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Martin, joined by longtime pal Martin Short and new collaborator Selena Gomez, are now shooting the second season. But a few days prior to their reunion, they were joined by showrunner John Hoffman and THR‘s Mikey O’Connell for a conversation with THR Presents, powered by Vision Media, about making their Hulu breakout hit and the tricky balancing act of creating a comedic murder mystery.
“The tones of this show are vast, and I’ve always said that the tone is New York,” says Hoffman. “Walk 10 blocks in New York, and you’re gong to experience something that scares you, something that makes you laugh, something that intrigues you and a Broadway show promoting itself in the middle of the street.”
Martin, who originally conceived the idea for the series while at a party with the late manager Sandy Gallin more than a decade ago, also spoke at length about co-creator Hoffman and how the writers room evolved the idea … namely the introduction of the true-crime podcasting theme (which gifted the show with Sarah Koenig-spoofing Tina Fey cameos) and throwing 29-year-old Gomez into the mix. “It was originally written for three men, and the producers came up with Selena,” says Martin. “She was perfect, and it turned out completely different.”
As for the podcasting, the frequency of voiceover also helped define the show’s unique narrative framing — and even included one particularly avant-garde episode (No. 7, “The Boy From 6B”) in which none of the characters spoke at all. “Every episode is narrated by a different character, and sometimes it doesn’t dawn on you that that’s what’s happening,” says Hoffman. “Finally, when it got to Theo [deaf actor James Caverly, who plays Nathan Lane’s son], it was a logical conclusion that it had to be done silently.”
The foursome described a unique sense of collaboration on the series, something that probably can be at least partially credited to the fact that all three leads — Gomez, Martin and Short — were executive producers on the project. Even in a time when performers are taking a heavier hand in the building of shows, having all three involved so deeply is not the norm.
Then again, Gomez came to Only Murders with a substantial résumé, having acted as an executive producer on the teen drama 13 Reasons Why for Netflix and HBO Max’s Selena + Chef.
“My mom and I started to work on 13 Reasons Why when I was 16,” says Gomez. “And what I appreciate so much from the very beginning is that you can make it your baby. What I enjoy about producing is learning. I’m not afraid to ask stupid questions.”
Season one of Only Murders in the Building is streaming in full on Hulu, and season two (with new cast addition Cara Delevingne) is expected to drop in 2022.
This edition of THR Presents was presented by Hulu.
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