By Shannon McGrew
In Prime Video's HAZBIN HOTEL, we follow Charlie, the princess of Hell, as she pursues her seemingly impossible goal of rehabilitating demons to peacefully reduce overpopulation in her kingdom. After a yearly extermination imposed by angels, she opens a hotel in the hopes that patrons will be "checking out" into Heaven. While most of Hell mocks her goal, her devoted partner Vaggie, and their first test subject, adult-film star Angel Dust, stick by her side. When a powerful entity known as the "Radio Demon" reaches out to assist Charlie in her endeavors, her crazy dream is given a chance to become a reality.
For the release of Prime Video's HAZBIN HOTEL, Creepy Kingdom's Shannon McGrew spoke with actors Erika Henningsen and Stephanie Beatriz who voice Charlie Morningstar and Vaggie, respectively. During the interview, they discussed everything from the art of voicing hellish characters, embodying demons and more.
Thank you both so much for speaking with me! To start things off, how did you both prepare to embody all the complexities of your characters?
Stephanie Beatriz: Our careers - you do all the work and all the shows and the things that you do you learn more about yourself as an artist. You learn more about what gets you to where you need to go, how to go deeper into character and when I can pull out the parts of myself that are needed for the story. Then you get into the booth and try some stuff.
Erika Henningsen: You can't really prepare a ton for voiceover animation because you get the script maybe a couple of days before and then you go in [to the booth]. What Steph is saying is it's really all impulse and gut instinct. You obviously have creators like Vivienne guiding you along the way but that's what's fun about it, you don't have time to second guess yourself. You just have to go with your biggest impulse and take massive swings and sometimes they don't work. You show up as you are and you trust the creative team to make sure you're guiding the story where it needs to go.
You've both done an array of voice work ranging from Disney animated films to horror-inspired series. How do you approach a project like HAZBIN HOTEL?
Stephanie Beatriz: In terms of film, the process is much longer but it really depends on the directors, honestly. Some voice directors are like, just give me 3 reads and let's see what we can find. Some really like to read with you. Some build the world for you and then you dive into the scene. It just depends on the director. What all the good directors have in common is that they have the map of [what they want to create] memorized. They can draw it from memory. You have no map and are just listening to them give you directions, literally and figuratively. Their map is so clear to them that not only can you find your way but you can discover more than was ever even on the map, which is so wonderful because it's uncharted territory that they didn't even know was there. But the only way that you could have gotten there was if they led you from the map.
Erika Henningsen: It's hard to get anything made so I think when something reaches that moment where there's an actor actually in the booth it's because the person who created it knows what they're fucking doing, and Viv is such a testament to that. [When I did] "Fright Krewe" the team was such a testament to that, too. It lives in their heads for so long. Viv has told me that one of the characters in HAZBIN HOTEL she was drawing when she was 10-years-old. It's in their head so clearly that you really have to maintain flexibility and let them push you into the corners that they need.
What was it about HAZBIN HOTEL's story that made you want to be a part of this project?
Stephanie Beatriz: It's so horny [Laughs]! The series is very funny, horny, raunchy, wicked and somewhat heartfelt at the same time. It's a combination of all those things which is fantastic to watch and to be in, you know? Not for nothing, this is a very horny show and it was written and created by a woman and it shows that we're also pretty horny.
Erika Henningsen: It's also just really original. The things that it's talking about are tales as old as time - good, evil, growth, loss. But the way Viv builds the world is one that nobody's done. There's nothing like this in existence. It's rare for something like this to come across our desks or laptops these days where you're like, I don't even know anything that I can relate this to and that's so much fun. It's also slutty and raunchy [Laughs].
HAZBIN HOTEL has garnered a massive following and fandom. What do you hope audiences take away from Charlie and Vaggie's journey?
Erika Henningsen: Sometimes the best way to support somebody or to show love is just by helping them achieve their dreams in whatever way possible - big or small. That's true love when you can do that for a romantic partner, a friend, a family member. That's what I hope they take away from the relationships, specifically. It's such a beautiful representation of adult queer love.
The first season of HAZBIN HOTEL consists of eight-episodes. The first four episodes are available to stream now on Prime Video with two episodes rolling out weekly through February 2nd.