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Jemaine Clement: Interview with the reluctant vampire

The 'Flight of the Conchords' star strikes mockumentary gold with 'What We Do in the Shadows'

"Flight of the Conchords" star Jemaine Clement is taking on the vampire phenomenon, teaming up with co-director and best friend Taika Waititi for "What We do in the Shadows," a mockumentary chronicling the daily — or nightly — lives of four everyday undead bloodsuckers living in Wellington, New Zealand.

Were there specific challenges in constructing a narrative in the style of a documentary?
Yes, I think so. We were also trying to get some action scenes in it, stuff like fights and special effects and let people improvise. But it also frees you up for things. The way we did it was we wrote a script, but we didn't show it to any of the actors. Because when people try to act like they're in a documentary, I feel like you can tell. You can tell that they've memorized it. People just don't talk how they would talk.

So then how much of that original script is the same as what you ended up with?
That's a great question, and I don't know. I would be interested to see that, to see how similar they are. But I haven't ever compared them. I haven't looked at the script since.

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Were there any vampire elements or cliches you wanted to avoid referencing?
We've got "Twilight" references in it, which I kind of regret. While we were filming it, the last "Twilight" movie was coming out, and we wanted to get a shot of them taking down the "Twilight" poster as Nick is getting over being a vampire, saying this vampire trend of the teens has gone again and you have to wait for the next one. We did have lots of references of how being a vampire becomes cool and then it becomes cheesy, and how that effects their lives. They're cool for a while and then they're not. But that dropped out.

But no sparkling jokes.
We did film some. We had them in the sunrise and they burst into flame, and I'm going, "F---, I thought I was going to sparkle!" But the special effect didn't quite work. They had to wear these gloves that look like hands so they could light on fire, and the gloves were so thick it just looked like their hands had swollen to look massive.

How was it co-directing with Taika Waititi?
We're very used to working with each other, and we talked about the idea for so long that we had very similar ideas of how it's going to be. Amazingly we never argued. But when we first started doing theater shows, there were times that I thought we were going to punch each other — even on stage. But those kinds of conflicts have been worked out.

Follow Ned Ehrbar on Twitter: @nedrick

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