‘Seis Manos’ Creators on How the Mexicanime Series Made ‘Castlevania’ Possible
Listen / download here:
[Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for Seis Manos.]
Later today, the Powerhouse Animation cast and crew will be holding another watch-party for their epic, action-packed Mexicanime series Seis Manos. The Saturday Mourning Cartoons team wanted to get in on the Saturday-morning fun, so not only will we be re-watching the Viz Media series on Netflix again (and again and again), we’re also bringing you a bit of bonus coverage for it! The creative team behind the kung fu / grindhouse / Blaxploitation mash-up series will take to social media once again to offer episode commentary to fans as they watch, along with never-before-seen content from behind the scenes, intriguing trivia, and more on the show’s mythology and lore. And we were lucky enough to sit down with co-creators Brad Graeber and Alvaro Rodriguez, and co-executive producer / writer Daniel Dominguez to get even more insight on Seis Manos.
To our surprise, the team revealed that it was Powerhouse’s early creation of a fight-focused sizzle reel for Seis Manos that helped them seal the deal to be the animation studio for Castlevania. And it was the success of Castlevania that gave Powerhouse the clout to go ahead with their first original production, Seis Manos. That’s just one of the many examples of the fates aligning for the studio in their attempt to bring this incredibly rich, diverse, and uniquely compelling story to folks around the world. Graeber, Rodriguez, and Dominguez were also quick to thank their fanbase who have shown support online, at cons, and through sharing Seis Manos with their friends and followers. We even get a tease for potential sequel seasons and a tip or two on what to do to make sure we get to see more Seis Manos in the future. Listen in and read along below!
Hey You! Are you looking for something to do on the weekends? Then come join us for our Seis Manos Watch Party! Every Saturday we'll be watching two episodes, starting at 12:00 PM CT. Tweet along with us, the cast, and the crew using #SeisManos and become our new best friends. pic.twitter.com/dJlxnomHNg
— Powerhouse Animation (@powerhouseanim) May 11, 2020
Could you all introduce yourselves by name and title on the show for our listeners out there?
Álvaro Rodriguez: I’m Álvaro Rodriguez, I’m the co-creator and executive producer of Seis Manos.
Brad Graeber: I’m Brad Graeber, I’m the co-creator and executive producer of Seis Manos.
Daniel Dominguez: I’m Daniel Dominguez, I’m a co-EP and writer on Seis Manos.
To start off, I wanted to do a wellness check just to make sure everybody’s doing okay and ask how you all are doing during the ongoing quarantine and pandemic that we’re all dealing with.
Daniel Dominguez: I’m pretty relaxed. The work is steady. It’s been interesting working in my pajamas as opposed to in an office, but thankfully, I haven’t really been touched by it. Everyone that I know is safe and well and healthy. The only real effect that it has had on my life is that we got a Peloton. So that’s about it.
Brad Graeber: I’m doing good, too, although I can confirm that Daniel often came to work in his pajamas too, Cookie Monster pajamas. So I don’t think that there’s been that much of a transition for him. But no, I feel like things are difficult, they’re likely to stay that way for a while, but we’re hopeful. And I think one of the spaces where things have been moving on without as much static as other places has been in animation. So we’re very hopeful that that bodes well for Seis Manos and other projects.
Álvaro Rodriguez: Yeah. At the studio, we’ve been work from home for about two months or so now, but it definitely has challenges and things are difficult, but at the end of the day, we’re very lucky and privileged that we’re all still working, and most of our deadlines haven’t shifted, and people are looking to do more animation. So it has been about as hard on us as it has been on others.
Yeah. Over the last six or eight weeks or so, most of the folks I get to talk to are in the animation industry, so whether they’re creators, voice actors, I’ve heard a lot of stories about how animation isn’t just negatively impacted the way live action productions might be, but they’ve actually seen an uptick in a lot of work. So can you guys comment on how some of the industry things have maybe changed for you, if at all?
Brad Graeber: Sure. At the end of the day, there are definitely a lot more calls coming in for people trying to figure out how to do things in animation. We probably get 10 to 15 people contacting Powerhouse about music videos almost daily just because there’s not a way to do them in live action currently. So it definitely has garnered a lot more interest, and there are artists who, it doesn’t change an animator’s day all that much, they’re sitting in front of their Cintiq and drawing and conversating via IM most of the time, so there actually might be a little bit of a productivity bump for the artists right now because they’re not getting interrupted by stupid meetings all the time.
But that being said, producers are having to work double time trying to keep everybody on task and calling around and checking in on things, and managing systems where people are not all in the same space. All that being said, there definitely seems to be new interest in doing more animated projects right now.
Daniel Dominguez: Yeah. I don’t know, I was pretty busy before and I’m pretty busy still, but I don’t know, uptick is certainly correct. I remember one of my favorite things when I got into therapy was learning how to say “no”, and now I take incredible pleasure in it, so it is fun getting to say “no” more.
