The corporate world can be Hell, but according to Adult Swim’s horror sitcom “Your Pretty Face Is Going to Hell,” Hell is a lot like the corporate world. Filled with demon bosses, deadlines, and cubicles of doom.
As the series’ season finale, “People in Hell Want Ice Water,” approaches at the stroke of midnight tonight (5/23), it was about time we got a bit of insight into the men behind the madness and red face paint. The show’s creators, Dave Willis and Casper Kelly, alums of Adult Swim series “Aqua Teen Hunger Force” and “Squidbillies,” and cast members Matt Servitto (“The Sopranos,” “The Mentalist”), Craig Rowan (“College Humor Originals,” “The Onion Sportsdome”), and Henry Zebrowski (“Girls,” Martin Scorsese’s upcoming The Wolf of Wall Street) sat down to discuss the origins of their diabolically funny series.
The show’s creation, according to Kelly, came from an earlier Kelly/Willis collaboration: “Dave and I did a short for an internet company called Super Deluxe about these guys who go to Heaven and have unlimited virgins—and they get bored over time, over a million years, so they build a rocket ship out of virgin bones to try to escape. Dave played a demon in there who was stabbing a guy over and over again for a million years with a pitchfork, and we started joking about how that’s just as bad as being stabbed, being the stabber. Your arm would get sore and you’d get carpal tunnel. Well, with all that, we kind of got the idea of making a show about a mid-level demon in Hell and what’s that like.”
Kelly acknowledges another inspiration: “You know, the Bible did this whole thing on Hell; we just sort of did a riff on it. We kind of cribbed from the Bible—public domain.”
The key figure of Satan gets a decidedly different spin in the world of “Your Pretty Face Is Going to Hell” Willis credits veteran character actor Matt Servitto with helping arrive at the interpretation. “I think we messed with that. Like when we did the audition, man, Servitto just sort of killed it, because he kind of underplayed it, he played it like a harried middle-manager. It was funny how he just sort of played it very flat and normal, and there was no sort of mustache twirling or villainous laugh, and we were really aware of Al Pacino’s version of Satan and didn’t want to go in that direction. We wanted to steer away from that.”
Servitto (pictured below) goes into his character choice: “I didn’t imagine it would be like playing the flipside of Jesus Christ in the Jesus Christ story. Yeah, Satan, we all have so many preconceived notions; he’s this bad guy. No, he’s just misunderstood. And then truly, once I saw what the show was, which was clearly more of, in my mind, an office situation comedy…Yeah, he’s that awful, awful, awful boss. He even hates his own job and keeps himself entertained by torturing those around him, and just entertaining himself that way. So, I felt like I’m very good at abusing people, and we just transferred that to the show.”
Servitto’s understated, grounded performance contrasts with his striking character makeup, which the actor enthuses about: “I actually think that I’m better looking with the horns and the yak hair. I think we all are, as the cast, a better looking group with about three inches of makeup and high heels on. It’s pretty amazing, There’s amazing craftsmanship, the guys who do it [Shane Morton and Chris Brown]. These guys are incredible, and it’s not just the makeup; it’s the whole show. They kind of brought a whole feel to the look of the show. Not just in the makeup, but in certain props and set pieces that were all sort of built by these two guys that are just incredibly talented.”
“Yeah,” Servitto continues, “it cuts your acting workload in half when you look in the mirror and you look that way. You’re like, ‘Okay, I don’t have to do much because, my gosh, I look amazing.’”
Adds creator Kelly, “I mean, he’s got giant ram horns, what more do you need?”
Craig Rowan (pictured below), who plays the role of the ambitious demonic intern Claude, explains his character: “He’s the ultimate brown-noser, and what better person to brown-nose than Satan? Basically, there’s a Claude in every office in America. It’s the guy who’s just… he goes a little too hard, he’s a little too smarmy, he’s a little too self-absorbed with himself; and basically, it’s the perfect character to contrast Henry [Zebrowski]’s sweetness and naivete.”
