HBO's new comedy Los Espookys is a toast to the weirdos
Have you ever hoped to meet a water demon who has an unhealthy obsession with seeing The King’s Speech? Thankfully, comedians Ana Fabrega, Julio Torres, and Fred Armisen have brought this unexpected but extremely well-executed idea to HBO in their new comedy series Los Espookys which premiered this past Friday.
Armisen had the idea for a Spanish language show about a group of friends who love horror and brought Torres (a writer for SNL) and Fabrega (At Home With Amy Sedaris) who fleshed out the concept making the gang Scooby Doo-esque, a nod to Saturday morning cartoons, an eccentric group who just loves horror so much that they start arranging scares for horror thirsting clients. When it came to horror inspirations, Fabrega doesn’t mention the standard Freddie, Chucky, or Jason, instead, she notes the 1977 Japanese horror comedy, Hausu. “I think they asked us like, what’s your favorite horror movie? And I just said House. I think that would be my favorite because it’s so funny. It’s a really beautiful movie and it’s, but it seems very self-aware of how over the top it is.” Los Espookys really doubles down on the aesthetically fascinating and silly horror that Hausu inspired.
Torres and Fabrega both play lovable weirdos — Torres as, Andrés, the chocolate heir who quite honestly might be the most fashionable character on television with his shock of blue hair. Torres describes Andres as a poor little rich boy. “His journey is very like Kate Winslet in Titanic where his friends are like Leonardo DiCaprio.” For Fabrega, her character, Tati’s, journey isn’t so glamorous as it is bumbling around doing all the physical labor of the scares. And Tati’s cluelessness when it comes to dating a cartoon prince on the internet to being terrible at her many odd jobs is a kind of extension of Fabrega’s own physical comedy which Torres notes.
Cassandra Ciangherotti and Bernardo Velasco, actors who have primarily worked in Spanish language film and television, were cast via the auditioning process. Both came from drama backgrounds, so comedy was a new foray for both which Ciangherotti explains was almost like experiencing a new life. “It was a spiritual thing to come to the comedy with these guys because I think that their work makes it to understand life from another perspective.” Ciangherotti and Velasco connected with their characters—the dry Úrsula and the earnest Renaldo (no “y”). He jokes that he was excited to play someone he’d describe as a “big boy,” but it also fulfilled a secret dream of his. “It was a dream dressing like this. When I was a teenager, I had a secret garage with Marilyn Manson. I never wore clothes like this because my grandmother would never love me,” Velasco laughs. The aesthetics of Los Espookys from the costumes to its Santiago, Chile-based filming location are just one aspect of what makes the comedy different from the rest. But perhaps the biggest part of that is that it’s primarily in Spanish with English and/or Spanish subtitles — a rare series that’s not delivered in English.
According to Armisen, selling Los Espookys as a Spanish language show to HBO wasn’t a hard sell at all, but that they had to continue to remind themselves that if they were going to do a Spanish language show they had to go all the way which included making everything completely bilingual according to Fabrega. And Torres agrees, but also thinks that beyond that, Los Espookys is just going to be equal opportunity weird. “This show will be as odd to English speakers as it is to Spanish speakers. I feel like both parties are going to think it’s a cultural thing. Maybe it’s because of these people live in America that this is weird. Maybe it’s because it’s in Spanish it is weird to [them].” Fabrega interrupts saying, “They both thought it was too weird.” And while the Spanish language of the show is completely naturalistic, so is the way that the show handles sexuality. It’s so casually queer that it doesn’t matter that Renaldo’s passion for horror outweighs any sexual desire he might have when his female neighbor makes a pass at him or when Úrsula takes said pass for her own. Tati is furious when her cartoon avatar prince boyfriend turns out to be a very real man and Andrés despises his telenovela handsome boyfriend, Juan Carlos.
For Torres, Los Espooky’s nonchalant attitude about concepts of queerness and identity really feed into the way the show just exists. “Tati saying that she doesn’t want to work at Cirque du Soleil, that she wants to be Cirque du Soleil. And the fact that Andres is just like ‘sure’, there’s something wonderfully queer about that. The water shadow is like, no, you’re not listening, ‘I’m not a shadow in the water. I am the shadow of the water.’ Like this is what I am and then the show is just like, okay, great.” And for a show full of weirdos, water shadows, and Carol Kane — one of the other memorable supporting characters might just be Renaldo’s dog Frutsi — who Fabrega and Torres say was an honor to work with. And it really sounds like Frutsi, played by a dog named Bimbo, is quite the talented pup. “During casting Bimbo would not stop barking. We were like ‘uh oh’ Bimbo was trained to not bark within like two weeks,” says Fabrega, “Bimbo was silent on set and we had to give little pieces of chicken to get him to bark.”
With such powerhouse performances like Bimbo’s and the rest of the cast (Armisen has a smaller, but equally funny part as Renaldo’s car parking uncle in Los Angeles), they’ve of course been thinking about what kinds of horror tricks the gang could get up to in season two. But more importantly, they understand cross-marketing — Torres pitches a Los Espookys/Big Little Lies crossover event where Celeste hires the gang to help them cover up the murder of her husband, Perry. “They’ll go over to Monterey for a little bit.” Someone get the Los Espookys gang and Reese Witherspoon on the phone ASAP.
Los Espookys airs Fridays on HBO.