Harvey Guillén Talks Horror, Improv, and His Favourite Matt Berry Lines

Harvey Guillén Talks Horror, Improv, and His Favourite Matt Berry Lines

Over the weekend, Harvey Guillén, who plays Guillermo de la Cruz on FX’s What We Do in the Shadows, hosted a spotlight panel at New York City Comic Con, recording a live episode of his podcast Behind the Shadows. He was joined by Hocus Pocus 2 star Belissa Escobedo, who will be in the upcoming Blue Beetle film alongside Guillén. As they discussed their roles in various projects, they dove deep into what makes a horror comedy, and what makes death funny.

Escobedo had a small part in American Horror Stories, a episodic anthology spinoff of the original American Horror Story. “Ryan Murphy did me so dirty putting me in that bucket hat,” she recalled. “Initially my character was going to die, but they were like — you’re so sweet, your character is so likable, it would be too sad. And I’m like, that’s the point! I want to get my head cut off! I want to bathing in fake blood by the end of this scene. I want to be killed! I’ve been working on my screams.”

Harvey asked about how that felt — if it was a catharsis — and Escobedo said it was always “good to get it out.” Guillén agreed, calling it “therapeutic.” Surprising no one, Gullién said that he “loves doing horror comedies.” Besides the fact that he’s one of the stars on FX’s What We Do in the Shadows, he was also in 2021’s Werewolves Within, and he just released a feature on Hulu, Cursed Friends, with an absolutely stacked comedy cast that includes Nicole Byer, Will Arnett, Kathy Griffin, and (for some reason) NSYNC’s Joey Fatone.

As the panel went into questions, many fans asked about Shadows. Some of the delightful moments for Shadows fans include Guillén saying that his favourite Matt Berry pronunciations are “BaAat!” and “Nuu Yawk Citay.” (Escobedo’s was “What hath the Dark Lord wrought,” which she played on a 10-second rewind loop.) Guillén also mentioned that he loves when Berry pronounces Manhattan as “Manahatta,” which was, in fact, the Lenape name for Manhattan. “So really, he was just pronouncing it the way it was originally meant to have been pronounced!” Guillén explained, absolutely delighted to get to share this.“Manahatta is how Laszlo would have heard it when he first arrived. Fun fact.”

Guillén also praised the chemistry he has on set with Kayvan Novak, who plays the vampire Nandor the Relentless, though he said the whole cast has an incredible working relationship. Guillén described how on one day of filming they shot 20 minutes of improv that never made it to the show. “Each episode is only 22 minutes,” he explained, “so you’ll never see it. They don’t release bloopers. Maybe in an aftershow one day?”

When asked who he would trade places with on set — cast or crew — Guillén said, almost immediately, that he would be the boom guy. “Because you just get to hear everything. We have mics on the whole time, so you’ll be talking about something sensitive and you’ll — ” Guillén covers his collar with his hand, miming covering a mic. Escobedo jumped in, “I heard that doesn’t work. They can just hear it all anyway.” Guillén laughed, “and that’s why you see the boom guy in the corner just staring at you.”

I was in attendance, and while I knew that the Q+A was mostly for fans and not press people, I couldn’t help but sneak to the back of the line. When it got to me, I asked about something that had been haunting me for two years. “There’s a scene in season three where you and Nandor are fighting,” I said. “You get to the top of the coffin, yell ‘plancha!’ and then crossbody Nandor on the ground — was that improvised?”

Readers, I am delighted to report that Guillén not only improvised the line, but also convinced the director to keep it in the final cut. He also admitted to being a Lucha Libre fan, as evidenced by the plancha that Guillermo executed was a Mexican plancha, and not an American plancha — two very different wrestling moves.

One of the biggest subplots of season four was that Guillermo gets a boyfriend. He also comes out to his family. A fan asked about how Guillén handled this storyline, as a queer Latino man working in Hollywood. “It was weird. It hit close to home and it was therapeutic, in a way, but it was a little triggering.” For Guillermo, his sexuality was just one lie of many — the character’s been lying to his family about his job and aspirations for years. “The lies are a heavy weight. The last straw was when his chosen family — the vampires — and his biological family were about to destroy each other.” Guillén said that it was emotional because of how accepting Guillermo’s family was. “Some people don’t get that acceptance.”

He said he would love to see a Guillermo de la Cruz spinoff–maybe an animated show or a comic. “But we are picked up for seasons five and six,” Guillén said. “So who knows what will happen.”

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