John Early Grills Julio Torres and Ana Fabrega on Everything Los Espookys
“There’s no thesis statement here,” says the comedian Julio Torres of Los Espookys, the mostly-in-Spanish HBO Max show he co-created with Ana Fabrega. After a forced hiatus due to Covid-19, the hilarious comedy trailing the adventures of a spooky group of friends in Chile is back for season two. Torres, 35, and Fabrega, 31, are co-creators of the show; they also star in it respectively as Andres and Tati alongside a mix of American and Latin stars including Bernardo Velasco (Renaldo), Fred Armisen (Tico), and Cassandra Ciangherotti (Ursula). The show is hard to describe—it has the genius of a god-tier SNL skit (Torres used to write for the show) mixed with the infantile silliness of a kid’s cartoon. But Torres and Fabrega wouldn’t have it any other way. As they tell their friend and former Los Espookys cast member John Early, Los Espookys isn’t for everyone, but it can be—if they’re willing to play along. – ERNESTO MACIAS
JOHN EARLY: We should just start?
ANA FABREGA: Let’s jump right into it. First of all, you’re probably pissed you’re not in this season.
EARLY: No, no. I’m going to ask you to revoke that for my first question.
TORRES: Where are you?
EARLY: I’m in Clinton Hill.
FABREGA: Oh, nice.
EARLY: As you can tell by the molding.
FABREGA: I was like, “That’s not L.A.”
EARLY: Julio and Ana, thank you for joining me to talk about my favorite TV show, Los Espookys.
FABREGA: Are you reading this?
EARLY: No. This is coming from the heart, okay? I did want to read a question from the fans. I want to start with—let me pull it up. Okay. I’m just choosing one at random. “Julio and Ana, big fan of the show, have gone to bat for it when no one else would.” That’s a weird thing to say. “I was wondering if y’all could talk about the creative intentions behind not bringing the character of Mark Stevens back for season two? Yes, he was hit by a car in the finale of season one, but there was absolutely ambiguity about whether he died or not, making it actually quite easy to fold him into the events of season two. He was often described by both my friends and family as the glue of the series. Why brutally rip him from the fabric of the show without so much as a warning? Love, concerned fan.”
TORRES:: Well, there’s a rich story to tell there, and we are very excited that there are projects in the works with HBO Max, unfortunately, for Mark Stevens, none of which we can speak about right now.
EARLY: That was a very diplomatic answer. Ana, you directed two episodes this season making you the first woman other than Olivia Wilde to direct anything. Can you talk about what that was like? But only if you answer through the lens of a woman.
FABREGA: Of course, women supporting women, I reached out to Olivia immediately. I said, “How do you do this? What advice do you have to offer a first-timer like me?” And she said, “First of all, bring your own tampons.”
FABREGA: She said, “Don’t be afraid to act like a man.” I really took that to heart and just decided, “I’m the captain of the ship. We’re going where I say we’re going,” and brought that energy with me to the project.
TORRES: We went over six hours every day, I want to say.
EARLY: That’s amazing. I think a lot of people, myself included, tune in for the comedy and the high style, but is there a subset of fans who tune in purely for the spooky?
FABREGA: I think that maybe some people do because the show gets marketed as a horror comedy. There are people that are like, “I’m a fan of horror. I’m going to watch this.” Then they watch the show and they’re like, “This isn’t really horror.”
EARLY: Right. I’m not spooked.
TORRES: I love anyone who watches the show. I really do, but sometimes I get, “Oh, I’ve been meaning to watch something that’ll help me with my Spanish, so I’ve been watching loads of Los Espookys.” That’s beautiful that we’re providing that.
EARLY: Is that coming from people you know?
TORRES: No, just nice people on the street, but I would like to think that there’s more artistic integrity to this show than being Duolingo.
EARLY: There absolutely is.
TORRES: That’s why I watch Parasite. I just was curious about the language.
EARLY: Well, on the other end of the spectrum are your more passionate fans. I’m wondering if y’all could do a psychological profile, a loving psychological profile, of a Los Espookys super fan.
TORRES: I really see myself in them. I think it strikes me as like, “Oh, no one else understands me.”
FABREGA: I love when people are like, “I don’t really like comedies, but I like Los Espookys.” A lot of TV comedies are trying to appeal to a really broad audience and the show’s not really concerned with that. I think people really feel seen by it because it’s not trying to be a show for everybody of all ages and from anywhere in the world.
EARLY: And by doing that, also, it’s somehow also tapping into a universal silliness and sweetness.
