The Partnership: How Steve Martin, Martin Short & Selena Gomez Became A Triple Threat For Only Murders In The Building

Death certainly becomes Hulu thanks to Only Murders in the Building, a 10-episode comic mystery starring Steve Martin, Martin Short and Selena Gomez as three inhabitants of a New York City apartment complex who team up to investigate the death of a neighbor. Co-created by Martin and Jonathan Hoffman, the star-filled drama returns June 28 on the streamer, and now Gomez’s acerbic Mabel has become a murder suspect. Here, Gomez joins Martin (who plays Charles, an outmoded TV actor) and Short (his Oliver is a bankrupt Broadway producer) to riff about the dramedy’s successful first season, those intimate moments on screen, and what it’s like to work with each other. (Hint: it’s a constant knee slapper.)

DEADLINE: Your show is so important to Hulu, that you made an appearance at the Disney Upfront presentation in New York last month. How did that go?

STEVE MARTIN: It’s a very non-showbusiness environment with noise and air fans and people who are on couches rather than chairs. It’s not quite an audience. Because you can’t hear the audience respond, you just persevere. It felt funny to us.

SELENA GOMEZ: You just try a bunch of things until it doesn’t work. I used to do the upfronts all the time for my Disney show The Wizards of Waverly Place.

DEADLINE: The reception for the show has been so great. Who have been some of your more unexpected fans?

GOMEZ: Meryl Streep came up to me and complimented the show. It was very sweet. Otherwise, I just have older guys with suede elbow patches who come up and go, “You did well on that show.”

MARTIN: I got one the other day that really surprised me because I was in a mask, and I had on dark glasses. A guy said, “Hey, Steve Martin.” He said, “you look just like your character.” I had a hat from the show, and I looked exactly like myself from the show. Isn’t that exciting? Isn’t that an amazing story?

MARTIN SHORT: I can’t think of anyone right now, but I can make one up in a few minutes.

MARTIN: Actually, I think I said to you, “I’m surprised you are so good.”

SHORT: Yes. Steve is the one. That’s the answer.

DEADLINE: The second season was ordered only two weeks into the start of the first season. Steve, when you originally pitched the idea were you imagining a limited run? Or were you seeing a series that would go on for many years? 

MARTIN: Well, you know, I’m very new to the television business, so I hadn’t even really thought about that. I didn’t even pitch myself in it. I just had an idea that I thought would be for different, older actors. Get three older actors and now there’s Selena who…

GOMEZ: …Came to ruin it all.

MARTIN: I told Marty the idea and he said, “You know what? We are old, we could do it.” When I first thought of it, we weren’t that old. But now we are officially old.

SHORT: I’m perceived as timeless.

DEADLINE: Whose idea was it to hire Selena?

MARTIN: I think it came from [executive producer] Dan Fogelman because, you know, it was three old guys and it’s such a clear thought to throw a young woman into the mix. I mean, it’s so obvious. And I said, Marty doesn’t qualify as a young woman…

SHORT: …Anymore.

DEADLINE: Selena, what do you remember about the pitch, when you first got the call? 

GOMEZ: They pitched me the idea and it led into a whole conversation about my actual obsession with true crime. I had just come back from CrimeCon when I had the call and it just felt like it was something I really wanted to do. They were all so lovely. And working with Steve and Marty would be a dream.

DEADLINE: I have to think that for that whole first season, every reporter and viewer must have asked you what it was to work with these comedy legends. Now that everything is old hat, what did you really want to say about them? 

GOMEZ: Oh man. I wish I had something witty. I’m still learning from them. Actually, what I’ve learned from them is to be a little more snarky. I can tell that I have a little more bite. Marty will look at me and say, “I did that.”

MARTIN: What’s interesting is how Selena’s character developed. It takes time to develop a character into a thing. Marty was always in place, and I was in place, but Selena’s character really evolved into this very special flavoring in the show.

SHORT: She had the most room to evolve because she was such a mystery when we first met her.

DEADLINE: Selena did you know at the beginning of the season that you were going to be a suspect? 

GOMEZ: They kept the last few episodes pretty quiet until the end. I was surprised, but in the best way.

DEADLINE: Not a lot of millennials are named Mabel. Did you at any point ask, why am I named Mabel? 

GOMEZ: Oh, I feel like a Mabel.

SHORT: That’s such a good question. Where did that name come from? Did they offer you a bunch of names?

MARTIN: It is an unusual name. It implies an unusual parentage, an unusual upbringing. It’s not Charlene.

DEADLINE: Charlene?

