When the television adaptation of the 2014 film What We Do in the Shadows was announced, I’ll admit, my initial reaction was skepticism. Written and directed by New Zealand comedy kings Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement, the original film is such an excellent horror-comedy mockumentary as it stands that it was hard to imagine a TV version living up to those high expectations, even with both artists involved. Pretty much as soon as I saw Episode 1, I realized I’d been wrong to judge. It’s different enough to the film to be refreshing and exciting, but with the same hilarious comedy style.
The TV show WWDITS primarily follows Nadja (Natasia Demetriou), Laszlo (Matt Berry), and Nandor (Kayvan Novak), three ancient vampire flatmates attempting to navigate a modern world in Staten Island. Energy vampire Colin Robinson (Mark Proksch) also lives with them. But amidst these supernatural beings is my most beloved character: Guillermo de la Cruz (Harvey Guillén).
Guillermo is Nandor’s familiar—a human being who devotedly serves a vampire under the condition that they will one day be turned into a vampire by them. This is the core aspect of his narrative, but he’s already undergone a great deal of character development over the three seasons so far.
Upon being introduced to Guillermo in Season 1, we learn about his duties as Nandor’s familiar. There are jobs specific to babysitting vampires, such as ensuring no sunlight gets in the house and finding people who are easy to kill. But for the most part, he’s essentially a housekeeper. Such powerful vampires are incapable of looking after themselves and their living space, so all chores fall to Guillermo, much to his dismay. He has no choice but to deal with it since he’s so desperate to become a vampire. It’s not a great position for him to be in, being badly treated by employers/‘friends.’ This angle does make him extremely relatable, however. We’ve all been underappreciated in our jobs, right?
A lot of the comedy in WWDITS stems from juxtaposing the mundanity of everyday life with outlandish supernatural characters and shenanigans. Guillermo is at the very center of this. As Harvey Guillén himself has put it, “He is the heart—because he’s literally the only beating human heart in the show.” As the token human, he is the main tie to the real, normal world, and so he bridges the gap between this and our ridiculous vampires. When blood is spilled, Guillermo is the one to grab the mop and start cleaning, in the most literal sense. He grounds the show, reminding us that this is home, after all. The irony is that Guillermo is desperate to escape the real world and fully cross over into vampiredom.
I think a large part of the reason why fans gravitate towards Guillermo is that he is a massive vampire fanboy. He fantasizes about sleeping in a coffin one day and pretends to be burning from sunlight to practice. Every person obsessed with vampires has daydreamed of being whisked away by a sexy ancient being who turns them into one of them—the show knows its target audience, and Guillermo is our guide into this world. As he states in the pilot episode, Antonio Banderas as Armand in the 1994 film adaptation of Interview with the Vampire inspired him to follow his dream of becoming a vampire. A man of taste!
In this respect, Guillermo is well-matched with his master, Nandor. Despite being the eldest of the nest, he occasionally makes pop culture references. For example, when he asks Guillermo to buy him glitter “so I can sprinkle it on my face and on my body…like Twilight”; Guillermo’s direct stare into the camera following this comment is priceless. He may look completely done, but we know he’s secretly amused at the mainstream vampire movie reference. I mean, he’s been putting up with this guy for a decade already.
Frenemies and Homoeroticism
A lot of Guillermo’s almost-constant state of frustration is born from the fact that his master still hasn’t turned him into a vampire. And, as the show goes on, it becomes more and more evident that he probably never will. Consequently, Nadja and Laszlo find this optimism amusing; even more so because it’s the reason he does everything for them without question. This dynamic between Guillermo and the group is frenemy-like. He’ll do anything for them, and does genuinely care for them, but equally, their selfishness, idiocy, and hostility create endless barriers for him.
Back to the not-a-vampire-yet thing: some of my favorite Guillermo moments (Guillermoments?) are when he expresses extreme sarcasm and bitterness at other people who have been turned. For example, when he finds out Nadja has randomly turned newcomer Jenna (Beanie Feldstein) into a vampire and screams into a pillow. Or having a conversation with the new familiar Topher (Haley Joel Osment) in the Season 2 premiere, who isn’t even bothered about becoming a vampire, and then ranting about it in an interview.
On his ten-year anniversary of being Nandor’s familiar, Guillermo is misled to think he will finally be turned. In actual fact, Nandor has simply made him a “glitter poster” of the two of them; to rub salt in the non-existent fang wound, he makes Guillermo a vampire in the picture but not in real life. In spite of Nandor’s refusal to turn him, Guillermo stands by him every step of the way. Amongst all the frustration, there are moments of laughter and wholesome friendship between them. My personal favorite is Nandor holding him up, and because he has no reflection, in the mirror it looks like Guillermo is flying. His cheerful “woo, I’m a vampire!!” is so precious.
Of course, it would be remiss of me to discuss Guillermo without addressing the gay (sub)text between him and Nandor. There’s always a level of sexual tension/desire between a vampire and their familiar, and this is hugely played up in WWDITS. At a few points throughout the show, Guillermo mentions having been raised Catholic, which explains why he’s rather repressed and not open about his sexuality. Look, I’m queer and went to Catholic school, so I get it. It’s another one of the many reasons why I relate to him so much.
As the show goes on, the writers seem to be making it more obvious that Guillermo is gay and has feelings for Nandor. Season 3 is the peak of this so far. In ‘The Cloak of Duplication,’ various members of the gang use a magical cloak to disguise themselves as Nandor. Since he has no social skills, they all try to flirt with a woman he’s trying to date in a new take on wingmanship. When it’s Guillermo’s turn, he ends up having a heart-to-heart with Meg (Lauren Collins) and projecting his unresolved desire. Meg gathers from this that he has romantic feelings for Nandor, which he not-very-convincingly denies. Considering Meg is later revealed to be a lesbian, it makes sense she’d pick up on Guillermo being gay.
