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Charlie, a blonde demon with pale skin and yellow eyes, with one arm around Vaggie, a grey-skinned demon with red eyes. Charlie is smiling, while Vaggie looks vaguely uncomfortable. Image: Prime Video

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Hazbin Hotel’s main cast had no idea how big the show already was online

Then they fell down the YouTube rabbit hole

Petrana Radulovic is an entertainment reporter specializing in animation, fandom culture, theme parks, Disney, and young adult fantasy franchises.

Hazbin Hotel’s electric pilot episode was uploaded on YouTube in 2019, on creator Vivienne Medrano’s channel. By the time it had been picked up by A24 for a full series in 2020, it had over 41 million views. Even with only 31 minutes of content out, Hazbin Hotel built up an incredibly large and passionate internet following — one that took some of the actors in the Prime Video series off guard.

“I don’t think any of us had a real concept of how big — even when it got announced a few months ago, with a new cast and everything and going to Prime,” laughs Amir Talai (American Dad), who voices Alastor the Radio Demon. “I guess I had forgotten that [the pilot] had all those views on YouTube. Everything just blew up [and] I was like, What just happened? Oh, they announced that thing that I did like two years ago. Cool.

A group picture where Charlie is smiling in the middle, with Nifty at the bottom with a similarly wide smile. Meanwhile, Pinchers, Husker, and Angel Dust all look very pissed. Image: Prime Video

As it turns out, having a super popular pilot out there didn’t just give the show a built-in fan base and passionate reaction; it also gave the actors a frame of reference that most other animated projects don’t usually have.

“It’s more than you can say about any other animated job that you might get,” explains Kimiko Glenn (Orange Is the New Black, Baby Shark). In Hazbin Hotel, she voices devious maid Nifty. “They sometimes don’t even have a little drawing of the character that you’re just going off description, and you don’t really even understand the world that it lives in. This was really cool, because you could actually envision what was going to happen and what these characters were like, and how you might live within it.”

Like many other cast members, Glenn found out about the show’s pilot in the email she got about her audition. Most of the main cast only really learned about Hazbin Hotel’s legacy after the audition process — but it didn’t take them long to discover more about the show and fully fall in love with it.

“I wasn’t familiar with it. But then I auditioned for it,” agrees Blake Roman, the voice behind Angel Dust, the hotel’s reluctant first resident. “I got very curious, because just based off of the audition materials, it seemed very intriguing to me. I had nooooooooooo idea, no way of anticipating the rabbit hole that I was gonna fall down when I started researching, and it was every bit just as lovely to fall down that rabbit hole. There’s such a wealth of information, such a wealth of a personality and all the characters. I was hooked right from the beginning after the audition.”

The hotel lobby at the Hazbin Hotel. There are three figures, all with painted white faces. Charlie Morningstar holds her arms out while wearing a red suit, Husk drinks behind the concierge desk, and Angel Dust stands with his hands on his hips. A sign says “Beelzejuice.” Image: Prime Video

It’s no surprise that the elements of Hazbin Hotel that fans sparked to are exactly what the cast did: the dynamic characters, the surprisingly deep world-building and overarching plot, the edgy humor, and, of course, the sweeping musical numbers. Erika Henningsen, who plays Charlie, the Hotel’s plucky and eternally optimistic founder, says it was the show’s humor that particularly resonated with her.

“I just like anything that makes me laugh out loud, like truly laugh out loud,” Henningsen tells Polygon. “Things that shock me. The pilot obviously does. And then when we got the first episode script, I was like, This is gonna be so good.

For Henningsen, who is best known for originating the part of Cady Heron in the Broadway adaptation of Mean Girls, the music was, understandably, also a huge draw.

Angel Dust and Husker standing back to back Image: Prime Video

“Watching the pilot, and then getting to record that first episode, hearing the music for the first time — that just filled me with that joy,” she says. “Because I love singing, I love anything that has a musical element to it. But it is tricky to do sometimes, and to make it feel of the scene that it’s coming out of. And I think what Hazbin does — what our songwriters did so beautifully was the songs feel like an extension of Viv’s brain; it feels like an extension of the characters that she’s been thinking about for years.”

“The thing about musicals is the reality gets so heightened that you can’t do anything but sing about it,” says Keith David (Mass Effect), who plays wise-cracking, cynical hotel bartender Husker and was similarly enchanted by the show’s musicality. “I can’t just talk about it. I’ve got to sing about it.”

It was the musical element that really drove David’s initial reaction after receiving the script — one that many of his co-stars echoed: “It was like, When do we start? And how soon can we get into it?

“In my mind, we couldn’t record fast enough,” agrees Roman. “Because we would get the script a day or two days before, and I would just tear through that, and then tear through it again, and then be like, OK, cool. Let’s record this. So I can read what episode 2 is gonna be. I was hooked; I was a little addict.”

The first four episodes of Hazbin Hotel are out now on Prime Video. New episodes drop on Fridays.