In this saturated true crime market, innovation can be a challenge. Then Steve Martin, Martin Short and Selena Gomez entered the Arconia.
The trio’s unique and surprising chemistry fueled Hulu’s murder comedy Only Murders in the Building. And it builds into Season 2.
The celebrity crime trio – former TV star Charles (Martin), ailing Broadway producer Oliver (Short) and ailing artist Mabel (Gomez) – long-time podcast trendsetters have become interesting people in a new murder case.
The comedy’s first season introduced viewers to the three neighbors, all fans of a true crime podcast, who teamed up to solve a murder that happened at their Upper West Side co-op — while starting their own podcast in the process. After solving the case, Charles, Oliver and Mabel now find themselves suspects in a new case: the murder of their Co-op CEO Bunny (Jayne Houdyshell), who Mabel found stabbed to death in her apartment with a knitting needle .
In an interview this week, Martin, Short and Gomez spoke about the new season, the series’ cross-generational appeal and sharing the screen with Shirley MacLaine. The following has been edited for clarity.
The first season was a fresh, hilarious, and insightful take on the true crime genre that set the bar high for the second season. I’m curious what intrigued you about Season 2 and the mystery of Bunny’s killer.
Short: Season 1 ended with our arrests, so obviously that was all set: are we going to spend the rest of our lives in prison? Do we get off? And obviously since we didn’t do it, who did? It’s very cleverly built.
Gomez: I just wanted to know what’s happening, so it was really great. We kind of picked up right where we left off.
Martin: I dedicate myself to solving one murder per season. I think it’s very satisfying for the audience. And then you tease another murder, if one happens, for the next season.
Selena, as a fan of the genre who’s been to things like CrimeCon, did you feel it gave you an extra insight into how to play an interesting person?
Gomez: Oh yeah. I love escape rooms and I was only in a few the other night and as soon as I walked out my friends would look at me and say, “You are totally Mabel in this escape room.” I’m just fascinated with clues and solving things and trying to figure out the who, the why and the what.
The whole premise of the show is basically three characters that were a little bit lonely but found that common ground, and I think that’s what makes the majority of the show — you know they all have that in common. And now they’re all facing murder charges, so that brings us closer.
Season 2 has some new faces including Miss Shirley MacLaine. How quickly did she settle into the groove?
Short: Oh, it was a complete journey. What I love about Shirley is that she’s filled with a life of show business stories that she’s ready to share with you right away. She has an immediate ease and intimacy, and she asked questions where she really wanted the answers. She is interested in everything to do with life. That’s what made her so remarkable.
Martin: I just had a lifelong fascination with her in The Apartment, where I thought she was so great at it, so vulnerable – an instantly great actress. So it was an honor to work with her and she was very kind to me. I don’t know if it was an honor for you to work with her me. But she pretended.
I have multiple text chains for this show that span generations. When did you get a feel for viewer demographics?
Martin: I have no idea what the demographics are. Nobody ever told me. I always fight to take our harsh language out and everyone else fights to put it in. So I never quite know where she belongs. It’s kind of a family show and kinda not.
Gomez: After doing the first season, the reaction I got was really warm and endearing and surprising. I don’t know, I’d say 15 and up.
Martin: However, I have heard in my time [of] a 14-year-old with the F-word. I read about it.
Martin, when Steve tries to tone down the language on the show, do you try to strengthen it?
Short: Effing yes. We are both aware of some things [our] character[s]. For example me [as Oliver] wouldn’t use any particular language in front of Mabel because that’s Oliver. But he wouldn’t hesitate to comment on Steve’s character, whatever his name is.
Short: Oh, you’re Charles. I have some scripts to read.
Is that how it is on set, Selena?
Gomez: The whole time. And I enjoy it very much. And then I enjoy our quiet time.
Martin: Oh, that’s good to know. We don’t give you much of it.
Only Murders in the Building brought you all back to episodic television after a while. After two seasons, how did you find it invigorating?
Gomez: The scripts are just so well written and that inspires and motivates me to live up to those words.
Short: Yes, so much work goes into them and then you would feel terribly guilty if you didn’t try to make their work equal to yours.
Martin: When I started I did some TV specials and things like that and you had high hopes for it but you always compared it to a monster show and you got wiped out and your show would be over. But now with streaming, people can try it whenever they want, so you don’t have that kind of competition. You can return to the show if you wish.
Selena has a very ironic style in her comedy. Are there any comics that remind you of her portrayal or style?
Martin: It’s unique. It’s like the third point of the triangle between me and Marty; There’s this focus that’s totally different from ours in terms of how the lines come out, the timing, the volume. Everything is different. So a great balance for us.
Short: I think what makes Selena Selena is that she’s an original. I don’t think there are many Selenas out there.
Short: Oh wait, I was just thinking about about four people who are like Selena.
Martin: Oh yeah. I have three of these here.
Selena, I would imagine going to work every day is like taking a master class in comedy. How has watching affected your creativity? Has taking part in this banter improved your comfort level with your comedic side?
Gomez: At first I was very nervous. And then I have to be a little bit more involved. You made me feel very comfortable. I would say by season two I felt like I had a really good groove with Mabel and in general I felt more comfortable asking her for advice on a scene or if that might sound bad. You are honest with me. It’s nice.
Short: Selena actually keeps a pencil and paper and writes things down. And one time I looked over and assumed they were things she’d learned and the headline was “Things Not To Do.”
Steve and Martin, you have worked together many times and tour together. How is it to work together in this setting and in that setting?
Short: It’s very much like me because what we’re doing is whatever the obstacle is, whether it’s a scene or an audience, you have an agenda of how best to do it at that moment.
Martin: On a live show we know the lines, we memorize the lines we have [a] We like delivery. On a film set, you discover it over time. So, you know, live we’re trying to fulfill a premise. On a movie set, you’re trying to discover a truth.
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There are so many quirky traits each of your characters have, like Oliver’s obsession with dips. What are your favorite quirks about your characters?
Gomez: I enjoy the dry, sarcastic moments I have. I think they’re really fun.
Short: I like his [Oliver’s] Eating disorder. And I like his infinite optimism about the future, even if he often bumps into a brick wall. He always hopes for the best, and that’s an appealing part of the character to me.
Martin: Personally, I like engaging with playing a past. Here’s a guy who was very famous, very famous – and it turned out well for him; He has a nice apartment, but he hasn’t really worked much. And struggling with that kind of loneliness is something I like for my character.
Have you ever feared this?
Martin: Certainly. You make a lot of movies and you think, “Well, oh dear, this is going to end one day.” You worry about it.
The first season has revealed its secret and at the same time offered a cliffhanger. How would you describe the conclusion viewers are heading to as they embark on the journey this season? give me a word
Martin: Unraveling – it unravels or it raveling. The story comes together in a tightly knit thread.
Gomez: Mine is probably two words: overwhelmingly exciting.
Short: I said exciting so you don’t have to put a word in front of the word I said.
Gomez: OK, we’re about to fight.
Short: That is trash. denied.
Tell me there’s a group text going on between you all.
Gomez: No, but it’s really funny when I email them because… it’s an email. They always sign their names. It’s really cute.
https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/tv/story/2022-06-29/only-murders-in-the-building-season-2-hulu-martin-short-gomez ‘Only Murders’ Season 2: Shirley MacLaine was ‘a complete trip’