Believe it or not, Julio Torres and Ana Fabrega—who cocreated and star in HBO’s cult hit comedy Los Espookys with SNL alum Fred Armisen—did not intend for there to be a three-year gap between seasons one and two of their show. In fact, it was meant to be pretty immediate. “The gap between the first season and the beginning of the second season felt really fast,” says Torres over Zoom, before Fabrega chimes in: “The show came out in the summer of 2019, and by the fall we were writing.”
Unfortunately, the world had other, COVID-19–related plans. Fabrega and Torres, who play the hapless but well-meaning Tati and the spoiled Andrés on the series—which follows four friends who turn their love of all things spooky into a business venture, fabricating horror-film-like situations to help the constituents of their Latin American town—recall that uncertain time when their show remained in limbo, with production shutting down in Santiago, Chile, between filming episodes four and five. “I was personally in denial about the whole thing,” Torres says. “I was very frustrated. It wasn’t until I was back that I realized, Oh no, when they say global pandemic, they mean global pandemic.”
But good things are worth the wait. Los Espookys’ second season takes even bigger swings than the show’s debut outing, effortlessly mining humor in situations from presidential elections to office birthday culture and men who wear one dangly earring—in both Spanish and English. “We’re a very fun-first kind of show,” says Torres. Fabrega and Torres chatted with Vanity Fair about their unorthodox methods for making HBO’s most unconventional comedy.
Vanity Fair: How far along were you in the process of filming season two when you had to shut down?
Ana Fabrega: When cases started popping up in the U.S., we were in Santiago, [Chile]. It took a little bit longer for cases to get down there. For a little while I was like, “Oh, we have a pretty good buffer of time.” As cases started popping up in the city and we had some sort of close calls on set, we shut down.There was a feeling of, “Oh, we’ll be back in a few weeks.” Obviously that’s not what happened. So then it was just kind of waiting and seeing when are we going to be able to go back to Chile to finish? HBO tried to assure us, “Don’t worry. We’ll finish.” But after a year of, like, we can’t go yet because they had different COVID protocols there than here, so we couldn’t shoot, then it was like, “Man, okay, who knows how long it’ll be?” It wound up being two years. Then we were able to just go back and finish essentially where we left off.
Julio Torres: Patient zero of our close call on set was [actor and comedian] Sam Taggart, who arrived and then got notice from another gig that he had done that he may have been exposed with COVID. At the time obviously COVID was this strange and scary thing, and then he was taken to a hospital, and it turned out he didn’t have it. But that was scary enough that we were like, “Okay. What’s best is to shut down and move on.”
How closely do you both work together and with your third cocreator, Fred Armisen, when coming up with the Los Espookys plot and scripts?
Fabrega: When we start writing, we’ll spend a few weeks just throwing out a bunch of ideas of stuff that we think is funny without worrying about tying everything together yet. Once we have a big board to pull ideas from, then we’ll start to piece things together and try to connect the dots. I do think that this season was a lot more character-driven rather than plot. That just came from knowing the characters better. Now, we can really write for them with more nuance than we could in the first season.
You’re able to blend absurd comic sequences with biting social commentary. How do you strike that balance?
Torres: It’s not really planned. We write the whole season, which is, I think, pretty unusual for a TV show. We don’t really have a staffed writers’ room. We’ll conceive the season and then we will bring in some help to help structure it and have sound arcs and all those things. We’re a very fun-first kind of show. Frankly, we reverse engineer a lot of it. I know that I was like, oh, I want Andres to play with the evil stepmom trope. And then it’s like, “Okay, well, what would allow for that to fit in organically?” I think that because Ana and I are very opinionated people, commentary just naturally arises. But it’s never like, “Oh, we want to tackle this thing.”