Wellington Paranormal, a What We Do In the Shadows offshoot, was designed to be scarier than the vampire comedy that came before it, according to Jemaine Clement. He said that an episode involving extraterrestrial plants prompted Wellington Paranormal to become sillier.
“The plants looked so silly when they moved, you just couldn’t make them scary,” Clement, 47, said on a Zoom panel. “We leaned into that and made it sillier.”
Premiering Sunday, Wellington Paranormal stars Mike Minogue and Karen O’Leary as Officers Minogue and O’Leary, the characters they played in the 2014 film, What We Do In the Shadows. The film, a mockumentary about vampires, also spawned an FX comedy series with the same title.
In Wellington Paranormal, O’Leary and Minogue investigate a wider array of paranormal threats than just vampires. The officers have comedic encounters with a possessed girl, aliens and clowns in different episodes.
“I noticed that I could show my kid the aliens one and not the possession one,” Clement said. “So we went back and tried to edit the possession one to [make it lighter].”
Sophocles, Clement’s 12-year-old son, was 8 when Wellington Paranormal originally aired in New Zealand in 2018.
Following the popularity of the What We Do in the Shadows TV series, which launched in 2019, The CW is showing the show for the first time in the United States.
The Shadows series airs on FX, where it may be more similar to the R-rated film. Clement, who co-created the film and both series with Taika Waititi, stated that New Zealanders have informed him that Wellington Paranormal has become a family favourite in many homes.
“It’s quite a good thing for families to watch, where I wouldn’t necessarily recommend the other show to every family,” Clement said. “[Shadows] might be a little bit awkward sometimes, but this one’s pretty safe.”
O’Leary came to the series through her work as a kindergarten teacher. She made her acting debut in the 2014 film.
“One of the parents at my work was the casting director,” O’Leary said. “So she got me to have a chat with a casting agent and it turned out it was an audition.”
O’Leary said that she would play a policewoman for her kindergarten class and warn them about riding their bicycles too fast. Clement said his casting director for the film saw O’Leary teach.
“Our casting agent, who was a parent at that kindergarten, had seen Karen do that and found it really funny,” Clement said. “[The casting director] said, ‘I think I know who will be perfect for this. She hasn’t acted before.'”
Minogue had been working in the film and television industry as a runner, making deliveries. He said he also came to acting through referral, and booked his first role in 2009.
“Somebody at my work asked if I wanted to audition for a movie, which I didn’t want to do,” Minogue said. “I’ve never been interested in acting before.”
The human police officers make Wellington Paranormal different from Shadows, Clement said. He said the nature of characters combatting monsters lends itself to different kinds of comedy.
“They’re different perspectives,” Clement said. “One’s the perspective of the monsters, and this one’s the perspective of people going after the monsters.”
The perspective of the officers, O’Leary and Minogue said, is that they care about protecting people. By contrast, the vampires of What We Do In the Shadows seek humans to feed on. The vampires also hire humans to be their “familiars,” whom they abuse without killing.
“She’s totally committed to being the best police officer she can,” O’Leary said of her TV counterpart. “She’s really passionate and enthusiastic about trying to help people.”
Minogue stated that his character is in love with his partner, but she does not reciprocate.
“That’s pretty much his driving force, that he gets to hang out with O’Leary every day,” Minogue added. “Policing would come in second to that.”
Clement has been fascinated by the creatures O’Leary and Minogue bust since he saw Christopher Lee movies when he was 4 or 5, according to the creator. Clement has stated that he is creating a humorous monster universe.
“I’m the only one who knows the rules for both shows,” Clement explained. “They’re just a collection of rules from movies I saw when I was 8.”
The CW’s Wellington Paranormal begins Sunday at 9 p.m. EDT.