The Heart, She Holler is a TV dream for fans of bizarre comedies. The six-episode miniseries, set to debut on Adult Swim this Sunday night, was created by Vernon Chatman, John Lee and Alyson Levy. Chatman and Lee are best known as co-creators of the scathing children's television parody Wonder Showzen, as well as the bizarre, CG animated series Xavier: Renegade Angel. Levy worked with the duo on both series as well as Delocated, Jon Glaser's mockumentary about a man in the Witness Protection Program who gets his own reality show.
Then there are the stars — Patton Oswalt, Kristen Schaal and Heather Lawless — who play siblings struggling for power in Heartshe Holler, a small town in what Oswalt calls a “mythical mutated South.” The Heart, She Holler is like a Southern gothic version of Soap, but far more disturbing than one might suspect.
“There are a lot of David Lynchian elements to it,” says Schaal, who plays Hurshe Heartshe. Certainly, the odd, borderline frightening characters and surreal plot twists recall Twin Peaks.
Schaal has had her share of quirky characters to play. One of her best known roles is playing obsessive fan Mel on Flight of the Conchords. But Hurshe goes beyond quirky. She's a horrible, manipulative person driven by greed and not above sinking to unseemly lows to get what she wants. She is the opposite of her sister Hambrosia (Heather Lawless), a fragile, conservative-looking woman who is not only a dead-ringer for Sissy Spacek's Carrie, but also possesses some of the same powers. With Hambrosia, the audience might feel a trickle of sympathy. She at least appears to feel some remorse about the terrible things she does. That's not the case with Hurshe.
“The thing I loved about playing Hurshe is that she's not like any character I've played before,” says Schaal. “She does the most despicable outrageous things.”
Schaal has an easy time describing Hurshe — “totally evil” and “constantly angry,” she says. Hurshe is the character with the greatest desire to run the town, Schaal adds. “She wants it so bad.”
Oswalt, on the other hand, can't describe his character, Hurlan Heartshe, as easily.
“I actually can't talk about my character's nature because he doesn't have one,” says Oswalt, who appeared on the cover of LA Weekly's Best of L.A. People issue this year. “He was born and locked up in a lightless cave and now he's been freed and made the mayor of this town.”
This is the essential premise of the show. After the death of Boss Hoss Heartshe, it's revealed that the mayor has a forty-year-old son that he locked away after the child's birth. This child, Hurlan, is the heir to the Heartshe legacy and pronounced the new mayor of the town.
Oswalt describes Hurlan as being in a “Kaspar Hauser situation,” referring to the real-life 1800s German kid who claimed to have grown up in a darkened cell. Hurlan lived in isolation and emerges into society knowing nothing, but now he must quickly learn the ways of Heartshe Holler.
The cast and crew spent much of July filming the six episodes at a studio in New York. They worked with an erratic schedule. Oswalt says that there were days when he was on set for about sixteen hours, as well as days where he was in and out of the studio simply working on a scene or two.
“I think that chaos really helped the performances,” he adds.
It's the over-the-top performances that take The Heart, She Holler to a new level of creepy comedy. Make sure you watch Hurshe's facial expressions throughout the show.
“I kind of curl my lip up and make the grossest face possible,” says Schaal. “See how long I can hold the grossest face.”