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Jemaine Clement: 'Wellington Paranormal' supposed to be scarier

Jemaine Clement co-created Wellington Paranormal, a spinoff of What We Do In the Shadows. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI
Jemaine Clement co-created "Wellington Paranormal," a spinoff of "What We Do In the Shadows." File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

LOS ANGELES, July 11 (UPI) -- Jemaine Clement said his What We Do In the Shadows spinoff, Wellington Paranormal, was conceived to be scarier than the vampire comedy that preceded it. He said an episode about alien plants dictated that Wellington Paranormal 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."

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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]."

Clement has a 12-year-old son, Sophocles, who was 8 when Wellington Paranormal first premiered in New Zealand in 2018.

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The CW is airing the show for the first time in the United States, following the success of the What We Do In the Shadows TV series, which premiered in 2019.

The Shadows series airs on FX, where it can be closer to the R-rated movie. Clement, who created the movie and both series with Taika Waititi, said that New Zealanders have told him that Wellington Paranormal has been family viewing in their households.

"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.'"

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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 said his character is in love with his partner, too, although she does not reciprocate.

"That's pretty much his driving force, that he gets to hang out with O'Leary every day," Minogue said. "Policing would come in second to that."

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The monsters O'Leary and Minogue bust have been fascinating Clement since he saw Christopher Lee movies when he was 4 or 5, the creator said. Clement said he's building a comedic monster universe.

"I'm the only one who knows the rules for both shows," Clement said. "They're just a collection of rules from movies I saw when I was 8."

Wellington Paranormal premieres Sunday at 9 p.m. EDT on The CW.

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