While Servitto and Rowan are not particular fans of the horror genre, co-star Henry Zebrowski (who plays “Pretty Face”‘s naif Gary) more than makes up for it with his own passion for the genre. “I’m completely obsessed with horror and the paranormal, millennial cults… I do a podcast on the occult called The Last Podcast on the Left. I am obsessed with horror films. This became a dream job because I got to play a demon. That was the best part about it, that I got to play a demon, and I finally got to feel Satan’s power, you know? And I think that’s good. Yeah, I love horror.”
When asked to pick a single horror film that inspires his passion, Zebrowski responds, “The one horror movie I’ve seen like sixteen to twenty times would be Freddy vs. Jason. I’m not kidding you. My friends and I in college became strangely obsessed with that movie, and we would watch it over and over and over again. That’s not a joke; we’d actually do that.”
Zabrowski (pictured below) enjoys the process of bringing the episodes to life: “Well, Dave and Chris write every word on the page, and it’s hilarious. And they’re nice enough to watch us rough through the script and improvise off of it, and every time a line of dialogue ends, we continue, and they’re very good at just letting us keep going when we’re supposed to stop. So it’s a nice mix of reading amazing scripts and then just going off, and to me that’s the most fun thing.”
The stylized visuals of “Your Pretty Face Is Going to Hell” evolved from a more conventional Hollywood approach, according to creator Willis. “We were going for extremely high-fi and just a visual feast—but our money ran out when we started it so we ended up just saying, ‘Fill the back with lava, and we’ll be fine.’”
Willis continues, “We did an opening in the beginning of the first one that sort of was at least a little part of what we were trying to go for, but in the end, visually, it’s unlike any other show out there on TV. I mean, the colors are just extreme and garish, and I feel like we got close to what we wanted, certainly with the amount of money we had to spend, you know? I’m pretty happy with how it looks. I think it’s a cross between the mundane and the spectacular. I think we captured some of that balance.”
The writer credits the inventiveness of his makeup and effects crew: “Shane Morton, our makeup artist, the guy who did all of the designs for the demons and all the demon makeup and all the sets and stuff, he’s just immersed in that world; and he had such a big role in building the sets for us and designing the look. He’s awesome.”
Willis also praises Morton’s partner, Chris Brown, for his contributions: “We had him do a computer possessed by the devil, this computer that was trying to kill itself, then Chris had this idea, very last minute, while we were on set, ‘What if there’s a second one?,’ and it’s three o’clock, and by five fifteen they’ve got a second one, rigged up, with old pieces of mask and glue. He’s just a can-do guy. He was really just pumped about the idea, this giant masturbating spider that plays the Vice President of Human Resources.”
As the initial six episodes reach their climax with tonight’s season finale, the show’s creators look ahead to a future with more monsters and more weirdness. Willis promises, “Oh, yes, monsters, weirdness, musicals, he gets out to the woods…”
Kelly interrupts: “Yeah, there will be more monsters; we can only afford a few monsters, but they make appearances.”
Kelly then adds, hopefully: “The more people who watch, the more monsters we can afford.”
“Your Pretty Face Is Going to Hell” is a live-action workplace comedy about Gary (Henry Zebrowski), an associate demon, as he attempts to capture souls on earth in order to climb the corporate ladder of the underworld. Gary hopes to advance in Hell, but he may be too stupid, lazy, and kind-hearted to realize his dreams of promotion. Meanwhile Gary’s intern, Claude (Craig Rowan ), is more talented, more devious, and will do whatever it takes to impress Satan (Matt Servitto).
In the finale, “People in Hell Want Ice Water,” Satan has his demons compete for a drink of ice water. Cold and refreshing hilarity ensues.
A Williams Street production, the show is created and directed by Dave Willis (“Aqua Teen Hunger Force,” “Squidbillies”) and Casper Kelly (“Squidbillies,” “Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law,” “Stroker & Hoop”).
For more info and to watch previous episodes, visit AdultSwim.com.
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