TORRES: It’s a very silly show. It’s no different than the silly for the sake of silly stuff that we all liked when we were younger. There’s no thesis statement here. There’s no soundbite for the press.
EARLY: It’s not made in direct conversation with a think piece. You know how sometimes with shows you feel like they’re trying to subconsciously dictate the think piece? They’re like hypnotizing the Vulture writer. I wanted to ask you all a question relating to the queer politics of the show. The comet that the Moon refers to has they/them pronouns?
EARLY: I thought that was beautiful. I thought it was groundbreaking.
TORRES: The first non-binary comet.
FABREGA: On a premium network.
EARLY: It is. I do feel like Los Espookys, despite being on a giant platform, does have the feel of a show that your friend pirated.
TORRES: It’s very Torrent vibes for sure.
EARLY: That’s always the goal, to make sleepover content.
TORRES: My happiest moments are seeing people dress up as it for Halloween.
FABREGA: That was so much fun.
TORRES: No one gets it.
FABREGA: Yeah, especially the ones that were kind of subtle like Tati [Fabrega’s character] and Juan Carlos [José Pablo Minor]. The girl’s in a dress and the guy’s in a tux, and they’re like, “We’re Tati and Juan Carlos.”
EARLY: That’s so beautiful. I want to talk about the costumes. The two of you represent the extremes of the costumes on this show. Like Julio, your stuff is really luxe. It’s very David Bowie, and Ana, I feel like yours is “Tati bought her clothes at a gas station.”
FABREGA: Tati fell in a Goodwill and came out with all her stuff.
EARLY: Can you talk about the costume designer and any sort of directives you gave the costume designer for both of you?
FABREGA: Muriel [Parra] is so funny, and she really gets the humor of the show and can bring it to the costumes. Other than when we were doing the pilot, when she presented us her ideas for the different silhouettes and styles for the main characters and we got to Tati, it was all wrong. She thought it should be cool. Grimes was a reference, and we were like, “No, no, no.” Once she got that, then it was like, “I had to go to the worst stores in Santiago to find this little shirt.”
TORRES: I feel like Andres’ wardrobe is the carrot that we dangle in front of Muriel to distract herself from the horror of Tati.
EARLY: Can you talk about how you got Kim Petras?
FABREGA: Well, we were fans. We started writing Melanie’s [Greta Titelman] boss. We were like, “Kim Petras. It’s got to be her.” We reached out, and she was down.
EARLY: Was she a fan?
TORRES: We need someone who is either so different from Greta’s character that it’s intimidating to her or someone who is so similar, but so much better at it. That was very easy.
EARLY: Did she bring her own wardrobe?
FABREGA: She picked that outfit. It’s Moschino.
EARLY: I imagine just because I’ve been on TV that you have no budget.
TORRES: No budget.
EARLY: Everything still looks so beautiful and refined, seriously, but I did wonder if she was wearing designer.
TORRES: She is wearing designer, and that was truly the result of DMing Jeremy [Scott] at Moschino and being like, “Can she wear something of yours.”
EARLY: There’s another giant cameo that I will not give away. Julio, I’m sure it was especially significant for you.
FABREGA: Oh, I don’t think it’s a giveaway. I think it’s public knowledge. [The guest star is Isabella Rossellini, playing herself].
TORRES: It’s so funny and I think it’s already happened to you a couple of times where your oeuvre is like “Wouldn’t it be funny if I were in a project with this person?” That’s the joke, and then they’re like, “No, I want to do it.” Ana directed her.
EARLY: Was she a fan?
TORRES: She had seen the first season and really liked it.
TORRES: So the show is accessing the right people.
EARLY: Ana, what was it like directing her?
FABREGA: Difficult. I mean, incredible. You don’t have to do much. She really gets it. She saw the script and I think she felt like, “Oh, it would be fun to play an angry version of myself fighting for a web domain.” She was so sweet, funny, and easy to work with.
EARLY: Let’s talk about Tati’s humanity because there’s something so sweet about the way her friends let her believe what she needs to believe about her own skills. What do you think happened to Tati as a kid?
FABREGA: We had this whole backstory when we were working on the pilot that I remember, “Oh, what if Tati was always this and her parents had no patience for it, but Ursula watched out for her?” I do feel like it’s something where she’s just always marched to the beat of her own drum.
EARLY: And then Andres—what’s his childhood trauma? There’s got to be something.
