Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi are putting a little more bite into their cult-favorite vampire universe.
Their latest addition is “Wellington Paranormal” (Sundays at 9 p.m. on the CW), a comedy-horror show created by the “What We Do in the Shadows” duo. It follows the adventures of incurious police officers Minogue (Mike Minogue) and O’Leary (Karen O’Leary) as they investigate supernatural incidents around the titular New Zealand capital.
“The basic idea for the show came about one minute into watching Karen and Mike work together [while filming 2014 movie ‘What We Do in the Shadows’],” Clement, 47, told The Post on a call from Wellington, where he’s based.
“If you watch the scenes in the movie where the police are talking to us, if you look at our faces, we’re all hiding smiles. It’s the most we laughed making that movie, being told off by the police.”
“Wellington Paranormal” is the second spinoff of the original “Shadows” film, a mockumentary following the lives of vampire roommates, which Clement and Waititi wrote, directed and starred in. FX’s ongoing spinoff series of the same name (Season 3 premieres Sept. 2) is set in the same world and follows different vampire roommates living on Staten Island.
Although its first season has just landed in the US, “Wellington Paranormal” already aired in New Zealand, where it caused some confusion among viewers, Clement said.
“There’s a show here called ‘Police Ten 7,’ which follows real police and they’re often talking to drunk people. So that was another big influence [on ‘Wellington’]. When this show originally aired, it was on after three New Zealand reality police shows … I used to like hearing stories of people telling me about their moms being confused when they turned on the cop show and there’d be some alien plants chasing the cops. Like, ‘What? Why has this happened?’ Because they were watching real cops just 10 minutes earlier.”
While the “What We Do in the Shadows” franchise is expansive today, it had humble beginnings, starting as an onstage sketch by Clement and Waititi, frequent collaborators and longtime friends (they met as students at Victoria University of Wellington).
“Taika gets up and tells some vampire jokes and then I get up and heckle him,” said Clement of the early version of their premise. “I play this vampire heckler that’s been heckling his stand-up comedy for 200 years. And he can’t get through a set, because the same heckler follows him all around the world.”
But turning that sketch into a film and then two spinoff shows “actually took us a long time,” he said.
“We made a short film [in 2005] as a prequel concept with $180, I think. And at the same time, things started happening for us. ‘Flight of the Conchords’ got picked up as a show and Taika was nominated for an Oscar for a short film [2004’s ‘Two Cars, One Night’]. So, we were busy. So about 10 years later, we finally made the low-budget movie for less than 1 million US dollars. We thought, ‘We might be able to make this money back!’ And it’s still going on with at least two shows.”
A third show about werewolf characters was in the works, too, but Clement said, “What’s happened since we were talking about doing that is that Taika is now one of the biggest filmmakers in the world. And I’ve spent all this time making other paranormal TV shows. So, I don’t know if we’ll ever do anything on that — who knows. It would be fun to.”
Aside from “Wellington Paranormal,” Clement is working on another show with Waititi. “That’s going to be our next thing,” Clement said. “I can’t tell you about it yet — I’ll tell you in about a year’s time.” And he’s also back in front of the camera on the big screen, acting in the “Avatar” movies, the long-awaited sequels to the 2009 James Cameron blockbuster, which are filming simultaneously.
“I’ve just been writing and directing for the last few years, so it’s good to do some acting,” he said. “It just happens to be on this massive budget film. So, whenever I turn up to work, it’s like, ‘I hope I remember how to act!’”