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Harvey Guillen On Reacher’s Jasper, What We Do In The Shadows Season 4, And Iconic Guest Stars – Exclusive Interview

Harvey Guillen On Reacher’s Jasper, What We Do In The Shadows Season 4, And Iconic Guest Stars – Exclusive Interview

When it comes to making an audience laugh, Harvey Guillén is the master of his craft. Whether he’s starring in comedies like “What We Do in the Shadows” or offering comedy relief in a more serious series like Prime Video’s “Reacher,” the actor is a genius of wit. Guillén’s “Reacher” character Jasper is known for his regional graphic tees and Southern accent while he lists off a ton of medical jargon in the Margrave morgue. 

Before landing his role on “Reacher,” Guillén appeared in a slew of popular shows and movies like “The Internship,” “Eye Candy,” “The Magicians,” “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist,” and “Werewolves Within.” The actor has also played the ever-popular and always hilarious character Guillermo on “What We Do in the Shadows” since 2019. 

During an exclusive interview with Looper, Guillén discussed his biggest trials and triumphs on the “Reacher” set, what it was like working with so many gruesome dead bodies, and his favorite moments with the “Reacher” cast. He also teased Season 4 of “What We Do in the Shadows,” gushed about Britney Spears, and revealed Catherine Hardwicke’s reaction to the Season 3 “Twilight” homage. 

Hanging out with Jack Reacher himself

What was it like working with Alan Ritchson, and do you have any fun stories with him from set?

[Jokingly] Who?

[Jokingly] That one guy?

It was great. He was so in character. He is Reacher — the description of that character is Alan. It was perfectly cast … Most of our scenes were with Willa, but we did a couple scenes with him, and he was so in character the whole time that it was like, he never broke character. It was great to see somebody from afar. It’s like, “Oh, he’s in the moment, he’s in this moment.” There [were] times when he would, during break or something, he would make a joke, but he was very committed to being Reacher.

You had to do a lot of work with gory bodies in compromising positions. Did that freak you out at all? Was there a scene [where you] felt a little queasy, or was it just another day at the office?

No, it does. I’m really squeamish when it comes to blood. Here I am, doing a show as a medical examiner with bodies. Then, I also do “[What We Do in the] Shadows,” where I deal with blood all the time and corpses. There was a scene where there was a body pinned to the wall, and it’s cruising, and I [had] to examine it. Literally, that’s the first joke that we have in the series, where I literally say, “Holy s***, his balls are missing.”

That was like breaking the ice. If you’re going to make a ball joke, I guess that would be the moment. It looked so real. The body looked so real. The hair on the forearm, they did a fantastic job.

Was that a fake body?

Yes. I kept checking if it was. I was like, “This isn’t real.” They didn’t tell me that they had animatronics attached to the back. At one point, the body was [moving] like it’s a thing. I was like, “No, no.” It was gruesome. I’ll post a picture of it. I have some [behind-the-scenes] stuff.

An iZombie reunion

What was the most exciting aspect of taking on this role, and where would you like to see Jasper go in a possible Season 2?

The challenging [thing] would be the medical jargon that has to be said as a medical examiner. I remember the first scene, one of the scenes in the first episode was shortened, because it was so long, of just talking medical jargon.

I can’t even remember the lines, but it was, “[Guillén makes babbling noises],” back to back, talking to Willa’s character about a potential clue. [I thought], “Wow, this is a lot of information at once.” I guess that was the most challenging.

I’d love to see a little bit of backstory with Jasper. We saw a little bit of the T-shirts that he wears, the Savannah Bananas [a baseball team], which is what he wears. Shoutout to the Savannah Bananas because they reached out through social media, and they’re like, “We’re honored that you’re wearing our shirt.”

What was the most exciting thing that you got to do during the show?

It was working with a new cast. It’s new energy, new people, and reunited with some old friends from “iZombie,” my “iZombie” buddy [Malcolm Goodwin].

It was nice to see the different dynamic because I work on a comedy, it’s a dark comedy, and this is very serious. A serious set is very different, but it was lovely — the crew and everyone, makeup and hair, and meeting new people. I like new experiences.

Honing in on the Southern accent

You mentioned the tough medical jargon. Did you have to do any medical research to prepare for the role, or were there any specific things that you had trouble saying or knowing what they were?