TORRES: He’s truly the absolute worst version of myself. Andres is what I am terrified that people think I am. I think. He keeps wanting to feel like he’s the exception to every rule, and extremely special, and it breaks his heart that he isn’t.
TORRES: There’s a moment that I hope to do if we have another season. I want a really humanizing moment where he’s wearing some outfit, and then you can see the tag of his blouse, and Ursula sees it. We cut to it, and it says, “Zara medium.” Ursula [Ciangherotti] just tucks it in and no one addresses it. We don’t say anything.
FABREGA: Protects him, yeah.
EARLY: That’s really beautiful. It felt very you that his one moment of self-reflection this season happened at the top of a lighthouse.
TORRES: Yeah, where you go to self-reflect. He’s a really fun catchall for all the tropes that I’ve ever wanted to play with.
EARLY: Who plays the Moon?
TORRES: Yalitza Aparicio from Roma.
EARLY: Oh my god!
TORRES: That’s right.
EARLY: That is huge. We have to rework the press angle here. She’s amazing.
FABREGA: She’s great. She’s so sweet and calming. We see Andres, everyone kind of babies him and even the Moon is so charmed by him that she lets him walk all over her sometimes.
TORRES: I love that you can really change her outfit and the location they’re at and put her in a cubicle, and it would be the same performance.
EARLY: Well, a lesser actor playing the Moon in that costume would seem blah.
FABREGA: I really love the little details of her performance. There’s one scene where Andres agrees to introduce her to the comet and she has her little calendar where she was planning her lunar year. It’s so earnest and sweet, “I can’t wait to meet this comet!”
EARLY: What I love about Los Espookys, why it’s really easy to rewatch, is there’s a joke in every single line.
TORRES: There’s something hidden.
EARLY: I wrote down a million things that killed me. The first thing I wrote down is when that girl is giving y’all her pitch to be part of the team, to work for you guys. She gives her strengths, and then she goes: “My weakness is whipped cream.” Tati laughs.
TORRES: Tati is the only one that laughs.
EARLY: There are just so many genius little gems just scattered throughout. It’s beautiful.
TORRES: We met that girl the first season, she was an extra. We kept running into her because she’s a waitress at this restaurant that we keep going to, and she said, “So when’s my character going to have a bigger part?” We were like, “Wait. Let’s do it.”
EARLY: She’s the Chilean Tracy Flick. Who is Oliver Twix?
TORRES: [Laughs] A very respected young actor in Chile.
EARLY: True scene stealer. Obviously, a lot of the casting comes from our friends in the New York comedy world, but then there’s just a huge portion of the casting that seems to be local. It’s just shocking to me that the talent that’s coming from America and Chile are so synchronized on a spiritual comedic level. Is there pushback on some of the more insane ideas?
TORRES: No. Never.
FABREGA: It was only in season one where there was a moment of like, “Whoa, what are you guys doing?” But after that, and even then, it was always in the interest of making the best show that we wanted to make.
EARLY: What’s in Tati’s purse?
FABREGA: Wouldn’t you like to know?
EARLY: Correct me if I’m wrong, but Tati doesn’t have any kind of supernatural element, right?
TORRES: We did say in the first season that she sees past, present, and future all at the same time, so there’s a lot of noise in her head.
EARLY: That reads, by the way.
FABREGA: But other than that, no, and even I remember that when we started to write season two, we were like, “Oh, should we get into that or address it more?”
EARLY: Get into what?
FABREGA: Tati’s just doing her thing.
EARLY: But Andres does have supernatural powers. Right?
TORRES: I guess.
FABREGA: There’s something about hearing them called supernatural powers that’s like, “Don’t call them that.”
TORRES: Andres is a way for the show to physically manifest metaphors, I think, more than anything. It’s more literary than plot-driven.
FABREGA: Yeah, although sometimes we can use Andres to help us get somewhere, like the Moon. How else are we going to get to the Moon? “Oh, we can use Andres and he can do this.” Then we get the Moon.
TORRES: It operates, which we’ve said a lot, like making a cartoon—a live-action cartoon. It ends up being so funny and satisfying because it’s framed by so much silliness.
EARLY: I feel like this show is proof that you can actually create something quite tender and emotional by just turning up the silliness, turning up the cartoonishness. You never have to actually write in a teachable moment.
FABREGA: I use humor to cope.
EARLY: Los Espookys does feel very radical in that way. I am so happy the show’s back. You topped yourselves.
New Los Espookys episodes drop every Friday at 11 p.m. on HBO Max.