Frankie Quinones has a lot of background with characters. He had been doing stand-up for years, but after he saw videos online go viral of his character Creeper, he started adapting his characters into the act. Many of the physicality that you see him bring to these characters were born out of a childhood spent watching The Three Stooges, Buster Keaton, and Benny Hill. Of course, when you’d watch Creeper, you might not guess that. But it’s all there.
Quinones has a new character named Luis on the show This Fool. The series, which premiere on Hulu last month to rave reviews, follows two cousins who are polar opposites. Quinones’ character had just gotten out of prison and is trying to adapt to the outside world again. Not only has he been getting critical attention for the role, but he’s also heard from people on Twitter who can see themselves in the role he plays. That’s something that truly touched Quinones.
We recently spoke to Frankie Quinones about his new series, some of his favorite aspects of playing the character, bringing his own upbringing to the part, his part on What We Do in the Shadows?, and his comedy influences.
Tell me about playing a character that seemingly lacks a filter and basically says what he wants to say. There’s got to be some fun areas to play around with in that.
Oh yeah, for sure. The producers and obviously Chris had been longtime friends. So when they were writing it, they knew… The part wasn’t handed to me. I had to work for it and get it. But once I got it, it was fun because we were obviously homies and the writing was so on point. And then Pat [Bishop], who directed most of the episodes, and Matt who is one of the three directors, they’d always give me my takes to let me let loose and do my thing. So they were able to in editing stitch it together. Sometimes I’m doing the lines, sometimes I’m improvising. But it’s also the playground. Just letting loose, and then if I went too far, they’d pull me back. (Laughs).
It was a lot of fun. That character is a big part of me with home and me. It was all very organic and natural. So it was fun to just let loose. Also it was tapping into family.
When you read the script, did you see those elements right away where you could draw parallels at all to your own upbringing out in California?
Definitely right away it was like “Oh, this is it.• But then it was definitely a lot of pressure because it’s like you’ve got to nail this, homie. This is it right here.
At first they were imagining a bigger, tougher looking dude. Then there was one or two people who were like “No, I think Frankie might be good.” Then Jonathan Groff was like “You know what? He brings kind of like a Joe Pesci vibe. He makes it more interesting.” Then I was like “Yeah, whatever you guys need.” But in my head, I was like “Come on, baby!” And then I got it.
But it took me a while because I didn’t want to lean too heavy one way or the other. Because I do a character, Creeper, who is a just a Los Feliz Cholo. Everyone’s like “Oh, he’ll just do Creeper without the mustache.” But I was like “Nah, man. This guy’s got more levels to him. He’s got to feel grounded and real on a whole other level.”
So it took me a while, pulling from my father, my cousin, myself. Just kind of finding who Luis was. Thankfully, Chris has been one of my best friends. We’ve been touring together as stand-ups. So we had a lot of opportunities to sit down and read. We did a lot of read through a to get Luis dialed it. We definitely spent some time on it and worked hard on it. I’m happy that it turned out good and people are liking it.
So you saw some of your own childhood in LA in the characters?
Oh yeah. My dad is like an old school cholo. He’s a great, great dad. He’s the one Creeper is based on. He’s one of the most positive people I know. But always driving a lo rider but always driving me to little league practice. And all my cousins were like cholos, that whole vibe. And my godfather, my dad’s best friend, was president of lo rider car clubs. So I was always around that culture, but positive sides of the culture.
I had cousins that were in and out of jail. Thankfully most of them made it out and are all about their family now. But I saw that and everything in the show that Luis went through, it’s like “That’s so and so,” or “That’s my cousin.” It really hits home. So I was super pumped to do this role.
The show does manage to also show the ups and downs of family, show the conflict and the resolution, but not in an over the top or cheesy way. It really balances both.
Yeah. That was important to us, that it has to feel authentic, down to the wardrobe. Because Chris’s sister did the wardrobe. Every little detail I think makes a big difference. The fact that it feels very grounded and authentic while being laugh out loud funny was something I think Chris and the rest of the squad really strived for.
They’d always ask us for notes, because the producers aren’t all Mexican obviously. (Laughs). They’d be like “Hey, is this authentic? Is this legit?” We’re like “Yeah, that works!”. It’s cool that they made the effort to do that.
I feel like your character really starts to find his own in the therapy episode.
Yeah, that episode is definitely one of my favorites. The parts where I’m laughing, I’m genuinely laughing while we were filming. There was just a lot of good energy while we were filming that episode. And obviously, putting the dinosaur costume on, even though I was sweating my ass off in there, still was a lot of fun.
As they were writing it, did you know they were writing this for you?
Yeah. They just had the pilot written. It was just the outline. They hadn’t figured out who was going to play Luis. I had to read – I want to say four or five different times for it. One of the times I got out of the reading and I was like “Yes! That was it!” I got all emotional. And I still had to read another time. Then the guys called me and they were like “Hey homie. They want you to read another time.” And I’m like “What? Really?? Alright.”. “But it’s on Zoom.” “Alright.” So I pour myself a cup of coffee, and all the guys are on the screen and they’re like “Nah, we’re just kidding man. You got it!”.