And then, with all the kind of difficulties that come with this too, there are some silver linings. It’s been interesting to watch how animation companies or just content companies in general have found ways to reach out to people. In one way that you have done that with Seis Manos is you’ve been running these Saturday watch parties. So how’s that experience been, how did that come up, and what’s that been like for you as the creative force behind the series?
Brad Graeber: It came up because some of our folks at the studio, and I think Daniel saw that they were doing one for Kipo and we talked about it and were, I think, talking about it at the same time internally, trying to figure out how to do some of these watch parties to just engage the audience a little bit more. Plus, Saturday morning cartoons was just a fun little idea to kind of frame it on.
Brad Graeber: But honestly, from a selfish standpoint, I miss Daniel and Álvaro very, very much, and I miss working on the series, and most of the work that I’ve been doing while we’re having this uptick that we’ve been talking about has been not necessarily on the creative side. And so whether it was intentional or not, it’s been a wonderful thing to reengage with the guys and see people react to things and just feel the love for the show, and listening to all these fan theories and things like that, it’s an uplifting experience for me because it’s getting outside of emails and spreadsheets and remembering why we do what we do at Powerhouse.
Plus, I’ve been stuck in an office, and I don’t know how Álvaro and Daniel feel, but even just seeing them each tweet about stuff and tell jokes or send a meme or something like that, it’s very reminiscent of the process that we had working on the show. So I don’t know, it’s been very uplifting for me.
Álvaro Rodriguez: Me, too. There’s a strange experience that comes from having a project that, like most animated things, takes a year to animate, takes so much time between the time that it’s written, the time that it’s recorded, the time that it’s animated, and then the time that it’s released. And you go through this sort of surreal experience. We went to San Diego Comic-Con, we went to New York Comic-Con, but once it drops, it’s dropped. And so there’s very little sort of continuity that you would have with a show that’s like, “Well, there’s an episode coming out every week,” and you get to build your audience, it just drops.
And so we’ve been trying to find ways in which to engage an audience. One of the great things about social media is that you get to see these sort of tendrils unfold and unfurl out globally. People tweeting about it in Europe or in South America months and months after the thing has been released. So this kind of a thing with our Saturday morning cartoon, which is obviously ironic in the first place because it’s an adult animated cartoon. But this sort of experience just engages us as creators, engages us as people involved in the process, and it’s a really great experience to see that again and see how this thing sort of has legs and reaches audiences.
Daniel Dominguez: I remember all of us going back and forth, even before we got in the room, just putting so much, more than I ever had certainly, I think into anything, into even just developing it and fleshing it out and all of that stuff. And I don’t remember the specific day, but I remember Álvaro and I talking about just … Because I grew up on anime, I grew up on adult cartoons that I fell in love with, I was just surprised by just the level of philosophical complexity you could do in the storytelling with that stuff.
And then I remember thinking as we were … and this was part of the project all along, but just the realization of what it would be like to have someone who has been a fanboy or girl, like I was when I was younger, of this stuff see this and finally see themselves represented in the show in a way that I don’t think has ever been done before. There hasn’t been a Latinx show in this space. And what that would mean. And then when we went to Comic-Con and we would see these people get in line and be crying and telling us, “I got to see myself up there,” I don’t know, that was such a visceral and wonderful confirmation of why this kind of thing matters.
And then, I don’t know, A, the fun, it’s been wonderful getting back and playing with these guys, but also just seeing all the people in line have that same reaction, seeing all that same stuff on Twitter. I don’t even speak Spanish, so I just see all these Spanish tweets going back and forth about it, and it’s just sort of … I don’t know. I don’t know. I feel like the Grinch with his heart growing 10 sizes bigger.
Speaking of the experiences that you have on social media while you’re doing these watch parties, have you guys noticed more new fans coming to the series for the first time and discovering it for the first time, or do you see a lot of folks who had watched it at launch, had watched it since then, and are now coming back to kind of soak up more behind-the-scenes information that you guys are sharing out?
Brad Graeber: I’d say a little bit of both. There are some really wonderful fans who have written great pieces and have commented on things that Álvaro has put out or others have put out or Powerhouse has put out, and there’s definitely a nice little core group of fans that are participating, but some of the best things is seeing their fan bases reacting to them talking about it, and then introducing them to the show and getting new people involved. And it definitely helps when you have a show with Angélica Vale or Danny Trejo involved, and their social media reach is so large. And so there are a lot of new people coming in as we’re talking about the work that they did on the show too.
Yeah, and I wanted to talk a little bit about the representation, Daniel, that you mentioned earlier too, because this show is fantastic for kind of, and I don’t want to belittle it, but sort of checking those boxes that a lot of productions are very keen on today. A lot of new productions are very tuned in to social commentary, to diversity on the screen, or on the page as it might be. So what I love about Seis Manos is you take those pains to make sure that folks who normally aren’t represented get a chance to shine here.
