Actor, writer, and comedian Ana Fabrega is an integral part of the success of HBO’s acclaimed—and very queer—Spanish language comedy series Los Espookys, which returns for its much-anticipated second season this Friday, September 16th. Not only is she the co-creator of the series, along with Fred Armisen and Julio Torres, she’s also a showrunner and co-writer with Torres, and stars in the show as probably the kookiest character in a world of lovable misfits, Tati. This season also saw her sit in the director’s chair for the fifth and six episodes.
Once again the action unfolds in an unnamed fictional Latin American country (which both adds to the mystery, and helps to explain the range of accents), where a group of horror-loving friends, Los Espookys, continue to sell their services creating the illusion of scary or supernatural events. What makes Los Espookys such a delight is its creation of a world that feels so grounded despite its frequent flights into magic realism. Unfailingly imaginative and always unpredictable, it’s frequently hilarious without the comedy feeling forced and enchantingly quirky without ever being smug. Fabrega stars opposite returning core cast members Torres, Armisen, Bernardo Velasco and Cassandra Ciangherotti, plus special guest stars this season including pop star Kim Petras, Oscar-nominated Roma actress Yalitza Aparicio, and the legendary Isabella Rossellini.
Away from Los Espookys, as an actor Fabrega has made memorable appearances in shows like Portlandia, At Home With Amy Sedaris, and High Maintenance, and featured in the cast of the recent Father of the Bride remake alongside Andy Garcia and Gloria Estefan. Named one of Vulture’s 38 Comedians You Should and Will Know, Fabrega was selected for Just For Laughs’ 2017 “New Faces: Characters” and Comedy Central’s “Comics to Watch” at the 2016 New York Comedy Festival.
Ahead of the season two premiere of Los Espookys on HBO and HBO Max, Ana Fabrega had an exclusive conversation with The Queer Review’s editor James Kleinmann about going deeper with the characters, what makes the show queer, and her love for Almodóvar’s films.
James Kleinmann, The Queer Review: When Los Espooys gets a commission the friends sit around and brainstorm how they’re going to pull off that particular job, and I wondered whether your writing sessions with Julio were a little like that, where nothing is too outlandish?
Ana Fabrega: “Yeah, that’s how we write, especially at the beginning. When we were starting to write this season we spent a few weeks throwing around a bunch of ideas: ‘What if this happened? What if that happened?’ Without worrying too much about the season-wide story and just focusing on the things that are fun or funny to us. Then once we have a bunch of ideas, we’ll start to find ways to connect them. But it’s definitely a very freewheeling, anything goes period of the writing process.”
I imagine you don’t hold yourselves back too much, like, ‘Oh, no, that’s far too wild an idea’?!
“Sometimes we’ll be like, ‘Oh, what if we did this thing’, but then we’ll have no idea how we’ll pull it off in terms of production. Then we’ll go, ‘But who cares?!’ We’re not at that point where someone’s telling us, ‘You can’t do that’. So it’s really anything goes!”
In terms of season two, there was a lot of evolution with the lead characters and we also get to see many of the supporting characters from the first season again, which was a lot of fun. What was your vision for this second season?
“We had to pick things up where season one left off, but we tied up all those loose ends in the first episode. Then we were like, ‘Okay, now we can do whatever we want!’ The characters do feel so much more developed this season because we know the show so much better. Also, when we shot the first season we got to meet Bernado and Cassandra, who play Renaldo and Úrsula. Getting to know them and seeing what they brought to the characters really informed how we developed it. We took so much from them and when we came back to write more we put it all into their characters. Writing season one, Julio and I knew our characters really well, but Renaldo and Úrsula were a bit of a mystery to us, they weren’t as clearly defined. When we’d finished the first season, it was like, ‘Okay, now I know exactly who these people are!’ That enabled us to write stronger storylines for them and for our characters as well. So season two feels a lot more character-driven than the first season did.”
You’ve also taken on directing duties for episodes five and six, why did you want to direct those particular episodes and what was that experience like?
“After we’d made the first season, Julio and I knew that we definitely wanted to direct some of this show as well. We’re involved in every step, we have our hands in all of it, but we hadn’t directed anything yet. Initially we wanted to direct one episode each, but the way that our schedules wound up during the pandemic meant that Julio was finishing up his movie. So I said, ‘I’ll direct, so you can just act and then focus on your movie when you’re not on set’.”
“If I hadn’t known the show as well as I do, I think I would have felt a little more apprehensive about stepping in to direct. But I showrun, I produce, I know exactly how the show works, I know how I want it to look and I’m involved in the post-production too. So directing felt like a natural next step in the creative process. We wanted to work with another director on the other episodes and Sebastián Silva—who is a really amazing filmmaker—directed the first four episodes. He brought so much to it visually, so much style. It’s a lot more cinematic and dynamic and I think the way it looks matches the show so much better than in the first season.”
“The evolution of the look also comes from all of us, including our production designer and DP, knowing the show much better. There were some people on our crew when we were making the first season who were a bit like, ‘What is this show?! I don’t get it!’ Then when they saw it like they were like, ‘Oh, okay, I understand it now’. So they could add more to it this time around.”
