[Interview] Alejandro Hernandez for THE HORROR OF DOLORES ROACH

[Interview] Alejandro Hernandez for THE HORROR OF DOLORES ROACH

THE HORROR OF DOLORES ROACH, based on the hit Spotify podcast series of the same name, is a contemporary Sweeney Todd-inspired urban legend of love, betrayal, weed, cannibalism, and survival of the fittest. Dolores Roach (Justina Machado) is released after an unjust 16-year prison sentence, and she returns to a gentrified Washington Heights.

Dolores reunites with an old stoner friend, Luis (Alejandro Hernandez), who lets her live and work as a masseuse in the basement under his empanada shop. When the promise of her newfound stability is quickly threatened, “Magic Hands” Dolores is driven to shocking extremes to survive.

For the release of THE HORROR OF DOLORES ROACH, Shannon spoke with actor Alejandro Hernandez. During their interview, they discussed everything from Alejandro’s motivations for choosing the role, the process of developing his character, and if he would be willing to consume human flesh.

Hi Alejandro! I’m excited to chat with you today! What drew you to the role of Luis and what was your favorite part about playing him?

Alejandro Hernandez: What drew me to him was he’s a complicated character. For lack of a better term, the guy’s a psycho and so that drew me to him. The story overall drew me to the project because this genre of dark comedy/body horror, if you will, and stoner comedy, you don’t see a lot of Latino or Hispanic people as the lead parts. That was a lot of fun to do. As much as Luis is doing these crazy, heinous things, just reading the script I’m like, oh my god, I understand so much of this and I understand the rhythm that Aaron is writing in. He did a wonderful job of bringing Luis to life and putting him on the page. I’m just thankful that I was able to play him.

Given the similarities between this series and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, were you familiar with the play/movie or were you walking into this project blind? 

Alejandro Hernandez: I knew that it was based on the old Penny Dreadfuls back in Victorian-era London during the 1800s. I knew that going in from the different adaptations of Sweeney Todd. I went in knowing the history of Dolores Roach because before it was a podcast it was a one-woman show with Daphne Rubin-Vega that Aaron Mark developed with her way back when. I remember hearing about the show in college that it was this one-woman cannibal show. Then it became the podcast and I listened to it a little bit before I auditioned, but not too much because I didn’t want to steal anything from Bobby Cannavale.  He’s such a great actor. He is one of my faves. I wanted to make sure that I could do my own thing with it and I knew I would be tempted to steal something from him [Laughs]. So, I didn’t listen to too much of the podcast but I had an idea of the world and how I could bring myself to it.

What was your experience like working so closely with Justina Machado? What steps did you both take in building that genuine connection we see on screen? 

Alejandro Hernandez: When we had callbacks and chemistry reads with one another, I guess it just felt really right. Reading with her, she reminds me of so many people in my family. It felt like I’d known her for years. Whether it was doing a callback via Zoom or coming to set the very first day and working with her, my relationship with her just fit like a glove. We bounced off of each other and had a really good time.

When we first meet Luis, he has this chaotic energy swirling around him. Soon after, shit goes sideways at the empanada shop. When developing the character, did you and/or Aaron work on a backstory for Luis to gain an understanding of his motivations?

Alejandro Hernandez: When I read all the scripts, I was able to see he’s had these things happen to him in his life. A lot of it is my own cultural experience in my own life, too, and I could see oh, this is relatable here, this is relatable there, and so on and so forth. So, some of it is directly taken from Aaron and directly taken off the page that he’s written. Taking what he’s written and doing the actor work, I’ve expanded it with my imagination by also bringing my own personal experiences to it to flesh it out even more.

Before wrapping up, I must know: Hypothetically speaking, if you were offered copious amounts of weed and the assurance of complete safety, would you consider indulging in a rather unconventional culinary experience with human meat? 

Alejandro Hernandez: I’m always down to trying something once [Laughs]. Hypothetical situation… you know, it would depend on what kind of weed we’re talking about you know? I’m an Indica guy. I can’t do Sativa. I need to chill out, eat some empanadas and go to sleep [Laughs].

Lastly, what are you hoping people will take away from this series? 

Alejandro Hernandez: I hope people see this show as entertaining but also a show that deals with a lot of real issues. Whether it’s gentrification, the prison system, or this idea that we’re essentially eating each other in many ways. I hope people have a lot of fun watching as much as we did making it. It’s just so much fun to see these two roles played by Latino characters, but it’s also not necessarily about just being Latino. There are all those elements in there, but it’s a show for everyone.

THE HORROR OF DOLORES ROACH premieres on Prime Video on July 7, 2023.

Shannon McGrew
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