So what was kind of that maybe creation process, going back a few years now, about why it was important to focus on the particular characters that you do?
Daniel Dominguez: That’s a lot of years.
Álvaro Rodriguez: One of the things I think that is really important in that regard is that there were never boxes to tick in Seis Manos. Seis Manos was about just telling a story, and this is just the world in which it happened to be set. So there was never any sort of agenda or, “Let’s have this Latinx character, this African American character, this Asian American character,” or any of that kind of stuff. There was no sort of formula to it, it was just about these are the characters in this world, and it was just kind of a little bit of a … I don’t know complete surprise, but it was certainly a surprise.
And in talking to one of the voice actors who I had met before, and I had said, this actor Roger Craig Smith who was the voice of Batman and Batman Ninja and so many other things, and he plays Larry, the CIA operative in the … or the DEA, whatever he is, the government agent. And I was like, “You’re basically the only white guy in the show.” But there was no intention behind it other than this was our show, so in a way, that was so much more liberating because we weren’t keeping a tally of boxes to check off in terms of representation.
Daniel Dominguez: Even before, oh God, I don’t know how many years, when Álvaro and I first met, which at this point, I don’t know, how long have we been friends? Six years or something like that?
Álvaro Rodriguez: I think it’s going on seven years.
Daniel Dominguez: It’s been seven years, and this project predated that.
Daniel Dominguez:I remember, as we were getting to know each other very early on him telling me about this, and I knew all these people in the animation space because I had been writing in that space for a long time. And Álvaro being like, “Me and Brad Graeber have this really dope thing,” and so they had had this sort of prior to that, and already seven years ago, this was before the wave of Hollywood catching up to the reality of the world or whatever. And at that time, even just hearing about it from him in the nascent stage it was in, it was just like, “Well, this is just awesome because these are the things that excite us to write about and that we care about,” because they’re really fun to write about, they’re interesting, and their story is worth telling, and it’s as simple as that.
And thank God Hollywood has sort of caught up to the reality of the world we live in in all these sorts of ways like that, both from the diversity perspective, but also from the sociological-political perspective, et cetera. But at that time, I remember us running around preaching and being like, “I swear to God, this is awesome. Many people want it.” And them going like, “I don’t know, man.” And then the reality caught up with the show.
Brad Graeber: Al and I went around and pitched it many, many places for a couple of years before it really got around to getting picked up, but when it did, it kind of went really, really fast, too. So at the end of the day, like Al said, it wasn’t an intention to check the box or to something specifically, it just was one of those things where we wanted to make a badass show. We were both from Texas, it was kind of a natural story that mixed all the stuff that we loved, the grindhouse, the kung fu shows, all of that other things, and just happened to be that. And then we found two wonderful writers to work with, and it became what it was. There was never a formulaic plan to it at all.
Daniel Dominguez: Yeah. It’s got to have been at least a decade.
I know for me personally, the first time I got a chance to see any of it or be introduced to any of it was 2017, back at the Rooster Teeth Animation Festival, where, I forget who was there, but you presented a kind of sizzle reel of a fight sequence that was more or less done. And me and the whole room, I was just kind of jaws on the floor like, “I need to see more of this.” Yeah.
Brad Graeber: Yeah. What’s funny about it is, every frame of course is interlocked and there’s not a clear-cut story on all of it, but I think, if I remember correctly, Fred Seibert and I were on a panel talking about animation, and it was when we had started Castlevania. That being said, Seis Manos was a fight choreography test that we did with Sam Deats in the studio to try to go out and sell the show, and this was before Sam was working on Castlevania. And then he had done a bunch of really cool Naruto fan art fight sequences, and then we had the Seis Manos piece, and that’s what we used to go sell Powerhouse to be the studio that worked on Castlevania.
Daniel Dominguez: Wow.
Brad Graeber: Yeah. Castlevania and Seis Manos are actually tied into, which came first, the chicken or the egg? And there’s not really a clear-cut version of that, because without the Seis Manos test, I don’t know that we would’ve got Castlevania. Without Castlevania, it would’ve been hard to go out and sell a show like Seis Manos because people weren’t doing things like that at the time.
And now you’re going to see all these think pieces about how Castlevania and Seis Manos are in the same Powerhouse cinematic universe, so get ready for those fan theories if they’re not out there already.
Brad Graeber: Yeah. I will confirm that is not true, even though in Seis Manos there is an Easter egg where El Balde picks up a small little Alucard doll…
Daniel Dominguez: That does happen.
… in the market. So we try to drop things like that in the show, but I think Warren Ellis would definitely squash if we were to say they were in the same universe.
Daniel Dominguez: I think you made it officially canon accidentally there, and then 20 years down, when Álvaro and I and you are all sell-outs, we can be like, “Yeah, dog. Every Powerhouse show happens in one universe, and also Jurassic Park, and yeah.”
