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‘What We Do in the Shadows’ Star Mark Proksch Loves Playing a Big Baby

Mark Proksch spent the first three seasons of FX’s Emmy-nominated What We Do in the Shadows finding the humor in boring Colin Robinson, an energy vampire. But in season three’s penultimate episode, “A Farewell,” Colin Robinson suddenly died on his 100th birthday. This left the rest of Staten Island’s premier vampire crew in mourning as they prepared to set out on new adventures. The season ended, however, with Laszlo (Matt Berry) abandoning his planned move to London with Nadja (Natasia Demetriou) to stay behind and raise a creature that emerged from Colin Robinson’s dead body — and looked an awful lot like a baby Colin Robinson.

How did Proksch feel when he initially saw his new character? “I mean, disturbed, obviously,” the actor says. “It was very off-putting for me, as has been watching myself in some of these rough cuts of season four. I do not know if people understand how creepy it’s going to look. ”

In an attempt to prepare you, we chatted with Proksch about watching his own death and figuring out how to play a baby.

Vanity Fair: As of a couple years ago, what would you have put the odds at that you’d play a baby in your career as an adult actor?

Mark Proksch: [Laughs] I would give it a 0% chance. But, especially on a show like this, you should never assume anything. It’s basically a cartoon because you’re dealing with the world of fantasy, and anything can come up and be justified. Story-wise, it’s almost impossible to jump the shark on this show.

Before we get too deep, there’s something we should settle. Most fans, as well as many of the other characters, are calling this creature “Baby Colin Robinson,” whereas Laszlo insists on simply going with “Boy.” So where have you landed?

Just “Colin.”

Just Colin!

Yeah, because, to me, he’s the same character. I’m just playing different variations of him. And so it’s exciting because I get to think about, What would Colin have been like as a toddler, as a 10-year-old, as a tempestuous teen? That was super fun and honestly kind of breathed new life into the character for me.

Taking a step back, what was your reaction when you were told about the death of OG Colin and the birth of this new Colin? Did they lay out the entire plan for you at once, or were you sitting there after reading the script for season three’s penultimate episode, thinking, What the hell, are they replacing me with Donal Logue ?!

It was just after the table read; we were doing the table reads over Zoom, and [showrunner] Paul Simms called me and said, “Obviously, you’re not dead — you’re going to come back as a baby.” At first, when you hear you’re going to be a baby, you instantly become terrified, because so many characters have gone off the rails on shows when they try to do something this big. But I had confidence in Paul and the writers, and if anyone could pull off a story like this, it would be them. So the anxiety and fear quickly went away.

Between the airing of episodes 9 and 10, how many people not involved in the show were hitting you up, like, “He can’t be dead, right?” It was probably a nice relief that you did not need to spend a year pretending like you were gone for good.

Yeah, I think that was a surprise for us. In fact, Paul, [writer-producer] Sam Johnson, and I ended up doing a round of interviews because people were so inquisitive about what they had just seen. I had relatives reaching out to my parents and my in-laws, and people were pretty concerned with what was going on. I did not think anyone would think that I had left the show or that the character had been written off.

What was it like playing that flatulence-fueled goodbye? I’m assuming you have the honor of the only death scene to ever feature the final words “young, dumb, and full of cum.”

[Laughs] It was really fun, because how often do you get to have a death scene as a character spirit get to come back? It’s like being at your own funeral. We were laughing a lot during that scene, and there’s obviously a practical effect where my head caves in and Nandor [Kayvan Novak] reaches in and gets a handful of goo. I could stand off to the side and watch as they filmed that. That was creepy. Anytime you have a dummy of yourself, it is so eerie, and our practical effects guys are so good that it looks real. All I can say is that it’s a very, very disturbing thing to look your clone in the eye.

What are the actual mechanics of making Baby Colin work on a technical level?

We really used every trick in the book. For the most part, there would be a stand-in child or a special effect of some sort, and then my head would be put on the child. A lot of it was green screen and such. And then on top of that, acting as a child — as a child Colin Robinson would act, as a teenage Colin Robinson would act — you have to kind of remember, What was I like at that age? And, you know, I have not been a 10-year-old in some time! And what would Colin Robinson at 10 years old be? Without going into the actorly bullshit of it, I just had a lot of fun with a character that is supposed to be a very boring character.

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