Yeah, Jasper has a Southern accent, so it was already a layer of trying to completely stay grounded in that character and be as authentic as possible. We had a dialect coach on set, who was amazing. Some of the words, if you’re just speaking, if you’re from California, you might say this word differently than you would if you have an accent from Boston or from the South. It’s the same word, different pronunciation, with an accent behind it. That was probably it, but it was fun.

I took voice production and speech in school, so it was a little bit easier than I think if I’d never had any kind of experience with any accents.

Speaking on that a little bit, you are from California. How did you get into the zone of playing this very Southern Georgian character?

I love the South. I really do. I’ve filmed in the South a lot. I have friends who are from the South. Some of my close friends are from all over the South, so I always hear and pick up the actual different dialects from different areas.

Getting to that was fun because it was reminding me of going out to dinner with friends on a Sunday, and then talking about their mom, and the way they talk, and picking up [on] those things a little bit –that was fun … I was just in New Orleans, and I love the Big Easy, and I’ve filmed in Georgia and Alabama. Yeah, I’ve been there before, and [there are] really great spots that you pick up some really great moments of mannerism and voice production.

Jasper's envious graphic tee wardrobe

Did you take it home, any of those iconic T-shirts?

No, I should have. I wanted to take a Savannah Banana one, but no, I didn’t, I think because in case it was picked up for a second season, production would need to keep them. Now that Season 1’s done, maybe.

I always like to take a little piece of the character. I have Guillermo’s original glasses, and I have other pieces from “The Magicians.” They were nice enough to give me Benedict’s full costume. I didn’t get a shirt here. I’m going to talk to the producer.

Were you a fan of the 2012 “Reacher” movie, and what do you think that the show does differently?

I had seen the movie. I love action films, so I was a fan of the story that Lee [Child] has created. I really think that this, because it’s a series, it gives you the opportunity to unfold the story even more, and actually be really loyal to his books. It was nice to see it unfold, and seeing all the episodes now, I was just, “Wow, I was there.”

I’m blown away at how it all came out because it looks like a beautiful … it’s beautifully shot cinematography. It’s a whole ride, from beginning to end, as opposed to a 90-minute film. You get to really expand on this world.

Does Jasper need a haircut?

Are you a fan of any other procedural shows or characters that you drew inspiration from for this one?

It’s always funny because I always feel like, in the past, if I play anything that has to do with a genius or medic, or anything, like when I play George in “Eye Candy,” most of his lines were — he’s a hacker. He would hack into a code, into something, and he’d be like, “I’m in.”

It was like code, two words, like that. I always make fun that I feel like that with “Reacher.” I feel like I could have gone in and been, “Turns out he’s not the killer.” That would have been it, and that would have led us to the next episode. I could have just got in every episode at the end and be, “Nope, not the killer.” The next episode would lead on, but he adds clues to every episode where we put the pieces together. So it’s always nice.

Is there an actor or a character from “Reacher” that you would have loved to work with in season 1 that maybe you’re hoping to get more scenes with, or a scene at all in Season 2?

That’s a tough one, because we had a lot of characters — a lot of people that come in, and who done it, and whatnot. I would have loved to visit the barbershop. It would have been a nice moment. That actor is so wonderful, and the way that he talks to Reacher is so soothing. I’m [thinking], “I want to go and get my haircut at that barbershop and forget about the murder that’s happening in Margrave.”

We all need some comedy relief

You tend to play a lot of comedy relief characters in your work, from “What We Do in the Shadows” and now “Reacher.” Are you drawn to these kinds of roles, or does it sort of just happen by coincidence?

I really am drawn to comedy. I’m making people forget about their troubles and escape for a little bit. I think that’s my gift that I can provide. I’m not a first responder, but I am an entertainer. And if I can provide you with a spoon full of sugar, make some medicine go down, then that’s all I can provide. So I really do love making people laugh and escape. But I can also make people escape through something dramatic, and hopefully, not too dark and traumatizing, but I can.

It’s an escape, and we need escape, and now more than ever is a time to put the arts in the forefront. If we’ve proven anything, during a world pandemic, what we need is an escape. Those should be the departments that never get cut in schools. The arts should never be the first thing to get cut, because the arts [are] what you run to when you’re in need of an escape.

The future of Shadows

The [Season 3] finale of “What We Do in the Shadows” is a wild ride. Can you tease anything that we can expect from Season 4, now that it seems like the gang’s a little broken up?