Álvaro Rodriguez: I don’t think I’ll have to wait 20 years to be a sell-out.
Well, now I’m going to have to go back and watch that for a fifth time now, because I think I missed the Alucard doll Easter egg, so I’ll have to go back and look.
Álvaro Rodriguez: I think it’s coming up in the next episode.
Oh, perfect. Okay.
Daniel Dominguez: Buddy, I think it’s even more sell-outty, because I think it kind of looks like a PopCap doll too, so hint, hint, Brad.
So speaking of that, this weekend, you guys are continuing the series of the Saturday watch-parties, and I believe it’s episodes five and six, so we’ve got Blindfold and Reunion coming up. Anything you would like to tease for our listeners out there who are looking forward to the watch-party for these episodes?
Daniel Dominguez: Definitely being a part of them. They are 10:00 AM Pacific Standard Time, adult Saturday morning cartoon. Get on Twitter, #SeisManos as all one word, hashtag S-E-I-S-M-A-N-O-S, and join along with the fun. You can add us and we’ll respond to you, unless we don’t see it. We just make all sorts of silly jokes and tell stories from making the show and stuff like that.
And I usually have no idea what I’m talking about, I’m terrible at doing homework, so I get real random. And yeah, I don’t know, dude, it’s so much fun. Honestly, adult Saturday morning cartoons is just a great idea anyway, now that dark cartoons can come out.
Daniel Dominguez: And I think thanks largely to Powerhouse, thank you Powerhouse. And that should be a thing anyway, honestly. I just imagine some prior 41 year old mom and dad sitting there going, “I need a bloodbath just for some catharsis for two hours on Saturday morning.” It’s a great time.
Brad Graeber: One thing that I’m going to do is I have some outtakes from the record sessions, which that was one of the highlights of working on the show was getting in there and watching the scripts come to life that these guys put together, so I’ve got some outtakes I think, until I get in trouble, I’m going to put out of some of Mike Colter’s different takes, and even some stuff that was cut from the scripts.
But five and six are kind of, I don’t know, when I tried to prepare all the things to tweet, and I am a Type A who pre-wrote every single tweet for episodes one and two at Saturday morning cartoon, and had a folder where I labeled all of the different photos to post with them. I had 50-something for Episode 1 just because there was so much that was packed into those episodes to explain, from the kung fu to the Mexican cinema to … there’s just so much. And I ended up only being able to put out half of the tweets that I had pre-written. It was just trying to quickly copy and paste a whole bunch of stuff so rapidly.
Five and six, to me, are similar in how much stuff is in them to episodes one and two. We established the show, then we had fun in three and four, and then five and six have just a lot of Easter eggs and things that they were based on, so there’s just quite a lot of things that need to be acknowledged because, I don’t know, I always have fun seeing things that even I didn’t remember.
Like for instance, we’ve got this one shot of how they took shot for shot the killing of the little girl at the ice cream truck from Assault on Precinct 13, and I had totally forgotten that it was shot for shot when they shot Piojo the first time. I was like, “Oh my God, yeah. That was in there.” So I don’t know, five and six, there’s just a lot to talk about it there, and I’m sure Al will have some great things to put out too.
Álvaro Rodriguez: Yeah. I like going back and looking at the script and taking some little screen grabs of the script page, and even some notes just because it was fun to kind of go back and look, and then also just to sort of spill my cinema fan guts about, “Oh, this was a reference to this movie,” or, “This was influenced by this movie,” and just sort of lay it all bare on the table. Open kimono, as we say.
Daniel Dominguez: Yeah. Especially in the writing and editing process, our first draft of the pilot was, God, I don’t know, 34 pages or something like that. And they were like, “There are so many little things in there. If we had an unlimited budget, it would’ve been amazing.” There’s a sequence where that monster guy straight up murders a bunch of coyotes and is running through the desert. And I know there’s a ton of that in every episode. It’s just fun, but at a certain point, you have to sort of pace it out for time and stuff like that. There’s nuggets all over that are fun to throw back up.
Yeah. I was wondering what you guys’ homework process was kind of like for having to research all that stuff, and how much you were just like, “Oh, I’ve been waiting to let somebody know about this,” or like, “Oh, wow. I didn’t remember that we were trying to do that kind of thing.” So it’s been fun to watch along and kind of unearth all that historical, almost archived tribute. It’s been really cool.
When you guys were actually, over the last decade or so, kind of developing this, there is so much to pull from and so many things, even as hyper-specific as the one scene from Assault on Precinct 13, or any of the kind of Blaxploitation roles, or the sort of 70s grindhouse cinema, or any of the Chinese martial arts movies, or any of that stuff. So how did you even begin to boil all that stuff down into what would become Seis Manos? How did you make those decisions?