Later in the season, Nandor has a “crisis crisis” and leaves their home for a wellness center. The plot is reminiscent of in Season 2 when Guillermo is sick of not getting what he wants and joins a ‘vampire’-led cult of familiars in the hope of finally getting turned. Nandor visits him and begs him to come back home, showing how he truly misses him. Unsurprisingly, something more sinister is at play at the wellness center in Season 3. Nandor is too naive to see it, and so it falls to Guillermo to rescue him. Guillermo’s anxious concern for his master is very sweet and rather revealing of his deeper feelings. He knows what’s best for Nandor, even if the vampire himself doesn’t. Additionally, there’s a standout scene between the two of them as Nandor is leaving. Guillermo begs him to turn him before he goes, but Nandor reveals that he sees vampirism as a curse, and cares too much for him to subject him to it.
The human’s feelings are far more obvious than the vampire’s, but he does reciprocate to a certain extent. We’ll likely find out more about how Nandor feels in future episodes. It’s just that Guillermo is more susceptible to Freudian slips. For example, at the very end of Season 3 when he says, “the real thing I’m looking forward to is traveling the whole world with my Nand-master.” We’re not letting that one slip, Guillermo.
The Vampire He Wants to Be, The Slayer He Became
Of all the characters in WWDITS, it’s fair to say Guillermo has the most significant character development. A large part of this is due to the discovery that he is actually a vampire hunter. In the Season 1 finale, Guillermo finds out he’s a descendant of Van Helsing himself. This is reflected in his name; ‘de la Cruz’ translates to ‘of the cross’. His heritage means Guillermo is predisposed to killing vampires, whether he means to or not.
He starts by accidentally killing the Baron (Doug Jones) by casually opening the door to the house, letting sunlight in. As a result, many vampire assassins invade the house at the start of Season 2 on behalf of the Vampiric Council. Guillermo secretly kills them all to protect Nadja, Laszlo, Nandor, and Colin. What starts off as accidental becomes justifiable; he’ll kill vampires only if they pose a threat to his vampires.
However, this changes in ‘The Curse’. While looking for virgins, Guillermo inadvertently joins a group called ‘The Mosquito Collectors of the Tri-State Area’. They turn out to be a vampire hunting group, so Guillermo keeps attending the meetings to infiltrate. However, he gets caught up in a hunt that ends up being much bigger than anticipated. This results in him killing multiple vampires of the Hustle Dynasty on purpose to survive and protect the group of humans he’s with.
This accidental event has major consequences for our familiar (no pun intended) household, especially Guillermo. The deaths of the Hustle Dynasty get blamed on Nadja, Laszlo, Nandor, and Colin, and so the Vampiric Council attempt to execute them in ‘Nouveau Théâtre des Vampires’. Right before this, Guillermo returns home briefly to stay with his mother (Myrna Cabello), since he believes his nature as a vampire hunter is affecting his duties as a familiar. As much as he tries to create some distance between himself and the vampires, it isn’t meant to last.
In a wonderfully impressive sequence and season finale, Guillermo slaughters a whole room of vampires (except two) in Théâtre des Vampires. Again, he does it to save his masters, which is how he justifies his slayings. Finally, his identity as a vampire hunter is revealed to the group, in an extremely badass moment, might I add. Despite the complications this confession might bring, Guillermo stands tall and powerfully admits who he is. It’s an empowering moment.
Season 3 explores Guillermo’s dynamic with the vampires now they know his true nature. Initially, the vampires are understandably wary of him and lock him in a cage during this time. I absolutely love the fact that, even though his masters treat him terribly and now distrust him on top of that, Guillermo has a way of escaping the cage but uses it only to fulfill all the household chores during the daytime. The vampires know Guillermo isn’t ever going to hurt them, but they also become fully aware of just how much they need him. More than this, Guillermo himself truly learns his value.
Taking a rather Machiavellian approach, Guillermo utilizes his valuable position in the group in Season 3 by manipulating Nandor and Nadja. He is appointed as their official bodyguard. The two vampires share equal power and authority by co-leading the Council, but Guillermo has the most influence.
As well as coming into his own power, Guillermo learns to really stand up for himself in Season 3. He calls the group out when they’re being idiots (which is most of the time) and asserts his position. Guillermo is the self-appointed problem-solver of the group since the vampires are either too petty, cowardly, or dumb to incorporate solutions. For example, when Nandor starts spiraling in ‘The Escape’, Guillermo slaps him and firmly says, “Stop feeling sorry for yourself, okay? And help me help you fix this!” Where would they be without him?
The absolute highlight of Guillermo knowing his worth and standing up to his master is in the Season 3 finale. He confronts Nandor, worried about the group breaking up, and it escalates into a full-blown fight. The culmination of the confrontation is when Guillermo explains that Nandor is only alive because he allows him to live. He reminds his master he is a vampire killer and has saved his life on countless occasions. At the end of the day, Nandor may be ancient, but he is incredibly stupid. The power is entirely in Guillermo’s hands, and he is under no pretenses about this.
Nandor and Guillermo’s relationship is on much more equal footing now. They have a mutual understanding which, following their fight, actually placed them in a more secure position than before. This is why Nandor believed Guillermo was ready to face the world with him. How romantic!
Who starts off as a quiet familiar who is rather unsure of himself blooms into a confident, self-assured vampire slayer. It’s safe to say Guillermo is the most relatable character in WWDITS and this development empowers not only the character but the fans as well. Seeing a plus-size, Latino, queer man come into his own is especially wonderful to have on our screens. I can’t wait to see what’s next for Guillermo in Season 4!
Looking for more about compelling horror TV characters? We’ve got you: