When 2019 comes to a close, FX's vampire comedy What We Do in the Shadows will be standing high above most other TV comedies, thanks to its supremely talented cast and crew. The series is based on Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi's uproarious 2014 film of the same name, and shares the film's mockumentary format, as popularized on TV through shows like The Office. What We Do in the Shadows shares something else with The Office beyond the format, too: actor Mark Proksch.
As Office fans will remember, Mark Proksch portrayed the quirky warehouse worker Nate Nickerson in the NBC comedy's final three seasons. When I spoke with Proksch about What We Do in the Shadows during the Television Critics Association's 2019 winter press tour, he talked about his excitement to return to mockumentary comedy, and why there probably hasn't been much of it on TV recently.
I love it. Seriously, yeah. The first day of filming was in my office, and it just felt like I was kind of back home where I'm really comfortable. I love the mockumentary format anyway, from before I even began acting, and so it's great to be able to be on a show that I think people are going to really respond to, that’s a mockumentary. After The Office, everyone was like, 'No, you can't do mockumentary. Don't do mockumentary.' It was kind of put out to pasture for a little while, or done poorly, and so again, it's great to be back on something that I think people are really going to respond to.
Before landing his recurring role on The Office, Mark Proksch turned real life into a mockumentary several times in his early career. He made a name for himself in comedy by showing up on various local newscasts claiming to be yo-yo master Kenny "K-Strass" Strasser, only to then awkwardly and hilariously prove himself to be anything but a yo-yo master. Proksch is great at second-nature awkwardness, so he's a natural fit for faux-reality projects.
For What We Do in the Shadows, Mark Proksch portrays Colin Robinson, a vampire who doesn't feast on blood, but on energy, which he leeches from the unwitting humans that surround him. Don't expect anything too extreme, though, as Colin legitimately works in a cubicle-filled office much like Dunder-Mifflin Paper Company. He wasn't kidding about that first day of filming.
The trio of actual Staten Island-dwelling bloodsuckers at the center of What We Do in the Shadows – as portrayed by Matt Berry, Natasia Demetriou and Kayvan Novak – are obviously enough to make this show stand apart from every broadcast workplace comedy of the past...forever. Still, Mark Proksch initially had some reservations about his character Colin getting creatively pigeonholed after being introduced. Here's what he told me:
At first when we started, I was a little worried that the character would just become this one note that drones on and on, that’s just this kind of a boring character, you know? I should have...I knew better, since it was Taika and Jemaine and Paul Simms, but I was worried about falling into that trap of just being a 'Whatchoo talking 'bout, Willis?' type of character. But no, the character does have some conflicts that come up - personal and professional - that drive his story for this season. I think it will be interesting for people to follow that, along with the other characters through their lives.
In a previous TV generation, it's highly likely that Colin Robinson would have been a catchphrase-spewing bit of sporadic comedic relief, without much depth to keep audiences interested. But as Mark Proksch put it, creator Jermaine Clement and the writers did give Colin some layers, cringe-worthy as they may be, so expect to get to know the energy vampire slightly better than Nate Nickerson. (Or even the actor's Better Call Saul character Pryce.)
Beyond Jermaine Clement as creator, writer and executive producer, What We Know in the Shadows' EPs also include Thor Ragnarok and Star Wars: The Mandalorian director Taika Waititi alongside Newsradio creator and Atlanta producer Paul Simms. Also starring Harvey Guillen as one of the vampires' human familiars, the show is as amazing as the movie was, if not more so, due to there being more of it to obsess over.
What We Do in the Shadows will make its batty premiere on FX on Wednesday, March 27, at 10:00 p.m. ET, followed by an encore of the pilot. Watch it twice.