Why Are Steve Martin, Selena Gomez and Martin Short Working Together? It’s a Mystery.

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Eliciting comedy from Steve Martin and Martin Short is usually a simple proposition: You just put the two of them together. Even as they looked back on their years of friendship and collaboration in a video interview earlier this summer, they couldn’t help falling into a familiar rhythm of affectionately zinging and zetzing each other.

When Martin caught himself in a moment of self-reflection — “If I could talk about myself just for a second,” he said ostentatiously — his on-screen partner saw the opening he’d been given.

“I wouldn’t know it any other way,” Short quickly interjected.

A few moments later, Short offered an overview of his own work — “Throughout my career, I have satirized narcissism,” he said — and it was time for payback.

Martin replied, “Except for you, it’s not a satire.”

They can do this sort of repartee in their sleep. But what if you took these veteran entertainers outside of their comfort zone and put them in a TV series playing creaky, washed-up showmen? What if they were teamed with a third actor who is in no way a member of their demographic cohort, like, say, Selena Gomez? What if the series were not only an arch sendup of cutthroat New York life but also a murder mystery?

As Gomez explained in a separate phone interview, performing alongside Short and Martin was an understandably intimidating task. “They don’t know what to expect from a 29-year-old, and they don’t know much about me,” she said. “We were getting to know each other.”

When Fogelman and his producing partner, Jess Rosenthal, landed a lunch meeting with Martin a couple of years ago, they hoped for a memorable encounter with one of their comedy heroes but expected few tangible results.

“I don’t think Steve operates from a place of, what’s a vehicle I can create for myself?” Fogelman said. “He thinks, ‘What’s an idea that I find funny or interesting?’ Then it probably takes somebody nudging him to do it himself.”

But Martin said he had noticed himself feeling wistful for the familiarity of an on-camera production going back to the making of “It’s Complicated,” the Nancy Meyers romantic comedy from 2009 in which he co-starred with Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin.

When that film was completed, Martin said, “I didn’t really have nostalgia for going back to the movie, essentially. I did have nostalgia for working with people.” Getting to act and occasionally pitch story ideas and dialogue for something someone else was in charge of, he said, was “the perfect level of contribution without it being your entire life.”

Near the end of the lunch meeting with Fogelman and Rosenthal, Martin volunteered his idea for what would become “Only Murders in the Building.” After some cajoling, he indicated he might appear in it if Short did, too.

Though he and Martin are now inseparable peers, Short still had vivid memories of feeling inferior when they met on the 1986 Western satire “Three Amigos!”

Appearing alongside Martin and Chevy Chase in his first film role, “I was the cheap Amigo,” Short said. “Like, Carrot Top has passed, and now who do we go to?”

Despite an estimable résumé that included runs on “SCTV” and “Saturday Night Live,” Short said he had been awe-struck by Martin. “For the first couple of weeks, I had to do an impersonation of myself being relaxed,” he said. But over the course of the shoot, he said, “we laughed a lot and played a lot of Scrabble.”

Thirty-five years later, the Hulu series casts them as Charles (Martin), a vaguely famous actor from a long-ago TV cop drama, and Oliver (Short), a once-hot Broadway director still yearning for another shot at the limelight.

John Hoffman, who is the showrunner of “Only Murders in the Building” and shares credit with Martin for creating the series, said the crux of the show was not the age of its lead actors but the idea of “three lonely people who find a sense of connection.” Noting his previous work on the Netflix comedy “Grace and Frankie,” Hoffman said: “On that show, there was already a lot about growing older and issues around that. I very consciously said, I don’t want to do that again.”

Even so, as Hoffman and his colleagues mapped out the new show, they were wary of making its three main characters too similar. Recalling those conversations, Hoffman said: “Don’t we want an alien in their world? The thing that we’re not expecting, that doesn’t make sense?”

Their solution was to have Charles and Oliver forge an uneasy alliance with a third character, Mabel: a sarcastic young woman who isn’t totally forthcoming about how she is able to live in their building or why she is so interested in the central crime of the story. Fogelman said that Gomez was an archetype the producers used as they sketched out the character — and later learned to their surprise that she was actually interested in the role.

Martin cited an adage that he attributed to his friend and fellow actor Richard E. Grant, saying: “You put your heart and soul into something, your dreams, your high hopes. Then later you realize it’s just another title on the shelf.”

When Short heard this, he could hardly contain himself. “That’s an optimistic thought,” he said sarcastically. “You know what else happens eventually? You’re laughing, you love your children, you have a stroke and you die.”

Martin adopted a tone of exaggerated grandeur as he replied, “You’re welcome.”

Author: desi123

Desi123.com is an online news portal that aims to provide the latest trendy news for Asians living in Asia and around the World.

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