Brad Graeber: It’s a good question, and correct me if I’m wrong guys, but I think probably the best way to answer that is we all came from a different space, but all worked really well together to kind of put in our specific loves and wants, and then boiled that down and made something that was completely unique to it. So at the end of the day, I’m really interested in fight choreography and old Shaw Brothers kung fu stuff. There’s lots of stuff, like Daniel said, that we didn’t necessarily get to include in the series, but I would push for more of that stuff.
Al has this amazing cinematic knowledge of all these 70s era grindhouse films and would share little clips from that, I would send a Taoist book to the guys, they would say I needed to watch this one Blaxploitation film, Daniel would make reference to different anime things from the past, and it kind of created a new thing through those different interests and us all kind of pushing and pulling on one another.
Daniel Dominguez: Yeah. Yeah. I remember Álvaro put me through Blaxploitation school as part of the homework we were doing, which was awesome, by the way. Oh my God, it was phenomenal. I actually totally ripped off a line from a movie called Truck Turner and threw it in there just because it’s one of the best things I’ve ever heard a human being say in a movie. But yeah, it was such a wonderful Venn diagram. I’m obsessed with the CIA running roughshod over Central and South America. I felt like this was an opportunity to tap through some of that stuff in a fiction narrative and stuff like that, and we were all fans of grindhouse, but Brad is kung fu with the bullets, and Álvaro is basically a human Criterion Collection.
Yeah, it’s just a wonderful collection of people throwing the stuff they love together in a way that I think ended up feeling really organic.
Yeah. And it feels like that too, from a viewer’s perspective. It’s amazing how well it all works together, but it also feels like, if they were making these kinds of anime series in the 70s at this quality, it feels like a story that would’ve just come out of that era. It feels very much derived from it and of a piece. But whose decision was it, or whose idea was it, to put that grainy, sort of burned, and sometimes split filter over a lot of the animated scenes?
Brad Graeber: That was Willis Bulliner, the director, and Adam Conarroe, and we all talked about it, but the way that they did it, it’s hard to imagine the show without that. But they did it in a really creative way. Not only do the cigarette burns happen in the show when they should happen mathematically, but they also kind of turn it up and turn it down depending upon the darkness of the scene and what’s going on in the scene. And so, I think that they really do it in a unique and creative way that’s never been explored before.
Daniel Dominguez: Yeah. To have seen it not just applied, but to have been utilized sort of thematically and tonally dependent on what is happening, I was so blown away by that choice. It was incredible.
I think personally, one of my favorite splits, it may be in an episode that hasn’t come up in your watch-party yet, I think it’s the seventh one or maybe the eighth one, but it’s right after a major reveal and right before the jump to the intro title sequence. There’s a great split and the film runs out or the film breaks, and then it jumps back.
Daniel Dominguez: Yes.
I love that. I thought that was fantastic.
Álvaro Rodriguez: Yeah.
Brad Graeber: And then what’s funny about that is, animation is a very iterative process, like Al said earlier, it’s just such a long distance between scripts and records and all that other sort of stuff, and I was so worried about that one, and it wasn’t until the sound got in there that I was like, “Oh, this will work.” Because when you see it in the animatic and there’s not that run down sound, you’re like, “Oh, this is gimmicky. This may not work,” but Willis really stood behind it. And then when the guys at TBD Post, Brad Engleking and all those guys put the sound in there, you’re like, “Oh crap, yeah, that’s perfect.”
Now we’ve talked a lot about kind of where you all pulled from for inspiration, but you also have your own unique and original mythology that, to be honest, is only kind of getting going here in Season 1. There’s a lot of nuggets, there’s a lot of breadcrumbs and teases, maybe you can walk me through some of the developing your own mythology for this original property.
Álvaro Rodriguez: Part of the thing that I was always fascinated by in the telling of this story as it started to come together was, I love mythology. I love all that stuff. So finding elements that were basically based on the cult of Santa Muerte or something like that, but creating Santa Nucifera. Nucifera is Latin for one of the types of lotus. So now we had this sort of potential crossover between Santa Muerte and, we’re at one point calling the Lady of the Lotus, but it was basically all invented. It wasn’t based on anything except sort of putting our own spin on the mythology that already existed.
We were obviously really interested also in this sort of thing that happens with syncretism, where Catholicism is sort of pasted over the indigenous religions and all that kind of stuff. And so, in building all of these things, it was kind of like this sort of mishmash of all these different cultures and all these different schools of thought, and the idea of the goddess. And there’s even some Egyptian mythology kind of things with the sarcophagus, but it all seemed plausible in this space, which I thought was really cool. Yeah.