Yes. We left in a huge cliffhanger, and so they’re off across the pond, and we pick up. A year has gone by, and we see the results of everyone’s choices, or by default, the place that they ended up in, which is such a great, brilliant thing that the writers have done, where it’s so traumatizing, having Nandor wait at the train station, screaming, “Guillermo!” with this luggage. [He leaves] the red luggage behind, because he has to get on the train, and he leaves on a midnight train.

And then, [we have] Guillermo scream at the top of his lungs, while he’s been nailed into a coffin by Laszlo, who did it for his lady love. He acted out of love, to have me protect her, never guessing or double thinking that it would affect the way that I, my journey, would be affected by that.

It leaves on a huge emotional cliffhanger. A year has gone by. Things have happened, things have come to fruition, revelations, and we pick up there. We’ll see what these characters have to do.

Honoring the pop princess

I love Nandor’s reference to Britney Spears’ “I Wanna Go” music video from the finale, when he tells everyone that they suck, but says, “You’re cool,” to one of the wraiths. Do you know how that reference came about, or if anyone got it, or didn’t get it, in the moment?

I like to believe that the writers are very up-to-date and very relevant and pop culture savvy. I’ll just tell — I’m talking to Sarah Naftalis today, who’s one of my absolute favorite writers on the show.

It’s so funny, because when I read the scripts, I always try not to read the cover, and I try to read the script and figure out which writer wrote it. I would say 99.9% of the time, I can guess the writer that wrote the episode. The first person that I always guess is Sarah’s. Sarah has a way of writing for Guillermo that just rolls off the tongue for me, that when I’m reading it, it just feels like I’m not even reading, I’m talking out loud, and [thinking], “Oh, my gosh, this is so good.”

She has a really great way with words, and so did the whole team — the whole writer’s room. I like to think that they’re very savvy in the way that they drop things.

If you go back and replay some episodes, you’re like, “Oh, okay, I see what you did, yeah.” There’s always a little bit of Easter eggs that you can go back and look for.

Did anyone on set mention that, or [did it] just happen?

No. I think that I knew, when I read the script. I was like, “Ha.” I laughed out loud, and people were like, “What?”

Some people might not get it, because maybe they’re not a Britney fan, but there [are] definitely pop culture references. I think, when Colin Robinson says, “In the words of my friend, Stefani Germanotta [Lady Gaga], it’s like, ‘I was born this way.'”

Are you a big Britney fan?

Oh, I’m a huge Britney fan … Britney, if you’re [reading], come join us. Come join us in Staten Island.

Huge fan, lovely what’s happening, now that she’s free to do what she wants, and all of that. I actually sing a Britney song in “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist,” as my farewell goodbye to the show. It was nice to get to sing Britney Spears on television.

Supermassive Twilight reference

I would love to see Guillermo get a queer storyline in Season 4, since it seems like a few seeds have been planted in that direction. Is that something that you’d like to see for him?

Yeah, absolutely. I would love to see him explore his true self. For so long, the backstory to Guillermo is that [the reason] he’s been so enamored with the idea of being a vampire is because he thinks that’s what he needs to be his authentic, true, free self, whatever that means to him. [It might have] to do with his sexuality, or the freedom of being comfortable in your own body, your body image of yourself, the confidence that you get, because I feel like this backstory is that he’s probably been bullied his whole life and fresh out of school. He found someone who could potentially make him a vampire.

He was like, “Oh my gosh. If I just work with you for a little, a couple of years, you’ll make me a vampire, and everything I’ve known to be bad will melt away.” It’s not happening. It’s now going on 12 years of service — well, 11 years of service, one year of bodyguard, and it’s not happening. He’s starting to take matters into his own hands.

He’s starting to realize that the clock is ticking, that he’s not in that role, that the vampires, what do they care about time? Time is nothing to them.

You’re a human, and as a human, our clock [is] ticking every day — so our mortality is in front of us. He has to make choices, and I would love for him to explore his authentic self and to be completely happy, to find what makes him happy. I want him to be happy.

You did a hilarious “Twilight” parody in Season 3. What was that experience like? And what did you think of that final product?

I loved it. I thought it was so funny, that whole scene, which was mimicking the baseball scene that they did in “Twilight,” down to the music. I remember when the episode aired, and I was talking to Catherine Hardwicke, who directed the original “Twilight.” She directed me in “Eye Candy.” She’s like, “Did you guys just do…” And I [said], “Yes. Did you love it?” She [said], “I love it.”

The idea that it was full circle was so great, and showing Guillermo’s little bit of jealousy, until the attention that he’s giving to someone else. Then, accidentally, what happens, it’s terrible.

