Plus, the actor gives an update on What We Do In the Shadows season 3.

By Sydney Bucksbaum
January 25, 2021 at 06:17 PM EST
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It's Britney George, bitch!

Harvey Guillén's soft-spoken, kind, and overprotected new addition to the SPRQ Point crew in Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist season 2 is about to get lucky with his own Britney Spears moment in this week's episode, and he can't wait to for that solo to land on everyone's radar.

"He has to deal with something that's very personal and traumatic to him but also in a weird way, he comes out the other side stronger," the actor tells EW of what prompts George's crazy Spears heart song.

Below, EW got Guillén to preview George's big episode, the wild story of how he joined the cast in season 2, and more. Plus, he also gives an update on his fan-favorite series What We Do in the Shadows season 3, which just started pre-production.

Credit: Sergei Bachlakov/NBC

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What has playing George allowed you to do that you've never gotten to do before with a role?

HARVEY GUILLÉN: Well, for one, singing and dancing. I went to school for musical theater and never really get to use that and now I get to really jump into the musical theater world which is the whole basis of the show. And it just really kind of fell into my lap at the last minute. The character was written by [creator] Austin [Winsberg] to be a "Harvey Guillén type," which is so funny when you think about it, like what's a "Harvey Guillén type?" He wrote it that way, never thinking that he could get me to do it because of the [What We Do In the Shadows] schedule. And as luck would have it, I was able to do it after saying no twice. Eventually in the third double check — and I'm glad that they did, they were persistent! — I was able to finally say yes. I fell in love with acting because I was watching Annie as a six-year-old, so to do "It's a Hard Knock Life" in episode 3 of the season, it's all full circle.

Were you a fan of the show before you joined the cast in season 2?

I had heard of the show and it was on my list to watch but I hadn't seen it yet. The first couple of times when they asked me, I think they didn't know if I could sing, so the casting director asked me, "Can you put yourself on tape?" And that was not what Austin had asked him, apparently he said, "If we can get him, send him an offer." [Laughs] So when they asked me if I could go on tape, I was like, I can't do the show anyways, so why would I send a tape in? And eventually the third time when they asked, I was in San Francisco for a photo shoot, and I got the call that the schedule is going to change for Shadows so actually I would be available for the fall, which means I can do the show, great! I started watching the pilot while I was in San Francisco. My mom and my sister had come along as a road trip, and we were walking around Fisherman's Wharf and that whole area, and weirdly enough there was a scene in the episode where they were at Cupid's [Span] by the bridge and that's exactly where I was when I was watching the episode. [Laughs] I was like, if this isn't Kismet, I don't know what is.

I can't think of a more appropriate sign than that!

Exactly. It was so perfect.

Credit: Sergei Bachlakov/NBC

What did you think of who George is as a character when you got your first script?

It was great to see this character who puts on a smile no matter what — and a lot of people do that. It's always weird to be the new kid in school, and George is dealing with all of that on top of knowing subconsciously that he's not qualified to be there so he's overcompensating with being super nice and being almost taken advantage of with the jokes and the baby tigers and all of that. He'll never speak up about it and so he holds it all inside. For him to sing Melissa Manchester's "Don't Cry Out Loud" was the perfect song in that moment. He'd rather smile and if you asked him, "Are you having a good day?" He'd just say, "Absolutely! How's your day?" He would see what he could do to help you have a better day, never mind that he's having a bad day or dealing with a death in the family. There's all these great layers to him that I got to play. I've been lucky enough to play those kind of characters, and I love having to find the humanity in every character that I get to play; I just love finding something about that character that you will connect with whether it's a villain or whether it's a hero or an underdog. With George, we found those really great moments. Even though his personality is completely different than [What We Do In the Shadows' familiar] Guillermo, in a different way people are drawn to him.

This week's episode is a big one for George. What can fans expect to see from you in that hour?

I can tell you that George gets to sing Britney Spears, and that is something that I'm looking forward to everyone getting to see. It's a good thing, it's a really, really good thing for him. It might make some people really, really excited and happy for what's to come for George and it might make some people really sad. And I think fans will really enjoy the bond and chemistry that Zoey [Jane Levy] and George have developed since they met each other; now he sees her as a sister.

Credit: Sergei Bachlakov/NBC

And congrats on your recent Critics Choice nomination for best supporting actor for What We Do In the Shadows, that was very well deserved.

Oh my gosh, that was such a surprise! I didn't expect it at all. I'm here in Toronto and I got a text from my friend and publicist and she said "Congratulations!" and I thought I overslept or something, and she was going to mock me like, congratulations, you missed this appointment! [Laughs] And she was like, "No, you got nominated." And I was like, "The show got nominated? Yes! That's crazy." And she was like, "Yes, it did. But also you got nominated." And I was like, "Wait, what? For what?" And she was like, "For supporting actor!" I started screaming like I just won the lottery or something. It's really sweet. We actually had our table read today for episode 3 and 4 [of season 3]. We're going to read all of them before we start filming so we're halfway done reading all the episodes. I can tell you already that it is going to be a journey.

Now that everyone knows Guillermo is a vampire hunter, what does that mean for him this season?

I can tell you this, just like in life, you pick up the pieces where you left off, and you figure them out. You literally have to figure out how this functions, whether you've landed on a deserted island or something, you have to figure out: How do you move forward from this? And sometimes that might shift things and it could be different dynamics and it could be scary and frustrating but always humorous. It's definitely going to be a journey and everyone has to adapt to what that new journey is, whatever it is.

That season 2 finale twist ending is making the wait for season 3 that much more difficult.

We're almost there guys, we're almost there! [Laughs] We just have to shoot it for you, and we'll do it safely, and you'll be so happy with it when we're done with it. I just keep thinking about the season finale, I had a 104 fever actually when we shot that.

Oh wow, you cannot tell at all!

I was so sick. I've never been so sick in my life. I remember, I was like, "I hope I make it." That week had been really long and tedious and stressful, it was just a long process. I remember wanting to get it done and I was like, "I have to get it perfect." And I'm glad to report now watching the finale, you can't even tell I had a fever! [My costar] Kayvan [Novak] was really wonderful. He knew that I was sick so between takes I would just not talk to anyone, I would just sit in my chair and harness any ounce of energy I had left in me and saved it inside of me. Just save the energy! And he walked by and he was all, "Hey man, I know what you're doing. Yeah, save that energy. You're going to kill it buddy, you're going to kill it." He'd give me some moral support, and I couldn't even talk back to him because I needed to save my energy. [Laughs] But he knew what I was doing and luckily I put it all out there, so I left it all onscreen.

Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist 2 airs Tuesdays on NBC.

This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.

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