and Taika started it as a short film many years ago. When they finally got around to making it into a feature, I got a call saying, “Hey, we’re going to put some werewolves in there – how would you like to play one of them?”
When I turned up, it was all improvised. There was a script but they didn't really show anyone – they said they wanted it to be as real as possible, and hand-picked people who can improvise in those comedic situations. I had met most of the other werewolves before, but when we got together in a pack I knew we were a good fit. We were the nerdiest bunch of unlikely werewolves you’d ever meet.
But very likeable.
Yeah! Very likeable. Just normal regular guys who have this affliction and can turn...so don’t get them angry!
The dry deadpan humour, is that a New Zealand thing?
Yeah, we kind of mix the ridiculous and surreal with very dry deadpan. We are quite laid-back as people and inspired by British comedy in our youth. We’re very hard people to impress. I remember that in early days doing stand-up. You’d tell these jokes and do physical comedy, and you’d get audiences going, “Aw, yeah.” A few chuckles, but a lot of guys with their arms crossed and you’d think, “Ah no, they didn’t really enjoy that.” Then after the show they’d come up and say “Aw yeah that was fuck-ing good, ay man. Really funny.” And you think “WELL, WHY DIDN’T YOU LAUGH!”
A bit different from LA then. Are you based there these days?
Yes I still have a house in a New Zealand, but we got greencards last year and spend the required amount of time there. I combine my time between there and home.
You've been working in performing arts/ comedy for a long time, a lot of your old stand-up is on YouTube from a decade ago. Has doing Flight of the Conchords opened up opportunities to get gigs and show off your talent?
After Conchords the world really appeared to be my oyster in terms of comedy. Now people know who I am, so instead of being in a line-up show, trying to get gigs, people will have me in their theatres. It means I can tour, it really turned everything around on me. I started recording stand up DVDs and doing bigger gigs.
Were you confident that would always happen? It’s very easy to lose heart…
Before Conchords, I was at a point in the UK where I had been living there for seven years and was headlining the Comedy Store and Jongleurs, so I was doing OK, but I was very much ready to go back to New Zealand and start something different. I was sick of living in the UK; we’d had our first child and wanted to bring him up back home. Then the Conchords thing happened and it all kind of exploded.
But while I was in America, everyone I had been doing stand-up with in the UK shifted up to this next level as well. Suddenly all these people I’d been at the clubs with started getting on the bigger TV shows and selling out stadiums. Stand-up really exploded in the UK while I was doing the little American cult TV show. So if I’d stayed, maybe I’d have got caught up in that? But who’s to know? I’d like to have thought I would of...funny how things turn out. I’m doing all right.
Was this a big film for New Zealand?
I don’t think it’s too big a budget...but in terms of comedy it’d be up there. I don’t know how many favours Taika Waititi pulled, as is the kiwi way, “Hey mate, can you give me a hand with this? I’ll pay you back.”
What was the shooting in Wellington like?
It was long hours, most of it at night-time. They had a set for the share house, which was really cool. All the stuff they did outside were in the real environment around the public so we would get real reactions from actual people. A lot of the werewolf stuff was in a forest at 3am.
I saw announcement today of series 3 of Flight of the Conchords today. What can you tell me?
Yeah...well I don’t think that’s real. I think that’s a rumour. Someone has got their wires crossed. I know Jemaine has some sort of development deal with HBO, but I don’t even know if that’s with Bret [McKenzie]. So I wouldn’t get too excited
You’re not just hosing it down?
No! I’m honestly telling you that’s not really happening. (laughs)
Would you like series 3 to happen?
Of course. Absolutely. I’ve done Murray a few times since the show in live situations and a couple of charity things. Getting back together with the guys...it’s very easy. And it’s such a fun character. One day.
I’m guest starring in sitcoms in America. I don’t know if you get them here. There’s one called The Millers and there’s one called Hot in Cleveland, with Betty White. She’s 92. It’s about three girls who live together. It’s like Golden Girls, except the other women are much younger. That’s a studio audience so it’s lot of fun. I’m coming back to Australia to some stand-up in October. That’s quite exciting because I haven’t performed here for two years and I’ve got lots of stuff you guys haven’t seen. It’s the best of my last two shows, quite theatrical with stand-up elements to them. Apart from that, just writing.
Thanks and best of luck with the movie.