Let’s think of this as “Three Amigos Go Manhattan.” Only with a murder mystery. And a new amigo.
“Three Amigos,” in 1986, was the first pairing of Steve Martin and Martin Short; the third star was Chevy Chase. Now comes “Only Murders in the Building,” a droll, 10-part series that starts Tuesday (Aug. 31) on Hulu; the third star (shown here) is Selena Gomez.
Yes, one of these is not like the others. Martin is 76, Short is 71 … Gomez is 29. “I had no idea who they were,” she joked, at a Television Critics Association virtual press conference.
And the flip side? “I do dance around the house to her music all the time,” Martin said, possibly joking. Now he knows about her acting, too.
“Only Murders” centers on guys who once prospered as a TV detective (Martin) and a theater director (Short). They still have the Manhattan apartments they bought during better times.
They’re also buffs of murder podcasts. When someone is killed in their building, they decide to try one, joined by a young neighbor.
That’s Gomez, who’s big with young viewers. “I thought, ‘Oh, she’s a beginner,’” Martin said. Then he looked her up online. “She’s done more movies than I have.”
Well, almost. By one count, there have been 55 movies for Martin, 41 for Short, 35 for Gomez. Still, she’s also done more than 50 music videos and more than 130 TV episodes.
She started, at 9, with Barney, who is no Steve Martin, but is bigger and purpler. Then she moved from Texas to California. “I signed my life away to Disney at a very young age, so I didn’t know exactly what I was doing” as an actor.
Now she does, Short said. “Selena grounds everything in this kind of dry, hilarious delivery.”
The story started with Martin’s interest in true-crime tales. “Steve’s a deep well when it comes to podcasts,” said producer Dan Fogelman.
With co-writer John Hoffman, Martin started with a serious, 10-part murder story. “This is one of the most unusual things I’ve ever done,” he said, “because it actually has a plot.” Then some quiet comedy was added around the edges.
The setting is an old Manhattan building, the sort where Martin has an apartment in real life. That can hold a collection of the eccentric and the famous.
“When John Hoffman was first going up to meet Steve, … Elaine May happened to be in the elevator,” Short said. In a building like that, you can bump into anyone, including an 89-year-old pioneering comedian-actress-writer-director. That was an inspiration to make Sting one of the suspects.
They filmed in New York, soon learning who is fan-famous. “For some reason,” Short said, “the paparazzi stayed with (Gomez) and we got away.”
Well, she makes for better photos. “The camera loves her,” Martin said. “And I would say the camera likes me, and it’s (merely) fine with Marty.”
That’s the sort of ribbing that seems to flow through Steve Martin Short. “Now I have like these two crazy uncles in my life,” Gomez said, “who basically give me boy advice and I sing rap songs to them.”
– “Only Murders in the Building,” Hulu
– First three episodes arrive Tuesday (Aug. 31)
– The other seven are weekly, through Oct. 19