Daniel Dominguez: And that was an invention of the same thing, Nucifera too, just the whole lotus aspect of it melded so well, and as part of homework stuff we did, Brad had us read the Tao and go through it, and go through a really great translation of it and all that sort of stuff. And so, honestly there’s, like he said, a bouillabaisse of Chinese mythology. So the lotus creation, the wonderful thing that Al came up with, melded so naturally with things that we pulled from the Chinese mythology space. And what all of that sort of ended up doing, I think, in a really interesting way, you’re not wrong, sir, in that we definitely quite intentionally built it as a breadcrumb trail.
And it was partly pragmatic. I know when I came into the project, part of that was that Netflix was actually asking us to include in the sort of sales pitch of it what a three season arc would look like. And so we intentionally built a three-season arc for the show, which required that in Season 1, we do it in a way that is setting up essentially act one of the three-act tale. And so you’re right, a lot of that is meant to pay off in future seasons.
Brad Graeber: Yeah, and a lot of it was great research on the guys’ part, and then also a lot of really cool synchronicity that happened. El Balde is a little based on Adolfo Constanzo and the murders that happened in Matamoros in the 80s, but he had ngangas, which were these buckets that they kind of did these rituals with. And then when we visited a curandero in Austin to learn more about the process and make sure everything in the background was correct and all that, they actually had one. Talked about how you could use it to control the spirit of a witch or something like that, and then that was already in the script that Al had, but it was this kind of synchronicity that happened across the project.
And Al and Dan did so much research; Dan on video is showing us one of his Santa Muertes that he got from the curandero shops. But we did everything, from looking at voodoo books, I remember long conversations about that, Al and Dan went and visited a Taoist priest out there in Burbank and had conversations with him. There’s definitely a unique universe that pulls a lot of different threads together, but there was a lot of time spent making sure that we got it as authentic as possible.
Daniel Dominguez: But also being a Joseph Campbell fan. I’m always such a fan of the Er Myth and the idea of all myths are one myth and that kind of thing too. And if you look at all mythology, religion, faith, all those sorts of things, you find so many just sort of identical strands running through everyone’s sort of stories for how and why things are the way they are.
Well, I’m happy we get to add Seis Manos mythology to that list, and hopefully we get to see more of that in the future. But as a quick aside, are you guys working with Insight Editions or anybody on a behind-the-scenes book? Because I feel like there’s such a wealth of information and inspiration and art that most people probably won’t get to see, but would love to. Are you working on anything like that?
Brad Graeber: Not right now. We would love to. Part of the hope of these Saturday morning cartoon watch-parties and all of this is that the audience continues to build and the interest happens, and we kind of get those tendrils out into other parts of the social media world and more people are introduced to the show. But right now, I think about a book like that all the time, and I’d love nothing more than to put together a book like that, and I’m sure Al and Dan feel the same way. But not right now, unfortunately.
Daniel Dominguez: Tell all your friends about us and tell them to tell their friends about us, and I’ll give you all the merch you want.
So let’s just get the elephant out of the room here. Season 2, what do we have to do as a community, as an industry, what do we have to do to move that needle so you guys can say, “Yeah, Season 2 is a go, and we’re working on it”?
Daniel Dominguez: I have an idea that I don’t think anyone will agree with, but my master plan continues to be, get a really famous rapper to tweet about us. Because everyone who loves hip-hop loves kung fu, now that’s a fact.
Brad Graeber: Yeah. I desperately want to tell, but we were lucky enough to where we were able to write Season 2. The scripts are so good.
Daniel Dominguez: They’re so good.
Brad Graeber: They’re so good. Al wrote a script that has this amazing metaphor to another famous kung fu movie that I want to make so, so bad.
Álvaro Rodriguez: I have no memory of any of this. I have no memory of any of it. No, we wrote a second season, we had talked about our third season. We’re guardedly optimistic, but part of I guess the idea is, yeah, we’re going to hope that we can continue spreading the word and building that audience and growing that audience, and just trying to get exposure out there. And I think usually that’s always been the sort of, the thing that stops things in their tracks, is just a lack of exposure. And I feel like Seis Manos, for whatever reason, just sort of slipped through those cracks and didn’t get the kind of exposure that an original IP needs to get in order for it to gain traction.
Daniel Dominguez: Yeah.
Álvaro Rodriguez: And so that’s why some of this social media stuff has been so valuable in that it’s continued to give some exposure to it, but we’re sort of still waiting for our real breakout. And yeah, I’m not sure what’s going to be the thing that changes that, but yeah, we loved the property. We loved the project. We loved the stories that we were telling and the characters that we were building, and we’d love to be able to keep doing that.
Daniel Dominguez: I can tell you, I have not had more fun or been more proud of a season of television, and I’ve been involved in a lot of wonderful things and continue to be, but that season two batch of Seis Manos, it pulls so much of the mythology together. I’m just going to say this, I’m just going to throw this out there as a lure for people, somewhere in there is a baboon in a mech with a flamethrower. I’m not going to say why or how we got that in there.
You somehow hit all my specific things that I look for. Somehow.
