Julio Torres shares first look at his dreamy HBO comedy “Fantasmas”

Get an exclusive sneak peek at the comedian's follow-up to "Los Espookys" and "Problemista," featuring Julia Fox, Ziwe, Steve Buscemi, and more.

Julio Torres is ready to welcome you to his fantasy world.

The 37-year-old writer and director launched his career writing standout sketches for Saturday Night Live (including fan favorites like “Papyrus” with Ryan Gosling), and he’s since established himself as one of the oddest and most delightful voices in comedy right now, co-creating the HBO cult hit Los Espookys and directing his first feature Problemista. Now, Entertainment Weekly can reveal the exclusive first look at his next project: the highly anticipated HBO comedy series Fantasmas, premiering in June.

The six-episode series stars Torres as a fictional version of himself, following him as he navigates a dreamlike New York and searches for a lost earring shaped like a tiny gold oyster. Throughout the search, he encounters a whole city’s worth of strange characters, and the result is a surreal, introspective deep dive into questions of purpose, meaning, and the nature of reality.

<p>Monica Lek/HBO</p> Julio Torres in 'Fantasmas'

Monica Lek/HBO

Julio Torres in 'Fantasmas'

Torres first pitched Fantasmas to HBO back in 2020, and he says he’s long wanted to make a slice-of-life series made up of different detours, similar to the kind of dreamy sketches he wrote for SNL.

“I really loved the idea of telling short stories and having a show of vignettes,” Torres tells EW. “I also felt like I’m not the kind of performer who was interested in doing me as various characters. I like to think of myself like a master of ceremonies.”

Like any good emcee, Torres welcomes a slew of starry guest actors to Fantasmas, including Julia Fox, Ziwe, Steve Buscemi, Alexa Demie, and Kim Petras, among other top-secret cameos. The recurring cast also features performing artist Martine as Torres’ “pseudo agent,” who finds him odd jobs like consulting on crayon colors, and Joe Rumrill as the voice of Torres’ robot companion Bibo. Producers include Emma Stone and her husband Dave McCary, who frequently collaborated with Torres at SNL.

<p>Monica Lek/HBO</p> Julio Torres, Martine, and Bibo (voiced by Joe Rumrill) in 'Fantasmas'

Monica Lek/HBO

Julio Torres, Martine, and Bibo (voiced by Joe Rumrill) in 'Fantasmas'

And in typical Torres fashion, Fantasmas is a kaleidoscope of gorgeous production design and oddball objects. Strange props and sets have long been a staple of Torres’ work — his 2019 HBO stand-up special was appropriately titled My Favorite Shapes — and Fantasmas is no exception.

“It was complete heaven,” Torres says of building his fantasy world. “One of the best things I heard was someone on set referred to it as a group art project, which I take as the highest compliment. Everyone put so much of themselves into it. I like creating sandboxes for people to come and build something together and dream big. But also at the same time, there’s a sort of joyful resilience that comes with being scrappy and making a lot with very little. Some of the budget conversations were like, ‘Okay, this set will not have walls or a floor, so we have to convey a room without walls or a floor.’ But they were all very exciting limitations.”

With a laugh, Torres also says he found inspiration in two unlikely places: One was the overhead camera shots of The Sims, and the other was the videogame franchise Age of Empires.

<p>Monica Lek/HBO</p> Julio Torres in 'Fantasmas'

Monica Lek/HBO

Julio Torres in 'Fantasmas'

“This is very dumb teenage boy of me, but basically you would control ancient civilizations and build villages,” he says. “What always struck me about it was that when you were moving one person, there was light that illuminated one person. It was like a spotlight, and then beyond them it was just darkness, implying that people can only see so far. It has a very lonely quality about it. That’s something that I was very interested in with this show: It takes place in New York City, but it’s a very lonely New York City. It's a New York City where people can only see as far as their experience. People are on top of each other, but they’re not really seeing each other. It just felt like the appropriate visual choice to tell stories about people looking for something.”

And although the show is not autobiographical, at least one major plot point is based in truth: Torres really did lose an oyster earring a few years ago.

“I bought a beautiful little oyster earring that I lost immediately in a club on New Year’s Eve, 2020,” he says sadly. “It was like, ‘3-2-1, Happy New Year, where’s my earring?’ I spent most of the night looking for it! I was so upset that I went back home and was like, ‘I’m going to sell a show about this. Because something good needs to come out of this.’”

Fantasmas will premiere in June on HBO and Max.

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