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Harvey Guillén Brings Killer Visibility to What We Do in the Shadows

Harvey Guillen

Nobody puts Guillermo in a corner.

On What We Do in the Shadows, the FX comedy about a clan of vampires living in Staten Island, Guillermo (Harvey Guillén) has toiled for a decade being a familiar, a kind of indentured servant, to his fanged master Nandor. 

"It's kind of the internship that never ended," Guillén said in the latest installment of the Inside With The Advocate series.

However, a revelation at the end of season 1, that Guillermo is descended from the famed vampire killer Van Helsing, has led the character to "rethink this career choice," as Guillén put it. In season 2, which premieres this week, the formerly submissive character is discovering a host of newfound strengths. (Guillén is much more physical this season, and he worked with a trainer to do his own action stunts.) These abilities may lead to a change of power in the vampire household — or perhaps a defection to a group of vampire killers that are more appreciative of his gifts.

"As the episodes go by, he realizes that this group is nice, they actually value his opinion. They value him as a person. So he's getting really, you know, mixed emotions throughout the season of what's right," Guillén said.

Guillén also ups his game by being competitive with a new familiar this season played by horror legend Haley Joel Osment. "He's so nice and so professional and so talented. He's actually a fan of the show from season 1. So when he got to say, 'I love the show,' and it's like, 'This is insane,'" Guillén said of working with the Sixth Sense star.

Created by Jemaine Clement, What We Do in the Shadows, inspired by the film of the same name written by Clement and Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok, Jojo Rabbit), expands upon the original universe by introducing a diversity of new characters, including supernatural creatures like werewolves and a new breed of sucker, the energy vampire, who thrives by sucking the energy of humans at traditionally soul-sapping venues like offices.

The inclusion of Guillén, a queer Latinx actor, is also a breakthrough in a genre that still skews very white and heteronormative. The move garnered many fans, including Lin-Manuel Miranda, who tweeted his appreciation last July. The Hamilton creator later showed his love later that month at Comic-Con in San Diego.

"He just like ran up and hugged me and I was like, 'Oh my God,'" Guillén recounted. The gesture was a show of "supporting Latinx power, Latinos in the community and in Hollywood," he added. "It was just a nice feeling of love."

Miranda is far from alone. "Representation matters," said Guillén. "I'm finding that Guillermo is becoming an inspiration to other Latinos. Latinx people in the community that came up to me [at conventions] ... would say the sweetest things like, 'I've never seen anyone who looks like me in that world.'"

In terms of representation, What We Do in the Shadows is also notable in that all of its characters land somewhere in the middle of the Kinsey scale. Among vampires, sexuality is fluid — attraction spans gender and supernatural species — and nothing is ever remarked upon as being taboo.

"They're living their lives. Whether it's a fun episode of comedy or there's a tragic moment, it's part of who they are. Their story is being told regardless. And so I love being part of a show [where] it's great that everyone's queer, that all the characters are queer. But it's not the focus."

There's also the relationship between Guillermo and his vampiric master Nandor (Kayvan Novak), which Guillén compared to The Simpsons' Smithers and Mr. Burns in its homoerotic undertones. "The chemistry is just great with each other," Guillén said. The two often behave like a long-term couple, alternating between annoyance and affection.

"It is very homoerotic at times," Guillén said, adding that the new season will delve more deeply into this relationship. "You think they will, you think they won't, and I love it."

Watch the interview with Guillén below, where the actor also shows off some unique gifts from fans. Find more updates from him on Instagram @harveyguillen. Catch the season 2 premiere of What We Do in the Shadows Wednesday at 10 p.m. on FX.

And check back for more of Inside With The Advocate, which features an array of virtual stories with LGBTQ artists, trailblazers, and allies including Rosie O'Donnell, Emily Hampshire, Leslie Jordan, Ross Mathews, Kalen Allen, Sherry Cola, Fortune Feimster, Bruce Richman, and Tonatiuh.

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