“30 Coins” – How Álex de la Iglesia’s Love of Role Playing Games Shaped the HBO Series

The second season of the HBO Original Series “30 Coins” is underway, plunging some of its central characters into the bowels of one ultra-cool depiction of Hell that could only come from the mind of acclaimed horror filmmaker Álex de la Iglesia (The Day of the Beast, Witching & Bitching, The Last Circus).

The eight-episode season of the acclaimed horror series kicked off on Max on October 23, 2023, and new episodes arrive every Monday.

Directed and co-written by Álex de la Iglesia, along with co-writer Jorge GuerricaechevarríaMax’s “30 Coins” takes viewers into a world where nothing is as it seems, and nobody can be trusted. Now, two episodes in, the characters are scattered and scrambling to pick up the pieces from last season. Worse, some of them are desperate to escape Hell itself.

Bloody Disgusting spoke with de la Iglesia about Season 2, particularly its depiction of Hell, and discovered the secret behind its unique blend of thrills, chills, and laughs: the series’ creator infuses “30 Coins” with his love of role-playing games so much so that the entire series is structured as one. De la Iglesia reveals how role-playing shaped his planned three-season arc.

“I love role-playing games,” he teases of his overarching plans for the series. “We play in the TV show. It’s like a campaign with three modules. The first module is in the town, the second one is international, and the third one becomes crazy. And it’s part of the town, but I don’t want to make spoilers, but it’s like the same place but in another universe.”

Part of that plan is keeping audiences on their toes, perpetually unsure of what to expect next.

De la Iglesia explains, “The idea is it make something bigger than the other [season] and funnier than the other one. It’s not as scary as the first, but I think it’s more maybe some kind of fantastic thriller, like a Hammer movie. I try all the time to entertain and to have the audience keep alert, watching the episodes in the way, ‘Hey, what is going to happen?’ I love TV shows where you don’t know where you are and you can’t control the thing. It’s so funny to get lost.

“So, it was my purpose, and I think we got it. It’s not something out of control; I have to say that the whole thing is part of a game.”

Paul Giamatti

Photograph by Manolo Pavón/HBO

Humor is as important to the horror creator as the horror, which permeates every facet of “30 Coins.” Even casting. When asked about Paul Giamatti joining the cast this season as the intense and intimidating Christian Barbow, de la Iglesia revealed his casting began in jest.

When I was writing the script, I was thinking, ‘Hey, can you imagine Paul Giamatti making that?’ Like a joke; it was like a joke. We call the studio, and we say, ‘Hey, what if I call Paul Giamatti? What do you think?’ It’s impossible but try it. Thanks to our friends here in LA, we put it in contact, and he said, ‘Why not?’ We’re like kids, screaming and yelling in Spain, and he loved to play with us in the TV show. He loved to be in Spain, and I really think that he had a very good time. So, I hope he will be again the villain in the third season.

From the series premiere to even two episodes into Season 2, the creature designs frequently wow and terrify in equal measure. De la Iglesia explains how he uses himself as the baseline in terms of testing whether these creatures are scary. “I hate spiders. I hate these kind of monsters. For example, there is a monster who has a big belly. It’s like me. I always try to use myself as an experiment because all the things you see in the series that are supposed to be funny are because I think they are funny. And the things you’re afraid of, because I’m scared of that,” he tells us of the demons and creatures in the series.

Alex de la Iglesia

Alex de la Iglesia behind the scenes
Photograph by Manolo Pavón/HBO

Perhaps the most breathtaking aspect of the series thus far is its vision of Hell. From the aristocratic castle that presides over a lava-filled city to demon-guarded prisons in its depths, there’s nothing like it. The series’ creator shares how his vision of Hell was a mix of budget constraints and narrative purpose.

“Well, the real reasons are difficult to explain because the real reasons are part of the production,” he begins. “For example, in the beginning, I was thinking of enormous rivers with lava and lost civilizations in ruins. The characters were walking around these giant buildings, and we say, ‘But we have no budget for it. It’s impossible to do.’ We went to a gigantic cave in the middle of Spain, and it was so expensive to shoot there that we tried to imagine how we could keep the idea and shoot it in another place. Then, we say, ‘Hey, why don’t we be in the middle of a castle? Or in the middle of a palace?’ Then, “Okay, Lucifer has a palace. Lucifer has a mansion in the middle of this river of lava.’ Okay, so in terms of production, he watched the Hell just one time on the balcony. That’s so beautiful because, for the audience, you don’t feel it. You don’t think we’re taking ideas out. Suddenly, it’s part of the action.

The levels were part of the Dante’s Inferno. The idea is you are in Hell; first of all, you go to the places where live the big demons, and you go down and down, and then, you go to the places where the tormented souls are living. Well, in Dante’s Inferno, if you die, you can be in a more or less comfortable place in Hell. But if you were bad, you’re not so good as you must go to the Hell in the Hell. A prison inside the Hell.”

Don’t miss this wild, unpredictable, hellish ride; new episodes of “30 Coins” arrive every Monday on Max.

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