HBO’s Los Espookys is easily one of my favorite shows. I knew this before I was on a flight home from Madrid two weeks ago, but I especially knew it after, because when we hit an extra rough patch of turbulence, I came to the conclusion that I would feel fine if it was the last thing I ever watched. Fortunately the plane didn’t crash, and I was able to house all six episodes before landing. (A welcome albeit temporary distraction from the fact that I was trapped in the middle seat between two people I most definitely didn’t want to be on a LOST reboot with.)
Another added bonus of not dying miles above ground (and/or at the bottom of the ocean) was that I was able to hop on the phone with Julio Torres and Ana Fabrega (Los Espookys co-creators/co-stars) last Friday to talk all about the show; we covered what it was like collaborating with each other for the first time to create such a weird and wonderful universe, who (besides themselves) could do a solid dubbing job for their respective characters, whether or not Cassandra Ciangherotti found ghost-child footprints on her pillow during filming, AND MORE, so internet-eavesdrop on our full conversation below for all of it. You can also catch both of them (and Lorelei Ramirez and Greta Titelman) in DC as part of this year’s stellar Bentzen Ball lineup! More specifically, they’ll be at the v. seasonally-appropriate Los Espookys Live: Special Pre-Halloween Show, which is happening TONIGHT (Thursday October 24th) at Lincoln Theatre – GRAB TICKETS HERE!
So how long have you guys actually known each other? I know it’s been for a bit, but was it because of Fred [Armisen] bringing you together that you first worked together? Or had you worked together on anything before?
Ana: We’d been friends for several years before Fred asked us to do this together.
Julio: Yeah, we met each other just doing stand-up in Brooklyn. But this is the first time we’ve collaborated on anything.
And it seems like it’s been super seamless in that regard, but what’s it like to work with a friend? Was there any sort of learning curve there? Or did you find that it very organically just worked?
Julio: I think it worked organically. I mean, being friends doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to collaborate well, but this just worked out.
Julio: And it could’ve gone either way, because Fred didn’t really know us as a duo or anything, he just knew us both individually. So it just worked out.
Ana: Yeah, it was easy.
That’s amazing! Now, I know Fred has mentioned that the horror genre has been an interest of his for a while. What was your interest level in it before working on the show? And has it changed or remained the same?
Ana: I definitely am not a horror fan, not a horror junkie the way Fred is. I liked horror movies a lot as a kid, but it kind of ends there. I think my interest in it has stayed the same. [Laughs]
Julio: And I don’t watch horror because I scare very easily. Fred loves the horror genre, but even more than that, he’s interested in people who love horror. He loves horror fans as much as he loves horror, and I like peculiar, odd people, so I was drawn to that. The show isn’t a scary show at all; the tone of it is, I think, more eerie and strange, which I gravitate more towards, the uncanniness and mysteriousness. Maybe there’s another world where Fred would’ve contacted two people who were into horror, and the show would’ve ended up being scary, but instead we have this. [Laughs]
Yeah, I’m not big on the horror genre, either, but I think that’s probably why it’s so appealing to so many people. It’s like a nice, appreciative nod to horror without being scary.
Julio: Yeah, I like theater and the drama of it. I feel like it’s more of that than actually being scary.
For sure. Now, I also wanted to ask you about making a predominantly Spanish language show. I know there’s that thing where some people claim that humor doesn’t translate, which I think is such a blanket statement and isn’t true a lot of the time, but was there anything that you noticed was difficult to translate between languages in terms of the humor of the show?
Ana: I think the things that are very specific references to things in Latin America…if you don’t get them you’re not missing out by not understanding them; I think it’s a little extra for the people that do get the reference, but I feel like it works well in both languages because it’s not a type of show that’s like, “If you don’t get this when you walk into it, you’re not going to understand the show.” You can come into it from both sides and can be equally as informed or confused by it as everyone else. [Laughs]
Julio: Also, the point of view of people who say that comedy doesn’t translate…that’s, I think, a very American statement. Most Americans don’t consume media that is not American, but meanwhile, The Hangover was watched all over the world by people who don’t know what a fucking guys’ road trip to Vegas even means! And yet people laugh at it and like it, so the idea that if it’s in English it’s universal but if it’s in another language it isn’t…I think that’s obviously false.
