Queer Latinx actor Harvey Guillen is killing it as the lovable, yet calculated Guillermo this season on FX’s “What We Do In the Shadows.”
In case you have not seen the series, which is based on the 2014 film of the same by Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement, the comedy/horror/mockumentary follows a vampire clan living in Staten Island. Guillen’s Guillermo is a servant to vampire Nandor and has dreams of being turned into a vampire one day. In this season, we are set to see a whole new side of the fan-favorite character.
GLAAD’s Head of Talent, Anthony Ramos, spoke with Harvey about what’s ahead for Guillermo (are we finally going to see some loving between Nandor and him?), how proud he is to be changing the idea of what a leading man looks like, and how he’s handling the current quarantine.
Q: This season, people seem to love your character Guillermo even more! Why do you think people connect to him?
A: I think the reason that Guillermo resonates so much with people is that we all see ourselves in Guillermo. He is the “people’s familiar” because he represents all of us. We have all been in a scenario where we have a job that we aspire to be promoted in, and we get overlooked. Also it’s because he is the underdog and people always root for the underdog!
Q: This scfi-fi, horror and fantasy genre is often times beloved by the queer community but tends to skew very white and very straight when it comes to content. What does it mean to be breaking through as someone who is queer and Latinx on this type of show?
A: It means the world to me! You never seen a plus-sized, queer, Latinx lead on a show. To be one of many firsts is a humbling experience because I did not grow up watching anyone that looked like me on TV. I did not see anyone that represented me or what I could aspire to be. It is discouraging when you don’t think opportunity is out there for you, so I decided to create my own path. I am just living my dream.
Q: What do you think it would have meant to you, when you were a younger kid or when you started acting, if there was someone like Guillermo? How do you think it would it would have been different for you to see someone who actually did look like you?
A: Early on in my career, I had an agent who said to me, “You are never going to be the lead, you know that? You are only going to be the best friend.” Times have changed but when I first got started acting people would say to me, “You’re a handsome guy but are you going to lose weight? Are you going to get paper-thin?”
Q: Speaking on body image – for the queer community and social media, there tends to be an idea of “the perfect body,” especially for gay men. Do you think it that is changing?
A: I think it definitely needs to have some work done. I think that the social media and just media in general need to change. For example, I have always been proud of who I am but I’ve never been asked to be the cover of a magazine, you know? Because our own community is always the first to say, “Love each other and accept us for who we are” but also “don’t put someone on the cover who has extra weight on them.”
Q: What are some of the things fans of the show have written to you about what your character means to them?
A: I had so many fans who would come up to me at Comic Con and other events and truly express their heart and soul to me about how they felt seeing my character. We were just talking about it the other day that when people say, “Oh, how many characters in the show are queer?” And I say, “All of them! All the characters are queer!” We’re the only show that is pretty much 100% queer, because all the characters are pansexual. People always talk to me about how they’ve never seen a world of vampires, darkness, witches, warlocks and magic where all the characters are queer, which is so great! But the show never focuses on being queer as taboo.
Q: Speaking of the homoerotic vibes, let’s talk about Guillermo and his master, Nandor, (played by Kayvan Novak) this season. How are we going to see their relationship progress this season?
A: They’re like a couple! They bicker like a couple but they’re not together, not really together. Sometimes Nandor doesn’t treat Guillermo well but it doesn’t mean that the love goes away. It stays there and he seems to want to navigate through that. With Guillermo and Nandor, there’s something there that’s still being explored and the writers do it so well!
Q: What would Guillermo’s ultimate date night with Nandor be? What kind of lover do you think Guillermo is?
A: I think it would a day full of compliments where is he waited on hand-and-foot for a change. Someone even just making dinner for him and they’d pour him a glass of wine and ask, “Are you comfortable? How was your day?”
Q: Is that also your idea of a perfect date?
A: Guillermo and I have some similarities, but I think I’m different. I do like a nice dinner and conversation but I’m more adventurous. For me, a perfect date would be for someone to tell me to pack a bag for two days and then we would get in the car and drive down to Mexico or San Diego!
Q: Speaking of adventure, is it true that you did more of your own stunts this season than last season?
A: “Action Guillermo” this season! I did, In season 2, they didn’t show us the storyline ahead of time, so when I got to set and we got the script and went to the table read, I was like “Whoah! There are some really cool stunts happening in this episode! They gave me a personal trainer, who was amazing, and I went to the gym at least 3 times a week before I went to set to work up some upper body strength. I have years of training in dance and the way I see it, it’s all choreography. The stunts are choreography; you have to hit it on the right beat at the right time. The biggest stuff is coming up and I can’t wait to see it.
Q: How are you holding up in this current climate of quarantining? And obviously it’s unfortunate that the show premiered in a time when you can’t all be together to obviously celebrate it…
A: It’s a little unfortunate that the show is airing now, but it’s also perfect that it aired right now! On the show, we’re showing these everyday adventures and they all happen without leaving this house! At first, it was frustrating to be forced to be at home. I really miss the gathering with friends, and being able to hug someone, and having dinner or drinks. But then you realize that when the time comes and we can hug again, we will never take it for granted again.
“What We Do In The Shadows” airs Wednesdays at 10pm on FX.