So they already knew that I was going to play the part while they were writing the rest of the episodes. I was always chiming in. They asked me for ideas, too. I sent them a bunch. One was [someone I knew] came out of prison one time with a book, The Devil Made Me Do It. And then I threw them that, and they turned it into a whole episode. So I was always back and forth with them, getting excited and already imaging the scenes. So I got a little bit of a head start, which I was grateful for.
Tell me about finding the chemistry with Chris as the characters. Was that organic?
Yeah, that was definitely organic. I’m all like positive vibes like “What’s up, homie?” Keeping it real. All that stuff. Chris can be very much like how he is on the show. He was opening for me for like 3 and a half years, maybe more. And that whole time, he was working on this show.
Our relationship off the set is very similar. I’m always talking smack to him, like “Hey. Chill out!”. It was kind of fun for the rest of the cast to see, like “Oh, these guys are really homies.” And it really translated on camera, too.
Since the show debuted, have you heard from anyone who may be in Luis’ situation on Twitter or anything like that?
Oh yeah, man. A bunch of people are like tagging their relatives. “You’re Luis!”. There’s even one dude, we almost looks similar to each other. His real name IS Luis. What a trip, man. But it’s funny to see all the people being like “That’s so and so.” It’s super relatable. Everybody who grew up like we did knows a Luis.
I’m always fascinated with comedians that can bring characters to stand-up, as opposed to traditional jokes or storytelling. When did you realize that you could bring your characters to the stage in your sets?
Oh man. It’s been a long time. It was like 2008. That was the first time I started doing characters onstage. In my stand-up, I’m a storyteller. And then some of my favorite comedians did character work. Like Robin Williams is a hero of mine. Martin Lawrence, Eddie Murphy. All these great character comedians.
But I would say once some of the videos went viral, people were coming to see those characters. Most of them didn’t even know I did stand-up. I had to develop an act and dress up as these characters and do it. It turned out to be a lot of fun and something I enjoy. But yeah. I would say when Creeper went viral, everybody wanted to see it and I had to develop an act for him. And it’s worked out. I love going up there as him. It’s fun to get physical, and I started studying.
I started studying like Buster Keaton, some of the old school comedians. Even Mr. Bean. Some of the silent stuff he has. When Creeper went viral, a lot of the stuff was when he was moving around. It was funny to people. Like a Three Stooges vibe. Even in countries where they didn’t really speak English. So I started to dig deep into it and study a little bit more of these old school physical comedians.
I love that Buster Keaton and the Three Stooges influenced Creeper, because I’m pretty certain most of the people watching the videos might not know that, or even not know sadly who Buster Keaton is. I love that you’re adding the vintage comedians.
I love those dudes. Benny Hill, too. I love that dude.
Oh wow. Do you must have grown up watching a lot of old school comedy. From what I’m gathering, if you’re dropping Benny Hill references.
It was funny. My mom and dad always had stand-up on. They were both born here, too. My grandfather’s from Mexico. And they always had stand-up on in the house. “Cover your ears for the bad parts!”. And they’d let me watch George Carlin, Eddie Murphy, Paul Rodriguez, Richard Pryor. In Living Color and Saturday Night Live. There was always comedy and music in our house.
So I just was fascinated by it from a young age. I’d watch Three Stooges with my dad all the time. We’d watch Benny Hill. We’d watch all these old school comedies. They were already old school at the time, but my dad was just into it. I think we’ve seen every Three Stooges episodes.
Me and my dad would watch the Stooges too. It’s such a dad thing. And I love that you’re able to find ways to incorporate the things you grew up watching into your act. And so are you still out there on the road touring?
Yeah, I’m just on the road. Definitely working on a lot of new material and still doing my character work onstage. We just started up last week, and we’re gonna hit Portland, Denver, Miami, and Las Vegas. We’re gonna hit Texas and the east coast later in the fall. I’m on that grind. I’ve got a few other projects. I’ve got a podcast, The Frankie Quinones Show, that’s produced by Will Ferrell.
Recently you popped up on What We Do in the Shadows?. I’ve gotta ask what that was like?
It’s crazy because I’m grateful for any work that I get. I’m still trying to work my way up. But I actually watch that show. So when I got that call, I didn’t realize that they knew who I was or were hip to my work or whatever. They’re just like “Hey, can you audition real quick? You can just do it on your cell phone.” And I was like “Sure. Okay.” So I just read a couple lines. Then 2 hours later, my agent was like “You got it.” And I was like “What??? Alright.”
Then I get there and it’s like Paul Sims and Kyle Newacheck. They came up to me and they were like “Dude, we’re always quoting you around here. We love your stuff.” And I was like “What??”. I was so humbled. They leave a lot of room for improv on that show. I came in knowing my lines and doing it to a T. And they were like “Thank you for knowing your lines, but do your thing, man!”. Then we were just having fun. Me and Harvey and the rest of the cast.
And that set is crazy. Like Disneyland or Haunted Mansion haunted on crack. I was like a kid on a playground. Like “Oh my gosh. I can’t believe this. It’s so cool.” It’s a well oiled machine, too, on that set. You can see why it’s so successful. They got it down.