From epic guest stars to meta moments

You’ve gotten to work with a lot of really fun guest stars on “What We Do in the Shadows.” What have been some of your favorites, and who are your dream future guest stars that you’d love to see on the show?

I loved working with and became really good friends with Haley Joel Osment — who’s great, fantastic, such a trooper, to jump into the ice-cold water in winter. We have a pond scene. Also, Mark Hamill, who was lovely, and wonderful, and such a fan of the show. I couldn’t believe he was a fan of the show. I was like, “What are you talking about? You’re such an icon.”

We had such amazing guest stars. We’ve been so lucky to have it, and then, having Kristen [Schaal] join last season was great because she’s such a ball of energy and such a positive energy on set, and it’s great having her.

If I had to choose future, I’d have to go with the obvious of having Antonio Banderas or Salma Hayek reprise their vampire roles. That would be ideal, especially for Guillermo, and what it means to him to see Latinx representation be great.

Aside from that, comically, I would love, my first choice would be Amy Sedaris, to come and play with us. Amy, if you’re [reading] … Please.

You’ve also had a couple [of] meta moments where actors would appear as themselves in the show. Are there any pop culture icons that you really want to see on the show play themselves?

Yeah. I would love to see Dorinda, from “The [Real ]Housewives.” I would love to see Britney Spears come and knock on our door, and she’s doing some kind of charity work.

The stories are endless, but pop culture, … honestly, at this point, I’m obsessed down a rabbit hole with just the housewives. We could have any of the housewives come, and the closest one would be the New Jersey housewife. It would be Teresa, or Melissa could walk by. We might go to a store, go shopping for clothes at Melissa’s shop. I’m getting excited thinking about it.

Okay, wait, I just thought of something. You have to get Britney to come on and teach the vampires how to do a music video, to do a promotion for the Vampire Council.

Yes.

It’s happening.

Yes, yes. I love that. Okay, yes. I’m putting it out into the universe. That’s happening.

What's the deal with Colin Robinson?

What kind of adventures do you hope Guillermo gets up with Nadja, and do you hope he finds Nandor along the way, or are you interested in exploring these new character arcs without him?

Like I said, a year has passed, so a lot has happened in that year. You’ll find out what the adventures will be and how they affect who they are becoming, both Nadja and Guillermo. Guillermo has been put in a different environment now. He’s been in such a bubble that he’s never really left “the island of Manhattan” [as] Laszlo says, but he wants to explore new layers that he’s never explored.

Sometimes, the universe puts you in a different situation than you have planned for yourself. You think you want this whole life according to plan. “I go to school, and I get my degree, and I get this job.” And sometimes, the universe is like, “Stop, look over here,” and you really kind of have to pivot and let the universe take its toll on what you are supposed [to do]. It’s like, what you’re meant to do, and go along for the ride. Don’t fight the universe; sometimes, just go along for the ride. I feel that a part of him is starting to do that. He’s starting to stop being so frigid and so controlling over a situation that he has no control of.

What’s the deal with Colin Robinson? Can you give us any insight into [that], are we going to see a baby [with] a creepy man [face as] Colin Robinson, in the next season? 

Well, as we know, Colin Robinson passed away, as energy vampires only lived to be 100 years old, but then, that’s the finale you saw. Something crawled out of Colin Robinson, which looks like an infant, baby Colin Robinson, which is clearly a sign of rebirth, of something. How does that affect everyone? You’ll have to tune in and see.

The early days of Dylan O'Brien's career

You were also in “The Internship” with Dylan O’Brien. What was it like working with him on that project a minute ago?

Oh, my gosh. Dylan was so great. This is, like, “Teen Wolf” days … When he had just started on “Teen Wolf” — such a nice guy, so talented. I feel like, at that point, no one had really seen the caliber of the work that he can do.

As an actor, you meet other actors, and the way they present themselves, you’re like, “Oh, you know what you’re doing. You’re good, you’re good.” He is, and he’s so great. I think he’s wonderful. Once in a while, I’ll bump into him at an event or something, and he’s as nice as always. We had a lot of great nights in Atlanta.

We shot in Atlanta, Georgia. We did karaoke with the whole cast, Jessica Szohr and Eric Andre, and all of us, Rose Byrne, going to karaoke in Atlanta. That was years back. But those are memories that you’ll always have forever, and he’s doing great, so …

He’s doing very well. That’s awesome. You also started a fake talk show with him, called “Harvey’s Corner,” during that [movie]. How did that come about? And what are some other antics that you got up with him during that time?