Brad Graeber: It really is so good. But yeah, I do think the show will eventually find its audience. I’m hoping it’s sooner rather than later, and again, the animation landscape is changing, and I do think there’s a thread to hit with this series and we’re just trying to find out and do our best to make sure that we do hit that thread.
I will make you guys this deal. I will work on getting a world-famous rapper to get into Seis Manos, if they’re not already, much like the Wu-Tang Clan members have been for a very long time, if I can get maybe some confirmation or a nod that a Master of the Flying Guillotine maybe shows up in Season 2 or 3.
Daniel Dominguez: I guarantee that.
Perfect. Deal. All kidding aside, Tuca & Bertie was very socially aware and conscious and it was out there in the zeitgeist, and then it was axed really before it could find its audience, but this week, we saw that a Season 2 was picked up by Adult Swim. So I feel like there are audiences and there are arenas for these types of shows, so I don’t know if you guys can talk about it or not, but are you able to look outside of Netflix, or are you just currently waiting to see what your numbers are, or what their decision ultimately is?
Daniel Dominguez: I’m just going to slowly turn and look at Brad for however he wants to talk about that question.
Brad Graeber: Right now, we’re hoping that it finds an audience on Netflix and that that audience continues to grow. There’s a time period where things can move to other places, but for what it’s worth, Tuca & Bertie is a wonderful show, and I think maybe on Cartoon Network, it might be the right place for it. I still believe that Seis Manos is a streaming show and that Netflix is the proper place for a show like that, but it’s difficult to say what will happen long-term, but I’m hoping that it finds an audience here on Netflix.
Álvaro Rodriguez: Yeah. I would say the same thing. We had great partners with VIZ and Netflix. When we first met with Netflix with VIZ, VIZ came on board and then we went together to talk to Netflix, Netflix were so encouraging and it was a very liberating thing. One of the things that was said in that meeting has always stuck with me, which was, “Don’t try to put something here that’s going to appeal to a particular demographic and like you’ve got to find the thing that’s going to make 13 year old boys want to watch this or 16 year old girls or people from whatever the demographics are, just be as authentic to your story as possible. Because the more authentic it is, the more universal it will be.”
And so when you’re getting that kind of advice, you’re getting those kinds of guidelines going into the process, you can’t help but want to be in business with those kind of people. And so Netflix and VIZ and Powerhouse and the sort of collaboration that we’ve all been a part of with our voice cast, it’s like everyone feels really invested in the show and invested in the story that we were telling, and that’s something we want to try to keep going as much as possible.
Daniel Dominguez: And just absolutely on a creative level too, they’re just so wonderful to play with. And just compassionate and smart and supportive, obviously, as he said, but it’s a great space to play.
And I can second all that too. From all the folks I’ve talked to on Netflix productions, they seem like fans and friends to genre. They are one of the platforms out there, maybe the top, who is willing to kind of push that envelope and allow a wider range of genre and perspective, and all kinds of stuff. Pushing for Season 2 on Netflix, let’s hope.
But as we kind of wrap up or start to wind down here today, I want to bring you back to a character focus for a second. We mentioned earlier how great Seis Manos is at delivering characters, mainly underrepresented characters. I specifically love Silencio as a mute character, but also Lena as his partner, who is differently abled. I don’t know if we ever get the background on her or not as to why she lost a hand, but I love the fact that they have this relationship, and you show it how they complement each other, especially in the guitar playing scene. Now Silencio and Lena, were they always part of the script early on?
Brad Graeber: Silencio was. Lena was not necessarily part of the script early on, but I think that backstory did get told in either three or four in a scene where they’re … I guess it’s after they’ve made the plan to leave.
Daniel Dominguez: Oh, that’s right.
Brad Graeber: Leave San Simon and then Lena confesses her role in knowing about Father Serrano and knowing about Balde and all of this stuff. But no, again, the idea about representing differently abled characters, I can’t say it wasn’t intentional, but it wasn’t ticking off a box thing too, there was just something that was so natural to this idea of the way that those two characters find themselves, and it’s something I’ve always been sort of fascinated by.
But just the idea, like the guitar scene, the “Mal Hombre” scene, it’s so iconic in that it represents how these two people complement each other and how they together make something that didn’t exist before, how the relationship itself is this sort of new thing. Not that they’re not each individually whole in themselves, but now there’s a new thing that’s created that only exists because of their relationship.
And there’s just something that’s very sexy about that, and there’s something that’s just really touching about that too, because they were both sort of made this way by El Balde, and that’s the reveal that Lina provides us, too.
But yeah, I think that there’s something that … a sort of absolute freedom of being able to tell a story without looking towards checking off boxes or particular agendas. Let’s just explore all of our loves and all of the things that inspire us, things we have affinities for, from Mexican cinema to mythology and all these other things, and how they blend into this one space. And that’s how all of these things came to be was just from opening ourselves to that.
