In HBO’s new comedy, Los Espookys, queer comedians Julio Torres and Ana Fabrega play a pair of certifiable oddballs. Andrés (Torres) is the disaffected, narcissistic heir to a chocolate fortune who also happens to have inexplicable magical powers. Meanwhile, Tati (Fabrega) is so dim she verges on cartoonish—a cross between Bubble from Ab Fab and a crash test dummy. The pair are essentially the chaos Muppets in a crew of friends who start a business in which they dream up creepy experiences for their clientele.
Fabrega and Torres created the series with executive producer Fred Armisen, who also stars as the uncle of the group’s leader Renaldo (Bernardo Velasco). Set in a surreal, unspecified Latin American country, it is primarily in Spanish with English subtitles and plays like a mash-up of telenovela excess and Scooby-Doo shenanigans. Fabrega and Torres spoke to NewNowNext about their characters, the strange world they inhabit, and the show’s unique queer sensibility.
Your characters are probably the most bizarre on the show. Was there anything about yourselves that you were trying to explore or spoof with Tati and Andrés?
Fabrega: I’ve always liked the idea of work giving your life meaning. So I wanted to play someone who was struggling to find meaning within herself and turning to work to satisfy herself. And in some ways that’s really real, to me anyways. Because I’m deeply unsatisfied. [Laughs]
Torres: I personally love high drama as comedy. Playing someone who is so put-upon and just burdened by the drama in his world felt really funny. Me and this character, we’re both very drawn to beauty—like moths to a flame. And we’re very particular. Things have to go a certain way or else they’re not good. I feel like in my worst moments I do behave like that. But a key difference is that Andrés is very passive—at least in the beginning.
Tell me about the world you’ve created in the show.
Torres: It was very freeing to do a show that wasn’t burdened by any reality beyond what we wanted to tell. It’s very playful.
Fabrega: It’s not like in the first season we defined the rules of this world and [decided] we have to stick with them. It can really go anywhere, and we can constantly be adapting to whatever is interesting to us.
Torres: There are a lot of quote-unquote “magical worlds” in mainstream media, right? But they’re often so insistent on explaining what the rules are for that world. Here, it’s just like, “I don’t know, figure it out!”
I’ve read that the initial idea for the show was based on Fred Armisen’s fascination with Mexico City’s goth subculture. Do either of you have any connection to the whole goth thing?
Torres: I would never have called myself a goth, but I was very much a brooding outsider as a teenager in Latin America, yeah. And there’s something about the camaraderie between Andrés and Renaldo and Ursula that reminds me of my group of friends in El Salvador—in an us-against-them sort of way.
Fabrega: Yeah, it’s about just finding your people and your group. “We all feel different and we’re gonna stick together.”
I’m sure you’ve been asked a million questions about the fact that the show is primarily in Spanish with English subtitles. Does it feel like you’re being asked to justify that aspect of the series?
Torres: The assumptions seems to be that HBO was resistant to having it in Spanish. And everyone is delightfully surprised to hear that, actually, they were encouraging of it.
Fabrega: And it was in Spanish from the beginning when Fred pitched it.
Los Espookys also seems like it’s part of a wave of really interesting, refreshing comedies from queer creators—The Other Two, Schitt’s Creek, Search Party. Do you think there’s something about a queer comedic sensibility that speaks to audiences right now?
Torres: If anything, I’m happy that queer creators are being allowed to tell stories that are every bit as refreshing and funny for the sake of being funny as any other person, without it having to be a grand thesis statement on the importance of…
Fabrega: Queer representation.
Torres: Yeah. So now, in our show some of the characters are queer, but some of them are not. That is sometimes relevant, but most of the time it isn’t. We’ve been allowed to play and experiment in a way that didn’t feel like we were ambassadors for anyone.
Fabrega: And I like that the shows you mentioned are so different from our show. There are options now. It’s not like, “Here’s the show for queer people by queer people.” There’s a lot of different expressions of queer creativity out there.
How does your queerness influence your comedic sensibility?
Torres: I feel like the show is a queer show, but in the more philosophical…
Torres: Yeah, in an abstract sort of way. The fact that Andrés is gay is almost inconsequential to the plot. He might as well be engaged to a woman. Or he might as well be a cis woman. But there’s something about the show’s sensibility that feels comfortably niche, unburdened by how odd it is—proud to be weird, and not making excuses for it.
Fabrega: It’s very fluid.
Torres: It’s a very fluid show in that way, yeah! Andrés has a water demon trapped inside of him…
Fabrega: There’s nothing more queer than that!
Los Espookys premieres June 14 at 11 p.m. ET on HBO.