MARTIN: Well, Charlene actually was the name of Queen Latifah’s character In Bringing Down the House [a 2003 film that co-starred Martin].

DEADLINE: So obviously this is a murder mystery, but I have to think we were not the only ones who really fell in love with those intimate moments. For instance, that moment where Steve and Amy Ryan [who played Jan] played the instruments in the courtyard. How did that scene come about?

MARTIN: It was in the script. The original impulse was for me to play the banjo. I said it’s too much like me, it’s not a character. So, I suggested a little concertina organ, which is involved in Irish music, which I have an affection for. Why are you laughing Selena?

GOMEZ: I just, you know, think you’re funny.

MARTIN: I adore Irish music and I thought, well, that’s kind of perfect. It’s easy to fake, too.

DEADLINE: Well, it was all very swoony. But that was the point. Right? 

MARTIN: There was a lot of effort in the first season to be poetic.

DEADLINE: Martin, I mean this in the best way possible. Your character Oliver was such a sad sack, and I couldn’t hear enough about his background and his debt. Did you have a favorite moment of his?

MARTIN: That comes from his whole life.

SHORT: I liked working with Ryan Broussard who plays my son. I thought he did it perfectly. I don’t know, I tend to let people tell me what they like. I don’t tell them.

MARTIN: Marty has slowly developed over the last 20 years a dramatic persona in different shows, that shows his ability to do drama. In this show, he’s to me blending it perfectly, which is what I already knew. How to go from comedy to drama kind of seamlessly.

SHORT: Thank you, Steven.

DEADLINE: Selena, do you have a favorite Martin moment? Did you kind of feel sorry for him at one point?

GOMEZ: I mean, I feel sorry for Marty all the time.

SHORT: That’s the girl I tutor!

GOMEZ: I just have so many fun stories, but I think what’s really moving is his storyline with his family. I just find it heartbreaking, but also really wonderful, because it’s effort that he’s putting into it and how much he loves his family. Other than that, Marty was so annoying on set.

MARTIN: Hear, hear!

DEADLINE: How is he annoying? 

MARTIN: The actors, when they’re not working, sit in director chairs in a special room because of Covid, so it’s very isolated. There’ll be three of us. Selena and I might be six feet apart. And by coincidence, Marty’s chair is maybe 12 feet away. While you’re just sitting there going over your lines, we’ll start to hear thump thump thump. And you realize he’s bouncing his chair, trying to become a member of the group. I’ll tell you another thing about Marty.

SHORT: Someone’s on a roll.

MARTIN: Well, it’s Emmy award season. Marty has awards, but he does not display them on a shelf. Like, mostly he has a scale. And on one side of the scale, he’s somehow gotten the actual weight of Billy Crystal’s awards. He puts his awards on the other side of the scale. It’s always a little lopsided. So, he’s looking for some awards to get that scale even. I shouldn’t even have told that story.

GOMEZ: Do you see what I get to live with?

SHORT: Somebody did The Comedy Store last night.

DEADLINE: Steve, you and the casting director were friendly with Sting so that’s how he joined the show. How was he to work with?

MARTIN: He’d sit on the set and do the cryptic crossword from the Financial Times, which is impossible. So he has got this whole other life going on.

DEADLINE: The supporting cast is magnificent here. Martin, which of the actors from Season 1 really definitely blew you away? 

SHORT: I would say Nathan Lane [as Teddy Dimas].

MARTIN: Yeah. Applause.

SHORT: Of course Amy Ryan. Jane Lynch [as Sazz Pataki]. Spectacular. I’m always amazed when I work in New York. Everyone you work with, even if they’re just a day player, they’re spectacular. It’s such a hub for great actors.

DEADLINE: Did you get a lot of requests from actors to join the fun in Season 2? 

SHORT: It was exciting to have worked with Shirley MacLaine.

MARTIN: Yeah, that’s true. And I get a lot of calls from Marty to be on the second season.

DEADLINE: Steve, now I just have a burning question about your apartment on the show, specifically, the piece of art in the kitchen that says ‘Nice, Hot Vegetables’. Is there a story behind that vegetable art? 

MARTIN: It was put there by the set decorators and that is a work by Ed Ruscha, a California artist. He’s a great artist and his work sells for millions and millions of dollars. They had to get his permission to show that reproduction. He’s a good guy.

DEADLINE: Marty, I’ll give you the last word.

MARTIN: Yes do it, Marty, have the final word.

SHORT: Oh, I just love the show and I love the people and I love what they pay me.

MARTIN: You’re the first person that I’ve ever heard say they love getting paid scale.

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