Daniel Dominguez: Yeah. Garcia actually, being a female police officer, came about organically, too. That was entirely because we were doing a bunch of research on that period so we could draw things from real history in that space, and found out that right around the time period that the show had been placed in, that women had at that moment begun to achieve civil rights in Mexico and specifically be allowed to become police officers for the first time. And so it was just like, what an interesting story to explore that fit so well within the context of the world that we’re building.”
Brad Graeber: Yeah. All the initial decks that we pitched up until we got into actually writing the show, Garcia was a dude. And it’s so hard to even imagine that as a thing now, but yeah, he was another guy with a mustache and the relationship with Brister was completely different. And it was just one of those revelations that totally changed exactly what the show ended up becoming.
Álvaro Rodriguez: Well, I’m going to respectfully disagree in that that idea did not come about organically, that idea actually came from one of the executives at Netflix.
Brad Graeber: Oh, did it really?
Álvaro Rodriguez: You didn’t remember?
Daniel Dominguez: No, that was my idea. That wasn’t Netflix.
Álvaro Rodriguez: No, that was Tykee’s idea. Tykee said, “We need to have another woman character in this show, you should think about this,” and that’s where the Garcia becoming Officer Garcia the woman came from, and it made so much sense in the room at the time. It’s like, “Of course it should be a female cop.”
Daniel Dominguez: Maybe.
Álvaro Rodriguez: Yeah.
Daniel Dominguez: I feel like when Brad Woods first called me, I was like, “This is one of the three things I think you should do.” Because I had done all that reading on Wikipedia about that time period. All right, I’m going to share it. I’ll share it with Tykee. I’m going to share it with Tykee.
We’ll chalk that up to collective unconscious. Yeah.
Daniel Dominguez: Yeah.
So all those things that you guys just talked about are just some of the many, many reasons that folks should be checking out Seis Manos, beyond the incredible action and the original mythology and just the fun of the series itself. But because I’m about out of time with you guys, I wanted to give you a chance, while we wait to hear more on Seis Manos Season 2, what else are you all currently up to, either at Powerhouse or in your own creative path?
Brad Graeber: I’ll go first because it’s easy for us. So we’re working on He-Man and the Masters of the Universe for our friends at Netflix and Mattel, which is going along extremely well and we’re super excited about. We’re working on Heaven’s Forest, which is another show with Warren Ellis and Kevin Kolde and also for Netflix. And then Season 3 of Castlevania came out fairly recently, and we’re working on more stuff for that as well.
So at the end of the day, everybody’s still pushing. We’ve got three or four shows in development. There’s another show called Blood of Zeus: Gods & Heroes, which is based on Greek mythology. That one’s in post right now, and things are firing on all cylinders.
Daniel Dominguez: What am I doing? I’m finishing up running the second season of an adult animated sci-fi action genre show for HBO Max, but I cannot name specifically.
Daniel Dominguez: Yep. But it’s the second season, so the first season’s already out and the show is wonderful.
Álvaro Rodriguez: It’s Tuca & Bertie.
Daniel Dominguez: It takes a really hard left turn into a serious sci-fi action. What else? A variety of other development projects that are all having fun in lawyer land, and yeah, things are wonderful. It’s a blast to be able to write wearing Uggs in my house and look forward to that show that I can’t name when it comes out and all the wonderful Powerhouse stuff.
Álvaro Rodriguez: After Seis Manos, I went to New York to work on a Showtime series that we were about to start shooting when everything shut down called Rust with Jeff Daniels attached to star. I’m hoping that we’ll get back to that once the fog lifts. In the meantime, I’m trying to work on a couple of other projects with some international television companies to develop a TV series. One could be a limited series, one might be an ongoing series, so that’s what I’ve been doing. But I’ve been kind of more in the light action space. But always looking for opportunities to get back in the animation space, particularly with these guys.
Daniel Dominguez: Yeah, I should say that, and I can’t get too specific, but there is another original that we all built that we’re trying to figure out getting out there as well that is very exciting and spooky. And I can say nothing more about it.
Well, that’s a perfect tease to end the conversation on, so thank you you guys again so much for your time today. Thank you even more for Seis Manos. I can’t wait for folks out there to either see it for the first time, or catch up with you guys during Saturday’s watch parties, and hopefully we hear a Season 2 renewal soon, so fingers crossed. Thank you guys so much again. Have a great day.
- 'Star Wars: The Bad Batch' Animated Series Coming to Disney+
- Collider Connected: 'Primal' Creator Genndy Tartakovsky Talks 'Popeye,' 'Star Wars' and the MCU
- 'Amphibia' Goes on an Adventurous Road Trip in Bigger, Better, Wetter Season 2 | Review
- Avast, Ye Swabs! Metroidvania Game 'Curse of the Sea Rats' Is Here for Your Booty [Updated]
- The Best Animated Movies on Netflix Right Now