Note: Spoilers for season 4 of What We Do In The Shadows.
“I think it’s important to show, this season with the show, the question is nurture versus nature with raising a child and what takes over,” Harvey Guillén tells HollywoodLife when discussing the recent episodes of What We Do In The Shadows. As those who have kept on the latest episodes of the vampire-themed mockumentary comedy – and have listened to Straw Hut Media’s Behind The Shadows, the official companion podcast hosted by Guillén – would know, season four has focused heavily on family.
For Guillén’s character, Guillermo de la Cruz, that theme of family has primarily taken shape in helping raise “The Boy” – aka the creature that burst out of the chest of Colin Robison (Mark Proksch) – with vampire Laszlo (Matt Berry) to possibly become something other than the spirit-draining energy vampire of the prior three seasons.
“I think it really does take a village to raise a child. They’re like sponges, and they remember, they observe,” says Guillén. “And also to not forget that unconditional love is always needed as an ingredient to raise any child. And so, it’s nice to see that with Guillermo — people online have called him ‘Tio Memo,’ which is ‘Uncle Memo,’ which is Guillermo’s nickname. It’s nice to see that.”
“He is the only human in his household,” continues Guillén. “And as much as the vampires were human at one point, they’re just getting their maternal instincts back in order because they’ve let go of their human instincts for a while.”
“But, they’re trying their best,” he adds. “And so, in a way, Laszlo and Guillermo’s characters become co-parents, one being bad cop, good cop. And I’d like that Guillermo’s the maternal one, who nurtures and loves [young Colin] and shows him that he can do anything. And they’re the number one supporter on their YouTube channel, leaving comments.”
This season of WWDITS has seen Guillén shine in this role. Gone is the nervous and unsure familiar of season one; Guillermo now stands confident and self-assured in his place as a once-familiar, now vampire bodyguard (who happens to be a descendent of legendary vampire killer Van Helsing.) That confidence and strength were on display in episode seven (“The Pine Barons”), which also put the focus on the season’s current themes of “love and support” and “nature versus nurture.”
Yes, Guillermo’s decision to host a de la Cruz family dinner in the vampire residence almost resulted in Nadja (Natasia Demetriou) having more stakes in her than a Texas Roadhouse (Apparently, the entire de la Cruz family inherited a natural hatred of vampires.) However, the near-disaster resulted in a pivotal moment: Guillermo has overcome this Van Helsing nature, this biological repulsion – primarily through a desire to become a vampire – to nurture a love for his undead family.
And more importantly, at the peak of the episode, Guillermo makes the bold decision to come out as gay to his family. Instead of facing scorn and rejection, Guillermo is met with love and support from his entire clan. It was a touching moment that showed he had no reason to fear hiding his true self from them.
Though Harvey has been christened “Tio Memo” for his character’s arc in raising Baby Colin Robison, Guillén has been the What We Do In The Shadow’s cool uncle from the get-go, thanks to Behind The Shadows. And though the podcast has debuted this season, Guillén has been creating a space for Shadows fans for years.
“It started off as a one-time thing that I did on Instagram live,” he tells HollywoodLife about the origins of Before The Shadows, the pre-show chat program, “and then we structured it more when we partnered up with FX in the following season to did it with them.” Before The Shadows saw Harvey talk with guest stars like Mark Hamill, production marvels like costume designer Amanda Neale, and celebrity fans like Felicia Day. That spirit carried over into After The Shadows, the post-show chat program that featured actors like Doug Jones and Kristen Schaal and effects gurus like prosthetic makeup designer Paul Jones.
Behind the Shadows continues this path, allowing series stars (Myrna Cabello, Parisa Fakhri, Anoop Desai, Fred Armisen), crew (Tig Fong), and fans to share details of the show with fans. ”
“This is a different variation,” Guillén says of the podcast, “which I feel can be more attainable and reachable worldwide because many of our fans might not have Twitter, but they have Instagram, or they only have YouTube, or they sometimes have TikTok. So in a way, this is like, ‘If you just listen to a podcast, you’ll find us.’ It’ll be a one-stop shop; you can get that there and watch streaming on YouTube. It’s just easier, I think, to hear these stories.”
“I think it’s so fun that we have that ability to just talk to the guest stars,” he continues,” and to talk with celebrities who are fans of the show, who do not necessarily come and play with us on the show. Maybe they will one day, but [right now] they’re just fans of the show.” Harvey shares that after three years, he’s still surprised when he goes to events with other stars and actors, and they come up to tell him that they’re his biggest fan.
“It is so crazy to hear another actor who’s in their own right just have done amazing work and whatnot, to hear that,” he says. “So, I like to hear their stories like, ‘Why does this show mean so much to you? Why is it so funny to you? Tell me your story.’ And they’re willing to come on and talk to us, so we’re really excited about the guests that we have this season.”
When asked if there was a memorable celebrity that surprised him with their Shadows love, Guillén pointed to the “Skinny Legend” and country superstar. “Trixie Mattel,” he says. “You would never expect that to be the conversation that you would have with Trixie Mattel in a full drag outfit — this international superstar to just to come up and say, ‘My partner and I watch your show, watch it religiously. We watch it every week. It has to be seen.’ I was like, ‘Whoa.'”
“And then lucky enough, this season, we actually have Trixie on the show, coming on the podcast,” Guillén says with a smile. “So, we do have a conversation with them, and what the show means to them, so you can look out for that feature episode.”
Guillén — who was a guest judge on season 4 of The Boulet Brothers’ Dragula, the drag-filth-horror-glamor-themed competition – may have also hinted at potential guests when he shared a photo from Emerald City Comic-Con, one that had him share a table with drag icons Jinkx Monsoon and BenDelaCreme and Halloween goddess Elvira. But, as he puts it, doing Behind The Shadows is not about a chance to kiki with celebs but to create something special for the diehard fans who keep the show alive by tuning in each week. Guillén has fostered a fan hub with episodes dedicated to answering fan questions from Reddit so that the fandom can thrive in between viewings. Plus, with chats with the production crew and those unsung heroes who don’t get the spotlight, Behind The Shadows gives plenty for fans to sink their teeth into.
“I pride myself in doing things that are low key, really cool and abstract, that may not be necessarily mainstream, but then if you know, you know,” says Guillén. “And if you do know, you’re pretty cool, I think.”
“It just warms my heart when I’m at a Comic-Con, and you get someone who comes up, it’s like, ‘I loved you on Dragula,’ or, ‘I loved you the podcast.; Because you have to go and find these things; they’re not going to be on every billboard. When people do find it — and love it and they have something nice to say — it just warms my heart because it is part of a really cool, hip culture that most people might skip over.”
“I’ve had people come up to me in the last year, and they just discovered the show, and they binged every season. And they saw it all within a week. They kept watching every day. And they’re like, ‘I watched it all, and I want more,’ he adds. “In a way, it was meant to be this way because you seem like you need your fix of it right away. And I can only imagine what it’s like to watch it one season and wait almost a year for the next season and wait. That could be grueling to a diehard fan. So, I’m glad that the trajectory of when you’ve found it, you found it. It was meant to be. As long as you found us, that’s all that matters.”
Episodes of Straw Hut Media’s Behind The Shadows drop every Wednesday.