Adult Swim has comfortably made a name for itself by programming avant garde outside of the box series, but one that is particularly eclectic and feels representative of the network’s brand is Casper Kelly and Dave Willis’ Your Pretty Face is Going to Hell. Kelly and Willis’ eccentric trip to the underworld has managed to fly reasonably under the radar. It’s about to go into its third season but the live-action series has been in production since 2011. Having assembled a formidable cast amongst the likes of Matt Servitto, Craig RowIn, Dana Snyder, and of course, Henry Zebrowski as the lovably pathetic Gary.
Coming back from a lengthy hiatus, Your Pretty Face is Going to Hell’s new season is looking to be its most memorable yet. We had the privilege of talking with Matt Servitto, the show’s’ resident ruler of Hades, regarding the evolution of the series, exploring Hell’s mythos in pop culture, and what makes Satan tick.
Den of Geek: Your Pretty Face is Going to Hell always kind of sweeps in under the radar, but is there anything different about this season? What’s it trying to say?
Matt Servitto: (laughs) Please, put down that I laughed. Any different messages? I think the message is in the title: You’re going to hell!
I think this season is definitely a more polished season. I feel like it’s taken us a few seasons to find our sea legs. I think initially with the show there was talk of going a traditional sitcom length. 22 minutes. We even kind of shot them that way in season one and then cut them down to the traditional Adult Swim length. So in the first season everything was kind of overwritten because they were written for longer episodes. Some of it was kind of hard to follow because they had to cut out a lot of comedy; a lot of funny stuff. A lot of that has ended up places like DVDs and outtakes.
In season two we knew the length and started refining things. This year the writing is just super crisp and so smart.
There are some episodes that are just really–you know rather than a more traditional kind of comedy that Adult Swim does, it’s just a smarter season. Every episode has a beginning, middle, and an end while packing in so much.
There’s a lot of interesting characters. There are callbacks to situations that we’ve been doing for three seasons. You kind of know the characters now. You know, Henry Zebrowski said to me, “Traditionally with Adult Swim shows it takes a season or two to set the rules for the audience and define the parameters of what the story is and what the characters do because every show of theirs has such a ridiculous premise. The audience needs to get behind the premise, and once they have it and know what the ground rules are, then you can start moving the show outward.”
And that’s how I feel this season was. They really started running story lines that would carry over multiple episodes, characters can come and go and the audience knows who they are…I just enjoyed this season so much because we had our sea legs! We also do a lot of improv on this show, so just comedically being comfortable with each other and trusting one another in every situation is crucial. Now I know exactly how Henry is going to come into a scene or how Craig is going to respond. So that’s kind of what season three is!
Even just the special effects and production department work is continually getting better and more surprising, too! It’s always been great but it’s impressive to see what you guys come up with.
You know we’ve been working on the show on and off. We’re only in season three but I honest to God think my audition for the show was over five years ago. The technology keeps getting ahead of us and the stuff that used to be super expensive, complicated, and the stuff that only a major studio could do is becoming more and more affordable. So naturally things are looking better along with that. I also think there’s a bit of an intentional look of like an old ’60s science fiction thing.
Now it’s just very polished and we’re totally aware of what we’re capable of doing in post. The only down side of that is that we’re doing more and more green screen. In the first season we would build practical elements to scenes, but now they’ll just put a green screen and they’ll be nothing. So I miss that. They still put in some practical elements, but it gets harder and harder. It all looks so great in post where we can get the world we want with a green screen. But I sometimes can be like, “Where are we? What’s going on here again?” and miss the old days.
You’ve got to also remember that the creators came from the animation world so directing live-action was very new to them. But by this season they know exactly what they want and how to shoot it.
Satan is so often in a position of control on this show. Would you like to see him somehow be put into a position of subservience instead and get to play things a little more powerless? Maybe he gets dethroned as Satan?
Well, without giving too much away, you’ll definitely see some moments of vulnerability with Satan this season. There’s always been talk–and this is just me saying things because I’m not sure what’s fully realized this season–that I am not the All-Mighty Satan. That I am just the ruler of one ring of Hell. That there are other rings that we will discover as the show goes on. So we begin to introduce some ideas of that, but my favorite episodes are always the ones where Satan is vulnerable. Like in the episode from last season, “Byle,” where I was kind of a groupie to a heavy metal band and I was clearly such a nerd. There are some episodes this season that also similar to that where you see–I guess we’ll call it, the softer side of Satan.
But those are always my favorite because when you’re playing all-powerful–it’s always been my dilemma with superhero movies, so many of these characters are invincible. Once you introduce invincibility in any piece of storytelling it kind of loses my interest. It ends and begins all stories if someone can’t die. What are we doing? I think it sort of takes every interesting story in human history and throws it out the window. So the best stories are always people that are fallible and can rise up from that failure, so I’m happy that this season you’ll see a wide range of emotions from Satan.
Off that note, the show has done such an effective job at fleshing out Hell and building its own mythos. We got a glimpse of Heaven in last year’s finale but would you like to see more of the show’s take on that?
