How ‘Only Murders in the Building’ Celebrated Paul Rudd’s Career With Hard Rock Cafe-Level Easter Eggs

Production designer Patrick Howe talks creating a Broadway musical set from scratch, Mabel’s renovated apartment and Charles’ white room sequence

Patrick Harbron/Hulu

If you were paying close attention to the second and third episodes of “Only Murders in the Building” Season 3, you may have noticed a few Easter eggs paying homage to its high-profile murder victim Paul Rudd.

Production designer Patrick Howe spoke with TheWrap about the fun but challenging task of decorating Ben Glenroy’s (Rudd) lavish penthouse apartment at the Arconia, as well as his stalker’s apartment in Episode 2, with objects celebrating both Glenroy’s and Rudd’s storied career in Hollywood.

“99% of the credit goes to decorator Rich Murray… He really did come up with this long laundry list of Easter egg opportunities that were attributed to Paul’s career up to this point,” Howe said. “The directives we had from the script was that he was going to move into the penthouse apartment, it was going to be sublet from Amy Schumer which would be said in dialogue. So the design had to fit within the constraints of that apartment. And the other directive was ‘open on a Hard Rock Cafe’s worth of memorabilia devoted to Ben Glenroy,’ that was bold print in the script.”

He added that showrunner John Hoffman said Glenroy would star in a film franchised called “CoBro” — “not unlike a Marvel superhero figure” — which prompted Howe and Murray to add snake references such as the big gold Cobra statue. Movie posters for the fictional films Ant Family Adventure, Sex Panther and Hannigan’s Wedding Night can also be seen as nods to Rudd’s roles as the Marvel superhero Ant-Man, Brian Fantana from “Anchorman” and Mike Hannigan from “Friends.”

A view of Ben Glenroy’s apartment at the Arconia in “Only Murders in the Building” Season 3. (Patrick Harbron/Hulu)
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A giant cobra decorates Ben Glenroy’s penthouse at the Arconia in “Only Murders in the Building” Season 3. (Patrick Harbron/Hulu)

Other easter eggs include a Damian Hersh rhinestone bust of Rudd, a doll in Rudd’s likeness as an homage to his stint as a bar and bat mitzvah DJ in the 90s, and sequin pillows of his face.

“Paul Rudd loved a lot of things in his apartment and wanted some things for himself, and I suggested since everything is so specific to him that ‘Paul, assuming we can get away with giving you these things, why don’t you take all these things and have an auction at your charity? Because you are bound to have fans that will pay money for a portrait of you’,” Howe added. “I mean, it just doesn’t end.”

Charles (Steve Martin) and Mabel (Selena Gomez), look at a shelf of Ben Glenroy (Paul Rudd) memorabilia in Season 3, Episode 2. (Patrick Harbron/Hulu)

When “Only Murders in the Building” got renewed for a second season at Hulu in 2021, Patrick Howe applied to fill a vacancy left by the first season’s production designer, Curt Beech.

“He had a conflict and was still designing a movie in Atlanta, I believe, at the time that the show was going to start,” Howe told TheWrap. “When I was interviewing, Season 1 had just started airing…  I think four or maybe five episodes had dropped prior to my interview. So I was able to watch that many to get a feel for the show.”

The comedy series immediately “struck a chord” with Howe, turning him into an instant fan. 

“I’m a person of the theater. I lived on the Upper West Side. I’ve been a New Yorker for 45 years,” he added. “So all of these things I really identified with and I just identified with the humor and its extremely talented cast. So jumping into Season 2 was exciting. Of course, you feel like the new kid on the block, but I just got in tune with it.” 

A view of Ben Glenroy’s apartment at the Arconia in “Only Murders in the Building” Season 3. (Patrick Harbron/Hulu)

Howe has since earned an Emmy nomination for his work on Season 2 and returned to work on Season 3, which premiered on Aug. 8. When it came to working on the latest season, Howe was excited for the opportunity to design sets for a Broadway stage completely from scratch.

“I had to design things without the conventional tools a designer would be exposed to, which would be usually a score or a portion of a score and usually a book or a portion thereof,” he explained. “And those things just didn’t exist. They simply weren’t written, there wasn’t even a title.”

While much of the rehearsals for “Death Rattle Dazzle” have taken place thus far in Oliver’s (Martin Short) apartment, Howe hopes that audiences enjoy getting to see the fully staged version at the end of the season in a “big beautiful Broadway theater.”

In addition to designing a Broadway set, Howe designed the apartment Mabel (Selena Gomez) visits and her newly renovated apartment at the Arconia in Episode 4.

“There were a lot of conversations with John to hone in on the simplicity of what those spaces were. For Mabel’s apartment [that she views], it was clear that that should be presented as realistic a set as possible of a [New York apartment]. It’s literally like anybody through a broker going to look at an apartment for rent and it was just exactly what was described of extremely expensive for how minimal the apartment was,” he explained. “The whole point of that is Mabel realizing what a great thing she has back at the Arconia and that she’ll never be able to adjust to something compared to the luxury of the Arconia space. So there was nothing abstract about that and that should just be believed as real.”

When Mabel returns home to the Arconia, her mural from Season 2 is noticeably missing.

“I liked the storyline of it being a surprise to the audience that the apartment was for sale and she needed to move out. That’s why it was a design done for staging the apartment for sale as opposed to her personal taste.” Howe said. “The choices I made about that were still having it be recognizable as her apartment to the viewers, like not altering the floor plan too much of the architecture, and keeping some of the details like some of the classical moldings and things like that. And then also wanting to make a nod to the mural, a space that was sort of in memoriam almost of the mural because that was so important for two seasons. And so I left that wall blank and did not cover that with furniture or bookcases.”

Howe noted that Hoffman was initially trying to connect Mabel’s experience in the two apartments to Steve Martin’s experience in the abstract white room that is shown later in the episode.

“There’s a slight connection, but emotionally they’re very different experiences. “Steve Martin is panicking and goes to that actor white space, but Mabel is not having that experience,” he said. “I had shown John a lot of research on many different ways to approach a white room, some of which were not really much of a room at all but like different abstract versions of a white void. And he wanted it to be more literal, so we honed in on it being more like the architecture of the Arconia, with straight and square walls and normal conventional windows. So I just went ahead with the exact size and proportion of the Arconia’s windows and walls. So it was more like his space was just like one of the rooms in his own apartment… it was fun to do and the one thing you can rely on is that Steve Martin can make anything work.”

“Only Murders in the Building” is co-created and written by Hoffman and Martin. The pair executive produces alongside Short, 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 Rudd, Gomez, Martin and Short, “Only Murders in the Building,” Season 3 stars include Meryl Streep, Ashley Park and Jessie Williams.

New episodes stream Tuesdays on Hulu.