[Interview] Kita Updike & K. Todd Freeman for THE HORROR OF DOLORES ROACH

[Interview] Kita Updike & K. Todd Freeman 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 actors Kita Updike (“Nellie”) and K. Todd Freeman (“Jeremiah”). During their interview, they discussed everything from what drew them to the roles of Nellie and Jeremiah respectfully, how the themes of DOLORES ROACH shaped their characters, and whether or not they’d eat people if given the chance under the influence.

Thank you both for taking the time to speak with me today. To start things off, what drew you to the roles of Nellie and Jeremiah and what was your favorite part about playing them? 

Kita Updike: I had the opportunity to play Nellie for, I would say, the past five years on the podcast. The podcast took place in the area where I was living. The whole story takes place there. So it was pretty much a no-brainer because I know the people, I know the Heights, and I saw this gentrification, all this change, and I saw people that have to handle these problems that are in the show, I saw them handling it in real life. I was very eager, especially after I spoke with Aaron on the phone and we became such close friends. I was like, I’m locked onto this project for as long as I can be locked onto it.

K. Todd Freeman: I liked the idea of playing a character that was a little bit left of center. Those are always fun for me because I think they’re closer to who I am [Laughs]. I loved the fact that the writing was good. I loved the fact that Aaron Mark and the rest of the writers were very collaborative in the creation of our people. I loved the cast and the chance to work with Justina Machado was a draw.

Outside of how entertaining THE HORROR OF DOLORES ROACH is, the series touches upon prevalent themes such as gentrification, the prison system, and more. How did these themes impact or shape the development of your characters? 

Kita Updike: For me, there was a lot of real-life experience. I lived in the Heights. I have known people close to me who have been incarcerated. I’ve known people who have had to go to different lengths just to be able to survive. None of the source material was new, so I didn’t have to pretend or do any extra research to figure that out. It was more about bringing the reality of people who live in this area that I actually lived in. Like K. Todd said, Aaron Mark, our creator, really listened to us and wanted to know what we had to say. When I said something that reflected on who these women, who these people were that are in the area which I lived in, he took that into serious consideration and a lot of that makes its way into the script.

Given that both your characters have close relationships with Dolores, can you talk about approaching those individual relationships? 

K. Todd Freeman: Jeremiah’s wife has died. He’s got no kids. He’s alone. The world is going by. He’s a caretaker and so he, for whatever reason, latched onto Dolores and wants to protect her. That’s his focus. And as the series goes further, rolls along, he becomes more and more focused on just trying to keep her safe.

Kita Updike: For Nellie, she’s living above the empanada shop. I’m sure her family’s been there, her grandmother’s there, so they’ve been there for a while. Generations, at least a few. She comes down to work at the shop to make ends meet, to help take care of her grandmother. When Luis (Alejandro Hernandez) takes over the shop from his father, she’s very protective of the shop. She’s very protective of her community, so when Dolores comes in, she holds her at arm’s length. But once she lets her in, they kind of have a great mother-daughter relationship. Dolores ends up wanting to be fiercely protective of Nellie as Nellie is of her whole community.

I’ve asked everyone this and now it’s time to ask you both: 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 involving human meat?

K. Todd Freeman: EATING PEOPLE?

Kita Updike: Nellie would say yes, because Nellie doesn’t know anything. She’s oblivious. She’s bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. I’m going with Nellie.

When people watch this as they should, what do you hope they take away from the show?

K. Todd Freeman: I just hope they can see the nuances in the writing and in the performances, that it’s not just a simple horror [series]. It takes all of the genres: comedy, horror, drama, and puts them all together in a lovely, well-done way.

Kita Updike: Along with what K. Todd said, because it does do all these genres, I hope that somebody like myself who is very easily scared by horrors and thrillers, I hope [people] use this as a way to try to introduce them to this genre. Be like, Hey, I know you don’t really like this type of thing and it might make you think the killer’s coming in while you’re sleeping, but I think you’ll enjoy this [Laughs]. I hope that across all spectrums you will be able to find some sort of enjoyment in this because the message at its core is much more important than necessarily the genre that it uses as a vehicle.

THE HORROR OF DOLORES ROACH is now available to stream exclusively on Prime Video. For more on the series, check out our review.

Shannon McGrew
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