I love your character, Tati. How would you describe her and what’s your approach to playing her?
“Tati is someone who is always searching for that thing that’s going to make her feel fulfilled in life. In the first season, that comes out through trying to find a job that feels like it resonates with her. Then in the second season it becomes about her marriage and her writing career. Later, she questions whether it’s any of those things and manages to find a way to have purpose in her life without those external things. What I enjoy so much about playing her is that it’s fun to have a character where I can say anything and it’s believable that she would say it.”
“She’s such a blank canvas in many ways. I really like being able to play that deer in the headlights aspect of her, but then at times she’s so confident in what she believes. That mismatch can be really funny, along with her total lack of self-awareness. She’s very optimistic too. Her worldview is so clearly shaped by the things that she’s seen on TV, like what a good marriage looks like and what a good wife is like. Tati is such a fun character to step into. It’s almost like she’s living every day like it’s her first day alive.”
I love that lack of self-awareness, which I think the majority of the characters share to some degree don’t they?
“Yeah, though I think Andrés is a little more self-aware in a way, but also he doesn’t care.”
Tati is a little mean to Úrsula early on the new season and Andrés’ self-absorption is taken to the extreme. As you and Julio were writing, how conscious were you of ensuring that the audience didn’t turn on these characters and start hating them?
“With Andrés, it’s funny because he is so bratty. I’m curious to see if people will feel like this watching season two, but you don’t hate him because you understand why he is the way he is. He does have those moments of saying, ‘Sorry, I’m being so selfish’, and you’re like, ‘Okay, he gets it, he’s learning’. I think with Tati, because you don’t usually see her act like that, when she’s in the kitchen and she says to Úrsula ‘you’re jealous of me’, it’s so ridiculous that she thinks that her sister would be jealous of her situation. Watching that you’re like, ‘Alright, this poor girl’s a little bit out of touch with reality and in big denial about what’s going on in her marriage’. So I think we give Tati the benefit of the doubt when she has these outbursts.”
It’s a very queer show in a lot of ways. How would you describe the show’s approach to queerness and its queer characters?
“More than anything, what makes it such a queer show is that it’s not trying to be a queer show, it just is. In the same way that I don’t get dressed in the morning being like, ‘How can I look queer today?’ I just am and this is how I dress. When Julio and I write, we just write whatever comes naturally to us. A lot of the characters and the actors who play the characters are queer, they’re friends of ours, and it’s because we’re queer and we have queer friends. There are a lot of different factors that go into making the show feel as queer as it does, but I think so much of it comes from us not being worried about making it queer and just letting it be what it wants to be.”
We’re seeing a lot more movies and TV shows like Los Espookys where queer characters aren’t defined by that aspect of their identity aren’t we?
“Yeah, and without explaining their sexuality. They’re just characters that are living their lives and no explanation is required.”
It’s also refreshing to have Renaldo who is questioning. Why did you want him to be discovering who he is in terms of his sexuality?
“To show that while for some people their sexuality might be very defined when they’re younger, but it can be in flux. There’s that scene in season one where his mom sends this beautiful virgin to him thinking that he’ll sleep with her, but he’s like, ‘I don’t want to do that’. Then in the second season, we thought it’d be funny if he was dwelling on that and being like, ‘Would I want that? What do I want? I don’t know. How do I figure it out?'”
“That scene where he goes online and looks at different types of porn is so funny because he’s like, ‘I don’t think I’m straight, but I don’t know if I’m not. So how do I find out?’ You’ve got to dip your toe in the water and see if you want to jump in or not. It feels really appropriate for his character because he’s so sure of himself in other parts of his life, so for him to have this element where’s he’s uncertain is really interesting. I also like that it’s not something that gets a huge focus in the story, it’s just something that’s going on as well as everything else.”
The university professor who hires Los Espookys for a job says at one point that at least two of them, maybe three are queer, which leaves things nice and open too.
“Yeah, at that moment in my head the professor could be saying Tati or Renaldo, because who knows. I like it feeling very open-ended. There’s no right or wrong answer about who it is because it doesn’t matter.”
Finally, what’s your favourite piece of LGBTQ+ culture or a person who identifies as LGBTQ+; someone or something that’s had an impact on you and resonated with you over the years and why?
“When I was in high school I started watching Pedro Almodóvar movies. That was a big moment for me because I’d never seen movies like that before. Aesthetically, I was so drawn to how bright and colourful his movies were and how complex the characters were. At that time I didn’t know that he was gay, then once I did I was like, ‘Oh, okay, maybe that’s why I’m drawn to his work. I would choose any of his movies, but the first film that I saw by him was Volver. After that, I was like, ‘Whoa, I have to watch all of them!'”
By James Kleinmann
Season 2 of Los Espookys debuts on HBO on Friday, September 16th at 11pm ET/PT and will be available to stream on HBO Max. Season 1 is streaming on HBO Max now.