Warning: This post contains spoilers from Episode 4 of “Only Murders in the Building”
Casting famous musician Sting as famous musician Sting didn’t just pay off the viewers of Hulu’s “Only Murders in the Building.” It also worked out quite well for the cast and crew, showrunner John Hoffman told TheWrap.
“There’s the moment when he gets up with his guitar and sings sort of an impromptu song about Tim Kono,” Hoffman said, noting the singer’s random jamming for Mabel (Selena Gomez), Oliver (Martin Short) and Charles (Steve Martin), who have just realized String is not actually their prime suspect in the dead Arconia resident’s mysterious death, after first bringing him a homemade turkey to interrogate him.
“And when we were doing takes of that, he would get up and each time he would — instead of playing the impromptu song, because we’d already gotten it — play one of his famous songs and it was different each time,” Hoffman said. “So literally, we had like a Sting concert happening, unplugged, on our set. We were just in love with him. He was just brilliant.”
For reference, these are the actual lyrics Sting sings in Episode 4, “The Sting,” when inspiration strikes as he finds out Tim Kono didn’t commit suicide because Sting had told his ex-investment manager to kill himself after he lost a good chunk of his money, but is believed by Mabel, Oliver and Charles to have been murdered: “I thought it was me, and I was so low/But my words didn’t put a bullet into Tim Kono/Oh no.”
So how’d the “Only Murders in the Building” team even get the frontman for The Police to play a pompous, tacky, dog-hating, suspected-murderer version of himself? The same way everything goes down these days: via Zoom.
“We’re shooting this and making the show, of course, in the middle of the pandemic. And so we had a Zoom talk with Sting,” Hoffman, who co-created the show with Steve martin, said. “It was very early in the morning for us here. He was in a French chateau, of course, and we were like, look at the amazing Baroque look around him of the bookshelf and everything. I’m like, this is the only place we should be Zooming with Sting.”
“He was fantastic and he was so game and so on it and so prepared,” he continued. “I remember the whole cast, Selena, Steve and Martin, we were all dazzled by him that day.”
Why Sting, you ask? We asked too.
For starters, “we wanted someone famous,” Hoffman says. But the idea was for a very specific kind of fame and sprung out of Hoffman’s first meeting with Martin about “Only Murders in the Building,” which occurred at Martin’s pre-war apartment building in New York City.
“I was nervous because I’m meeting Steve Martin. And I went to the elevator and I thought, ‘OK, just calm down. He’s a very nice man. We know that.’ And I was getting in the elevator and two older women got in the elevator with me and it was winter and it was cold and they were bundled up. And I thought, ‘OK, I love older women in New York.’ I just love them. I think they’re the most valiant people. Like, it’s hard to live in New York. So if you’re an older person, but if you’re an older woman in New York, I don’t know why, I just love the characters of them. I love all of it. So I thought, ‘OK, these are my people and I could be in this elevator with them and I’ll calm down.’ And then I looked to my left and it was one of my idols, Elaine May. And I thought, ‘Oh, God, it’s Elaine May. And she lives in that same building.'”
Hoffman says this encounter made him think of a regular experience many New Yorkers have that he wanted Mabel, Oliver, Charles and the other residents of The Arconia to have.
“You’re there and you’re like, ‘Oh my God, this person lives in the penthouse. This person lives in the largest apartment in the building and how exciting is that?’ And then you just see them doing daily things. And you have sort of an agreement with them that you are very nice to them or you just regard them with a nod and you keep their privacy,” Hoffman said. “There’s some undercurrent of, ‘Oh, there’s that famous person. But we all live with him, so we’re all going to play a game of respect.'”
Sting fit the bill perfectly for Hoffman and Martin in terms of filling that role at The Arconia, and then the challenge was just to bring in enough clues that would make the musical super star a legit suspect.
“They really need to buttress the belief that he might have been involved in this crime. So when they find certain bits of evidence about how he is connected, it becomes unavoidable to explore it.”
Of course, they were wrong, and we got that amazing Tim Kono song out of their accusations.
New episodes of “Only Murders in the Building” launch Tuesdays on Hulu.