Spanish Language Horror Comedy 'Los Espookys' Premieres on HBO
By Sarah Vasquez
HBO's newest show Los Espookys comes from the minds of SNL writer Julio Torres, comedian Ana Fabrega, and the man who needs no introduction, Fred Armisen. The Spanish-language comedy tells the story of four friends who use their love of horror to form a business that provides “scary” services. “One of the things that went around the time of the pitch was that it was sort of like the other side of Scooby Doo,” said Armisen. “That back part of Scooby Doo that we never really get to see except for the unmasking.”
The cast of Torres, Armisen, Fabrega, Cassandra Ciangherotti and Bernardo Velasco attended the ATX Television Festival earlier this June to premiere the pilot episode. Armisen wanted to do a show in Spanish involving a group of people who want to scare people. During a trip in Mexico City, he discovered the goth scene, and it was those fans of horror movies that he wanted to capture with Los Espookys. “I do love horror movies, but I do love people's love of horror movies,” said Armisen. “I thought that was its own genre in a way.”
The show is mostly in Spanish (with English subtitles) as it's set in Latin America (and filmed in Chile), but the Los Angeles scenes with Armisen's character – the very supportive Uncle Tico – are spoken in English. Armisen said at the Q&A that they didn't receive any resistance from HBO about the language, and Fabrega echoed that HBO never ask for more English. “They were very on board from the beginning and throughout the whole process,” said Fabrega.
The team of friends refer to themselves as “Los Espookys,” and are led by Renaldo, played by Velasco. “Renaldo would be my best friend in high school,” said Velasco. “He's a really, really nice, kind guy with a big heart that try to gather his friends in this new adventure business exploring the passion for horror, and it's really amazing.” He and Ciangherotti come from more dramatic acting backgrounds, so trying their hand in comedy was a new challenge for them. Velasco said his role is a new way for him to understand horror and the approach in a very light and complex way. “You don't need to be funny or you don't need to be goofy to make it work. It works by itself,” said Velasco.
That approach was really interesting to Ciangherotti. With her previous work, she would approach an argument with her on-screen boss by being loud, but Fabrega would remind Ciangherotti that her character is calm in those scenes. “It was very good to appreciate life on another level in that way and to understand that the TV show is really giving us that,” said Ciangherotti. It also gave her a way to appreciate her relationship with her on-screen sister, Tati, played by Fabrega, which was very important to Ciangherotti.
While Ursula is the only one of the group with a real job as a dental assistant, Tati constantly works various odd jobs, from spinning a broken fan to breaking in people's shoes (and that's just in the pilot). “When we started writing, I knew that I wanted to work odd jobs,” said Fabrega. “As the series goes on, Tati is trying to find her place in the world through work and is constantly trying new jobs and not finding complete satisfaction through work.” Fabrega also likes that Tati gives into the authority figures with no fight. Ciangherotti said she would sometimes hate a sister like Tati, but Ursula doesn't. “She genuinely loves her and she doesn't have a problem with the way she is, so that was really helpful for me to understand the character,” said Ciangherotti.
Fabrega said when she was writing the pilot with Torres and Armisen, they knew their characters really well, but once they cast Ciangherotti and Velasco for Ursula and Renaldo respectively, she could understand who those characters were. “... I understand who Renaldo is now that I see him played by Bernardo and I understand Ursula now that I see Cassandra playing her,” said Fabrega. “It helped informed writing the rest of the season after we shot the pilot.”
Torres plays Andrés, an heir to a chocolate empire. He's tall, lanky and sports bright blue hair. “I wanted to be someone who was like half vampire, half C-3P0. Like a little robot vampire,” said Torres. Armisen thinks his character Tico is the ultimate optimist and supportive guy with a “worker mustache.” Tico works in Los Angeles as a valet employee, an occupation Armisen has always wanted to portray. “I just think every time I see them running, they have so much focus,” said Armisen. “It seems like that's what they want to do in life.” Armisen thanked the crowd at the Austin screening, as it was the first time they showed the episode in front of an audience. The room filled with laughter at certain moments, sometimes surprising the cast. “We talked so many times that we forgot that there are spots where they're gonna laugh,” said Armisen. “It was great to hear your reactions and thanks for that.”
The show premiered on June 14 and the hope is that the show appeals to everyone. “Because it's in Spanish, that doesn't mean it's only for people who speak Spanish, so hopefully a lot of non-Spanish speakers watch and Spanish speakers a like,” said Fabrega. Los Espookys airs on Friday nights on HBO and through HBO Now and HBO Go.