Absolutely. And I know people have mentioned that they’re almost even surprised that people are willing “do the work” (I’m doing air quotes) to read subtitles. If you go to other countries, sometimes there are subtitles, but a lot of foreign language shows and movies are just automatically dubbed into the official language of that country. Thank god Los Espookys isn’t like that, because I think most people agree that dubbing sucks, BUT, if you were presented with the option to dub instead of subtitles, who would be the voice actors you’d want to dub your characters’ voices on the show?
Julio: Oh my god, that would be so weird and funny! I don’t know…
Ana: In what language?
Julio: In English! So if you had to pick…I mean, it’s funny because you are an English speaking actress, but if you had to pick another English speaking actress to voice Tati, who would that be? I’m thinking, because this is a really fun question, and that’s why we’re taking some time. Now I’m trying to think like an executive. Andrés is very monotone, so who would they give that to?
Julio: Maybe Alexa, yeah. They’d get Alexa from Amazon.
Ana: I’m having a hard time with Tati, because my mind immediately went to a child. Like, someone who voices children on a TV show. But I don’t know who’d be the right actor for it. Maybe they’d just leave Tati in Spanish and everyone else is in English.
Julio: Maybe we’d dub ourselves.
Ana: Yeah, I’d dub myself.
That’s fair! Alright, apart from language things, the aesthetics on the show are so, so perfect. It seems very effortless, but I know obviously a lot of work went into making everything happen. Were there any hang-ups stylistically in terms of the way things look and the costuming and the set design? Any big points of contention in terms of your visions and other people’s visions for the show?
Julio: I can’t think of a disagreement or a regret, but I can think of ones that were hard to pull off. Like in editing, assembling the sequence of that man going through the bed and landing in the same bed, and answering the question of exactly how Los Espookys would be able to do that was tricky. Our director sort of filled in the blanks there, and there was a lot of improvisation with those ropes and stuff. Not like, points of contention, but definitely blind spots that had to be solved on set.
Right. And then in terms of the styling, it’s amazing. I think I read Muriel Parra was your styling person?
Also, Julio, your sister’s bags are amazing on the show, too! That was a fun addition.
Julio: Thank you!
Now, I know you’ve said that you didn’t receive any pushback from HBO in terms of the weirdness of the storyline, and obviously everyone has responded super well to how quirky it is. But what about internally? Were you personally worried about anything being too weird or niche and therefore maybe didn’t include it?
Ana: Not really. I think we wrote what we wanted to write, and if anyone was going to stop us it wasn’t going to come from us, so nobody stopped it.
That’s great! Alright, and I also wanted to ask you – why Chile as a filming location? Was that a financial decision, or…because it’s so beautiful and obviously works, but I just wondered about the reasoning there.
Ana: We wanted to shoot as far away as possible. [Laughs]
Julio: We wanted to be as close to Antarctica as possible. [Laughs]
Ana: The pilot was set in Mexico, so when we were shooting the pilot, we couldn’t shoot in Mexico for a variety of reasons. We were looking for a place that was neutral enough that we could treat it to look like Mexico, and wound up in Santiago. Then after the show got picked up, we loved shooting in Santiago so much that we abandoned the idea of setting the show in Mexico; it just made sense to go back to Chile.
Totally. Okay, and I have to ask whether or not anything (e)spooky happened while you were filming Los Espookys.
Julio: Cassandra’s thing. [Laughs]
Ana: Oh yeah! Cassandra (who plays Úrsula) claims to have found…
Ana: …claims to have found a child’s footprints on her pillow.
Julio: Yeah, she was freaking out because she was moving a cushion in her Airbnb, and she kept saying that there was a child’s footprints on her cushion. She was like, WhatsApp-ing this picture to everyone, and I think that the conclusion was that it was her own footprint, right? Or is it an unresolved mystery?
Ana: I think it’s an unresolved mystery. Yeah, I think that was the only spooky thing.
Julio: That was the only spooky thing, yeah.