[Laughs] What I love about Dylan is that Dylan is a really good improviser. He’s a really great actor of scripted … He can do scripted, and drama, and everything in comedy, of course. But he’s actually really good at improv. And it’s hard to find other people who are good at improv, especially actors.

We had so much downtime on “The Internship” that we did it. It started off as a joke. We had so much downtime, it was like, “My next guest is,” just like having him do, join my talk show, where he has to plug the promoters’ energy drink or something.

“So wouldn’t you say you need an energy drink, Dylan?” Dylan’s like, “No, I’m good.” He’s like, “No, won’t you say you need an energy drink?”

“I need you to say, you need an energy…” It’s like being an alliance because we’ll lose our sponsor for our talk show. It started off as a joke, and we had so much downtime when they were setting up the next shot and stuff. In between some of these, it can get a little bit boring if you’re sitting around in your trailer. I always like to make the best of the time that we have on set and enjoy the moment.

Because we’re like, “Let’s just have fun,” because this is temporary. It’s tangible now, then tomorrow, we’re gone, and we’re not here on set, and we’re on another project, and we’ll lose touch, but we’ll always have the memories.

Back to the '90s

Do you have a favorite movie or show of all time?

Oh, that’s a tough one … I recently realized that I really love, and I always go back to once in a while is, I was always in awe of Melanie Lynskey, who, by the way, Tweeted me the other day.

She’s on “Yellowjackets” now. I loved everything she’s ever done. [She] and Kate Winslet are, their first major roles were Peter Jackson’s “Heavenly Creatures.” It was based on true events, and I was blown away because I saw the movie, and I was like, “This is terrifying.” It was based on true events, and I was like, “What?” I was blown away by their acting because they were so young. I remember watching this movie on DVD or something in high school, and I just blown away by their acting.

It became one of my favorite movies because of the acting that they were presenting. It became like an acting class for me. I was watching,. I was like, “Jeez, they’re so good,” and Melanie Lynskey and Kate Winslet are still, to this day, both great actresses of our time.

Becoming a hero — or villain

Is there a franchise, like Marvel or “Star Wars,” that you’re dying to be a part of?

I would love to be a part of a superhero world, anything that puts me in a different world that I haven’t visited. I would love to visit a superhero world, absolutely.

Put it out in the universe, visiting a superhero world is coming soon, and other genres, as well. So, definitely a superhero world, absolutely, 100%, I want to visit.

I definitely want to visit something that I haven’t done before. People are like, “Well, you do comedy and stuff,” and [I] say, “I want to play something different.” Superhero [is] one of them. That’d be great.

A superhero world, fantastic, or something scary, that’s the opposite, like some kind of thriller, or serial killer. Something [that] puts a different mindset, that “hat” that I can wear. I’m always looking for something that challenges me.

Would you want to be a hero or a villain, or something in between?

I feel like a hero would be an easy go-to because Guillermo’s kind of a hero. A villain would be interesting because you wouldn’t expect it, right? Or what about a villain that has a change of heart?

Yeah, something like that. I love those moments. But a villain, maybe a really dark villain, could be fun, too. I’m open, all right? I’m open up to the idea.

Yeah, or a really corny villain.

A really corny villain, [Laughs].

But with a mustache.

[Guillén makes a twirled mustache gesture.]

A dream co-star

Is there a director or actor from any time period that you wish you could work with?

I would love to have worked with Lucille Ball, so iconic, and then, also, Cantinflas would have been great for all my Latinx friends out there. It would have been great because my dad idolized him, and his physical comedy was so great. I used to watch black and white films with him, and it was so nostalgic. I would love to have worked with that actor.

Also, director, put it out to the universe … Working with Steven Spielberg would be great. James Cameron, we were reading about James Cameron.

Well, there [are] like [four] new “Avatar” movies coming out.

I know. So yeah, James Cameron.

One of those, you could be in one of them.

Yeah. So James, I know you’re busy, but give me a call.

And do you have anything coming up that you’re excited about?

Yeah, I’m super excited. I’ve been working on more animated stuff recently, and I’m really excited to join a group of cats, that may or may not wear boots, and will be coming out soon.

Very exciting. Is there anything else that you wanted to talk about?

I’m really excited for everyone to watch “Reacher,” it’s streaming now on Prime Video, and also look out for “What We Do in the Shadows,” Season 4, coming out later this year.

The first season of “Reacher” is now available on Prime Video. 

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