Haley Joel Osment has gone from seeing “dead people” as young Cole Sear in 1999’s The Sixth Sense to becoming one of the undead himself in FX’s What We Do In The Shadows. The irony of it all doesn’t escape Osment, who laughs while talking about the full circle moment with EW ahead of the show’s season 2 premiere on April 15.
“It’s funny, my first big project dealt with the undead,” Osment tells EW while laughing, recalling his work in The Sixth Sense. “And now I’m back in the graveyard again. Literally.”
Series creator Jemaine Clement confessed that Osment tried out for the part of Topher, whom Nadja (Natalie Demetriou) and Laszlo (Matt Berry) pick as their new familiar, like any actor would. But he surprised everyone with how much comedy he brought to the role that, much like all the roles on the show, requires a lot of ad-libbing.
“We have a lot of great guest stars on the show this season,” Clement says. “Fans will see Haley Joel Osment in the premiere. Everyone fell in love with him! He’s a really talented actor, obviously. And we had no idea how funny he is. He only appears in one episode but it’s a huge character change. He gets to play on the other more scarier side.”
He adds, “He came in for an audition and we were surprised to see him. He’s a fan of the show and the movie and he was keen to be on Shadows, so he put his name up for it. He did a great audition.”
Topher’s arrival is met with much fanfare from the vampires, but not everyone is excited about the new familiar.
“Topher is instantly a hit with everyone, except Guillermo [Harvey Guillén],” Osment explains. “He’s a threat to his position in the house. The vampires don’t treat Guillermo well, and here comes Topher with so many qualities they admire. This creates a lot of tension.”
He adds, “The house is a dangerous place and some things happen to him. Luckily, the vampires don’t care and they still keep him around, even if he’s a limb short.”
Guillén says Guillermo fans needn’t worry too much about him this season. Even though Topher comes in and ruffles some feathers, there’s a much bigger spotlight on his lovable character during the show’s sophomore run.
“The vampires and their love for Topher is being rubbed in Guillermo’s face, all while he’s secretly protecting them from danger. A thankless job, obviously,” Guillén shares. “But as the season progresses, Guillermo finally listens to what is driving him inside and really kicks some ass. I dare anyone to underestimate Guillermo because he’s ready!”
Series co-showrunner and executive producer Paul Simms gives a little more insight into who Topher is and what he becomes as the character evolves in the show’s premiere episode.
“The vampires love Topher so much that even if he were to have an accident and die, they would not give up on wanting him as their familiar — even if he’s not physically what he was when he arrived at the house,” Simms teases. “Nadja and Laszlo haven’t had much luck with picking familiars. So when they finally find this young guy Topher, they’re so excited. He’s the new guy, and to them, seems so much cooler and hipper than Guillermo.”
And while Osment’s graveyard connection to The Sixth Sense is much more obvious, there’s another link to one of his other projects that is much more subtle.
“A fun bit of behind-the-scenes trivia for you,” Osment says cheekily. “I had an arm mutilated on The Boys in Toronto last year and it was still hanging around in a warehouse. Some of the effects people from The Boys were working on What We Do In The Shadows, funny enough. So when they were prepping this episode, they realized they still had my arm and we used it again.”
Dead or undead, what really makes a character truly unable to reappear on a show like What We Do In The Shadows? Osment is hoping that technicality will allow him to play in this world as Topher again one day.
“On this show, I don’t know what it would really take for someone to be out of the ball game completely,” he says. “I definitely don’t think it’s the last time we’ve seen Topher. I don’t know a lot about the other episodes in the season, but I do know that the supernatural world gets really expanded. Fans will see a lot more of the creatures and things that live in the underworld of Staten Island.”
A version of this story appears in the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly currently on newsstands, or buy it here now. Don’t forget to subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.
- What We Do In The Shadows creators tease how the world will expand in season two
- M. Night Shyamalan reflects on a classic Sixth Sense scene, 20 years later
- The New King of Comedy: How Taika Waititi took a hammer to Hollywood
- Taika Waititi says What We Do In The Shadows film characters could turn up on TV show