In “Only Murders in the Building” Season 3, Meryl Streep plays Loretta Durkin, a struggling actress who is cast in Oliver Putnam’s (Martin Short) new musical “Death Rattle Dazzle.”
And while the season has been slowly pulling back the layers of Loretta, production designer Patrick Howe and showrunner John Hoffman revealed to TheWrap that there was more information about her character that was ultimately left on the cutting room floor.
“My original information that I had to go on for designing a small modest studio apartment is that she lived there for 40 years, she was a gift wrapper at Macy’s, very modest means, always trying to get acting jobs and never landing anything more than a small, off, off, off Broadway part,” Howe told TheWrap. “And so we filmed all this footage of her wrapping gifts and at the Macy’s gift wrap department but then decided to just not tell that story and just focus on all of the audition rejections.”
Hoffman confirmed the gift wrapper storyline, noting that the writers room always tries to “seed in something from someone’s history that feels truthful.” He explained that he himself tried to be an actor in New York for multiple years and that one of his friends worked in the Macy’s gift-wrapping department.
“I’m like ‘gift wrapping, that’s something that can go through the ages, but do they still do it?’ And they still do. So it felt like something you could traverse and that could be a visual thing,” Hoffman told TheWrap in an interview in accordance with WGA guidelines facilitated through his personal publicist. “And that was part of that opening montage at one point and we shot it. And Patrick Howe designed a beautiful gift wrapping set and Macy’s and we had vintage wrapping paper through each decade that was very specific.”
The writers took it a step further by trying to see if they could connect gift wrapping as a possible clue for the season’s mystery. While the idea was ultimately scrapped, Hoffman teased that there are bits of origami in Loretta’s apartment that made the final cut in episode 5 – a nod to the gift wrapper story.
In addition to the origami, Howe and Hoffman revealed that there are Easter Eggs all over Loretta’s apartment in its art, books, photographs and even tea cups and coffee mugs that pay homage to Streep’s career. They include:
- An Irish painting from the area where Streep filmed “Dancing at Lughnasa”
- A painting by Katie Woodward of the marquee above New York City’s Delacorte theater where “The Prom” was performed (Streep appeared in the movie version)
- A custom ottoman fabric made from a recycled burlap coffee bean bag from Kenya – a nod to her “Out of Africa” character Karen Blixen, who was a coffee plantation heiress
- An homage to the bulletin board in Billy Kramer’s bedroom on the freezer door
- A piece of artwork directly over Loretta’s desk with text of Kate’s famous soliloquy from Taming of the Shrew
- A Greek blue and white scarf from “Mamma Mia”
- A tea cup hanging over the stove that has a picture of Margaret Thatcher
- A Washington Post (Kay Graham) and an illustrated book of “Into the Woods” (the witch) on the coffee table
- Tulips on Loretta’s desk were pulled from the 2009 film “Julie & Julia,” which starred Streep and Stanley Tucci
- A framed hanging tea towel referencing the 2015 film “Suffragette,” in which Streep played British political activist Emmeline Pankhurst.
“She was so tied into what was in the apartment, what would be in the apartment, what would not be in the apartment. It was fantastic to work with her down to every detail of Loretta and finding that character for herself and finding it for the show. But she was very specific about that apartment, as was Patrick Howe, as was Rich Murray, as was the whole team,” Hoffman said. “She wasn’t as aware of this until the very last day of shooting in that apartment … that was a very, very cool experience, watching her go through all of that. She took some of the things home too.”
“Only Murders in the Building” is co-created and written by Hoffman and Martin. The pair executive produces alongside Martin Short, Selena Gomez, “This Is Us” creator Dan Fogelman and Jess Rosenthal. The series is produced by 20th Television, a part of Disney Television Studios.
In addition to Streep, Rudd, Gomez, Martin and Short, Season 3’s cast includes Ashley Park and Jessie Williams.
New episodes stream Tuesdays on Hulu.