It’s funny because the Hell that we inhabit, it is a conglomerate of Biblical elements, stories, and legends. I feel that we’ve always been trying to forge our own Hell, with a little help from Dante and pop culture, but then there will be an episode that clearly makes reference to a Bible story or something from the Old Testament, and I like that mix. It also allows us to play with a bunch of characters that are already sort of established. We sort of traffic in that. But I loved when we went to Heaven last year.
This year I think we do something with the snake, apple, and Adam and Eve story, so there’s some of that. The beauty is that there’s just so much to pull from. We’re always like, “So we’re obviously going to keep this thing going, right?” We sit on set and come up with like five seasons worth of stories because it’s a never-ending–you know, people are obsessed with the idea of Hell, the idea of eternal damnation. It lends itself to so many stories. I feel like we’ve just begun to scratch the surface.
Last season also introduced a number of classic monsters and demons into the show like witches, Cerberus, even Krampus, but with your own sort of slant on each of them. What sort of traditional monster would you like to see dealt with in the series next?
Oh man…One of the things that we started to do this season is that if this is the traditional Judeo-Christian Hell, then who’s there? What kind of really interesting, awful people from history are there? And are they all just hanging out together? That was something that we began to toy with this season, we begin to introduce people like Hitler into the show. When the actor came to set and we saw him, we were like, “Well, obviously this is going to be a recurring character on the show…” Every once in a while you should just be in the coffee room and like Hitler walks through, and there’s Gengis Khan with Mussolini and Jeffrey Dahmer. We are always thinking of who should be down here.
In regards to things like monsters and pop culture mythology, I’m always amazed at things like Cerberus and Krampus that they put in the show. I was only sort of familiar with them beforehand and then read up. But oh my God, what amazing stories! It’s all about stories and myths about the Devil and how he reveals himself on Earth. Those are some of my favorite episodes too, when Satan has to go to Earth and we see whether he looks like himself or if he’s disguised as some sort of creature.
The main thing that I think is sort of missing from the show is the introduction of women. A lot of time has been spent on the idea that the ring of Hell that we’re spending time in is almost like a fraternity. They introduced the idea at one point that the women were on another side of Hell, but that’s part of Hell, that you don’t get to be with women! Of course so many of the awful people throughout history have been men, so it lends itself to that area. Besides, men don’t have a monopoly on the concept of being evil.
On the topic of women in Hell, one of my favorite episodes that you guys have done is that National Lampoon’s sex parody last year. Do you get into any more genre homages this season?
We did one which I definitely want to keep under wraps, but we do another that’s a big homage to the traditional three-camera sitcom. I know that we do a science fiction thing a little bit–without giving away too much, we might see visitors from another planet…
Amazing, because I was going to bring up the idea of aliens or even just looking at Hell on other planets.
And that’s kind of what happens.
Everyone on the show is also just so musically inclined–like we did that High School Musical episode–but we talk about doing something like a rock opera or musical theater, since that’s so many people’s idea of what hell is–just non-stop singing!
Banshee was one of my favorite shows, but the final season became pretty divisive for some fans. Now that some time has passed since then, what are your thoughts on what that series accomplished as a whole, and the success of its final year?
Boy, Banshee was such a great ride. I’ve been doing this for a long time and I’ve never done something quite like Banshee. I know it all sounds cliche, but it was just a great four-year cocaine trip. It was always amped up and aerobic, and the way it was to watch the show was the same way we shot it. Very guerilla filmmaking. We shot the show in nine days, which everyone said is insane and that we’d need 12 or 13 days, and we knew that and it just pushed us harder. Initially, a show like this wouldn’t have been on my radar as a television watcher. So many people told me that, but it absolutely grows on you and gets under your skin.
But onto that last season, clearly my character still had more of a story left and that wasn’t finished. But I wish we had maybe just ONE more season to go out on. If we had gone back and done another more traditional season. In the fourth season we took some risks and tried some things. At times it didn’t work, but when it did, it was amazing. But I always had big respect for the writing and wanting to do ambitious things like a big time jump or immediately killing off a main character. Then we spend the entire rest of the season on this murder mystery.
Fans take things personally! The same thing happened with me and The Sopranos finale where people respond viscerally to me, as if I was responsible. The thing now though, with it all being over and people binge watching it all as a unit, I think it does perhaps play a little better all together. I could talk about that show forever though, it was the best.
Lastly, are there any particular episodes from this upcoming season that you’re excited for people to see?
Yeah, there was one particular episode that was just the smartest thing to me–the sitcom one–but again I don’t want to spoil too much. I will say though that it’s the one day that my kids have come to visit on set. I’ve kept pushing them away, but when they finally came it was when we were taping the sitcom part of the episode.
It was snowing in Hell, let me just say that. So we had fake snow that was very slippery as well as this three-camera set-up. Also because Hell is freezing over we have to wear sweaters, hats, and scarves, and it’s already hot in Atlanta where we film. So my kids are watching all of this, and my red makeup is melting off my face, and they’re just like, “This is what you do for a living?” And I thought, I can’t believe this is the first time they’ve seen me working. But they also had this look that was like, “You have the greatest job of all time,” and you know what? I do. On days like that I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Your Pretty Face is Going to Hell season 3 premieres on Adult Swim on October 23rd at 11:30pm