Jemaine Clement might not be ‚Äúclassically handsome‚ÄĚ like his Flight of the Conchords counterpart Bret McKenzie ‚ÄĒ at least according to their superfan Mel on the short-lived HBO series ‚ÄĒ but that hasn‚Äôt held him back in the slightest.
The New Zealander musician, actor, and writer went on to star in the vampire mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows with director Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok), and currently serves as showrunner on a TV adaptation with a new cast of vampires set to premiere on FX next year. He also scored a recurring role on another FX show, Legion, played a singing fart on Rick and Morty, and co-stars in the screwball comedy An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn with Aubrey Plaza and Craig Robinson.
In a recent phone interview, Inverse spoke to Clement about all of that and more. We also couldn‚Äôt resist asking about his Flight of the Conchords origins, including the first song the Kiwi musical comedy duo ever wrote (make your best guess now because you‚Äôre definitely wrong.)
Sorry, but I have to ask, will we ever get a new season of Flight of the Conchords?
No, we did just do a special that‚Äôs on HBO. I don‚Äôt think we‚Äôll do the show again.
What was the first Flight of the Conchords song you and Bret ever wrote together?
It was ‚ÄúFoux Du Fafa,‚ÄĚ our French song. We never really were able to play it, but in the special, we actually managed to do it the whole way through, probably for the first time even though we wrote it about 20 years ago.
What‚Äôs so hard about playing that song? Is it too funny to get through?
I do always laugh during that song. The part where Brett plays the woman and she‚Äôs mad at me, that always makes me laugh. But playing that latin rhythm and speaking at the same time is what‚Äôs really difficult. Singing and playing is easier than speaking and playing.
What was it like playing the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in 2007?
That‚Äôs going back. Oh boy, so long ago. I do remember that we had a fairly modest acoustic setup for that and we were playing next door to Ween, which is a band I love by the way. But they were blasting really loud. It was really difficult to do. But you know, in a way I was flattered to be drowned out by them.
And then at the end, The Flaming Lips started and you could hear them play the intro to ‚ÄúDo You Realize?‚ÄĚ and only the very polite people stayed to watch us to the end because you couldn‚Äôt even hear us, and we just said, ‚ÄúWell, if you wanna see The Flaming Lips you can go.‚ÄĚ
Did you ever get to meet David Bowie?
No, but that‚Äôs ok. I think sometimes that‚Äôs for the best. One time we were backstage at a Leonard Cohen concert and we thought we might get to meet him and I remember being quite nervous, but then he never came out and I had quite a sense of relief. Meeting heroes like that, you worry about what you‚Äôre gonna say and do. I don‚Äôt mind that we didn‚Äôt.
You‚Äôre one of the head writers and showrunners for the What We Do in the Shadows TV show. Will you character from the movie make a cameo?
I‚Äôm keeping that close to my chest ‚ÄĒ that‚Äôs code for highly likely. Yeah, we showed the pilot at Comic Con a few weeks ago. Someone asked, will your characters show up in the show, and I said It would have to be something very important to bring them away from New Zealand. Some people took that as no, even though I thought it was very obvious. As I say, highly likely.
What‚Äôs different about the show compared to the movie?
Yeah, they‚Äôre different characters and it‚Äôs a different environment. But there‚Äôs a lot of similarities as well. It‚Äôs the same humor and the same style. I think of it as one of those housewives shows: Housewives of‚Ä¶. So we have Vampires of Wellington and the new one is Vampires of Staten Island.*
Will we see any other types of monsters on the show?
In the first season there‚Äôs a couple of different types of vampires. I don‚Äôt want to give too much away about it.
Is is true you‚Äôre working on a What We Do in the Shadows sequel with Taika Waititi about the werewolves?
Working on it is an exaggeration. We had an idea for doing it. But I don‚Äôt know if we‚Äôre going to make that. We talked a bit about it, but I‚Äôve been working on that show and another show. I haven‚Äôt chipped away at that one yet.
If the werewolves movie does happen, would you and all the other vampires be a part of it?
We haven‚Äôt thought it enough out to know yet, and I‚Äôve kind of been playing with whether it will get made or not.
There‚Äôs another show in the Shadows universe, right? What can you tell me about Wellington Paranormal?
Yeah, there‚Äôs two police officers in What We Do in the Shadows who come to the vampires‚Äô house and fail to see what‚Äôs happening because they‚Äôre hypnotized. And that was just really funny. So we thought they should get a TV show. We made a six part series, which is out on New Zealand. We‚Äôve got another season, but I haven‚Äôt started work on that yet.
It‚Äôs really fun, I love making it. It‚Äôs a monster of the week. It‚Äôs like a stupid X-Files.
Is your character in that show?
He‚Äôs not, but Nick, who is the new vampire in the movie, shows up. There‚Äôs an episode about him and what he‚Äôs up to now. He‚Äôs played by Cori Gonzalez-Macuer, one of the most naturally funny people I‚Äôve ever seen
Your co-vampire Taika Waititi also directed Thor: Ragnarok. Any interest in joining him in the Marvel universe?
He did ask me to work on Thor: Ragnarok with him, but I was already pretty deep into the Shadows series and the other New Zealand series Wellington Paranormal. But I think, yeah, possibly. It would be good to do something that‚Äôs not vampires probably for a while.
Beverly Luff Linn is a really weird movie, even by your standards. How would you summarize it in one sentence?
I wouldn‚Äôt do that.
Your character in the movie sort of gets dragged into a dispute between a husband and wife. What do you think are the motivations of your character?
The way I felt when I was doing it was that he had seen some bad things happen when he was younger. So he wanted to protect people and that‚Äôs what he wanted his job to be. And then he‚Äôs thrown into this situation and trying to decide who‚Äôs right. He‚Äôs confused about what his job should be.
What was it like working with Aubrey Plaza and Craig Robinson?
It was great. I‚Äôd worked with both of them before. Craig and I have done live gigs together. Doing Flight of the Conchords, Craig would come play piano for us. Sometimes Brett and I would come join his band. But it was good to do some film work, which is very different from playing music on stage. And Aubrey and I worked on Legion together. It was very nice to be able to work with friends.
This interview has been condescend and edited for clarity.