Type keyword(s) to search

Hear Me Out

John Slattery Plays a New Kind of Energy Vampire in What We Do in the Shadows

He may be even more draining than Colin Robinson.
  • Mark Proksch and John Slattery in What We Do in the Shadows. (Photo: FX/Hulu)
    Mark Proksch and John Slattery in What We Do in the Shadows. (Photo: FX/Hulu)

    According to vampire lore, psychic vampires have walked among us for centuries, a fact that’s made all the more terrifying by their ability to move about in the daylight. These creatures don’t suck blood or turn into bats — they drain their victims’ vitality. In recent years, What We Do in the Shadows’ Colin Robinson (Mark Proksch) has become the spokesperson for this particular species, making the more colloquial descriptor of “energy vampire” a known phrase. Now there’s evidence that an even more high-profile energy vampire might be out in the open: beloved actor John Slattery.

    What We Do in the Shadows Season 5, Episode 6, “Urgent Care,” gives us all the clues. Colin Robinson is in a bad place. He recently got a black eye, and it’s made him too dang interesting to drain anyone. And when it rains, it pours: Suddenly he’s revealing previously unmentioned and extremely fascinating details of his life, accidentally going viral on TikTok, and being run over by John Slattery, who shows up as himself. When Slattery offers to give him a ride to the hospital, it seems like the perfect opportunity to regain his strength. A celebrity would seemingly get bored by some random guy babbling on, especially in a small inescapable space — it should be one of the most nourishing experiences out there. But for some reason, Slattery is unfazed. It even seems like he is the one who is doing the feeding.

    Colin Robinson tries his best, starting the ride by asking, “Slattery, that’s an Irish name, right?” But Slattery counters, “That accent is so specific, where are you from?” Slattery, it turns out, just loves accents and is quick to rattle off a string of potential origins for Colin Robinson’s distinct voice, repeating phrases back to him while attempting to nail the accent himself. He does so with a chipper lilt, but that tone isn’t fooling anyone. Instigating small talk in an enclosed vehicle? A deep interest in a mundane topic? These are classic energy vampire tactics.

    When considering all the evidence, it becomes increasingly clear that Slattery is an energy vampire who has been hiding in plain sight for years, maybe even his entire life. We know that performers are energy vampires — just two episodes ago in “The Campaign” it was revealed that comedians Aparna Nancherla, Jo Firestone, Hannibal Buress, and Martha Kelly are not only energy vampires, but the people who make up the highest governing council in the community. While on the surface Slattery appears to be slightly more dynamic than this mumbling group, that doesn’t mean he’s not just as capable of using his celebrity status to drain. In “Urgent Care,” he greets a crowd of onlookers by reminding them that he recently played a doctor in The Good Fight, so he can take it from here — listing credits and humblebragging? All celebrities could be draining our energy more often than we think.

    But What We Do in the Shadows is just a TV show, right? Surely John Slattery isn’t an energy vampire in real life. Well, the series has long blurred the line between its world and ours. Since Season 1, a number of celebrity appearances have attempted to connect the two — there is something especially vampiric about Tilda Swinton, who shows up in Season 1 as herself as the head of the Vampiric Counsel, bolstered by her otherworldly appearance and uncanny ability to play immortal beings on screen. Even though the show is presented as a mockumentary, there might be more “doc” than “mock” than we think. Season 5’s “Local News” proved that vampires have the ability to wipe human minds through a TV broadcast. Are they doing the same at the end of every episode of their own show?

    Slattery’s energy draining isn’t confined to just this series. The only other time he’s appeared as himself on a TV show, it seemed like he was clearly there just to feed. In Girls5Eva Season 1’s “Alf Musik,” when Dawn (Sara Bareilles) was conflicted over the decision to have more children because she didn’t want her only son to turn out too weird, he showed up with his wife and son to explain that New York Lonely Boys are wondrous people.

    In the context of the show, maybe the cameo and conversation seemed harmless. But stopping a stranger on the street to go on and on about your kid would normally be like a three-course meal for an energy vampire — just because Dawn (Sara Bareilles) finds the conversation useful doesn’t mean that it’s not effective on others. In fact, the scene also implies that Slattery’s wife and son are energy vampires, too, teaming up as Colin Robinson and Evie (Vanessa Bayer) did in “The Campaign” to more effectively drain together.

    Slattery is also the perfect level of famous to strategically feed. He’s not always in the conversation like Brad Pitt (who, according to What We Do in the Shadows, is a known vampire), who would be far too interesting, but is well known enough that he can stop strangers in their tracks to get his fix whenever he needs one. Hell, Slattery probably has many willing victims just waiting to be fed on by Roger Sterling from Mad Men. Slattery is proof that being boring isn’t the only way to drain energy from victims — energy vampires come in many forms. All they really need to thrive is a captive audience and a monologue, and Slattery can find both whenever he wants.

    What We Do in the Shadows airs Thursdays at 10:00 PM ET on FX and streams next day on Hulu. Join the discussion about the show in our forums.

    Brianna Wellen is a TV Reporter at Primetimer who became obsessed with television when her parents let her stay up late to watch E.R. 

    TOPICS: What We Do in the Shadows, Girls5eva, Mad Men, John Slattery, Mark Proksch, Tilda Swinton