This story about Selena Gomez and “Only Murders in the Building” first appeared in the Comedy Series issue of TheWrap’s awards magazine.
Selena Gomez doesn’t stop. The actress and musician flew home to Los Angeles from New York after wrapping production on the third season of Hulu’s “Only Murders in the Building” to see her family for a week before jetting off to Paris to start filming on “Emilia Perez,” a movie by French director Jacques Audiard. In a whirlwind hour and change with TheWrap she does a gorgeous photoshoot, an interview and an MTV Movie & TV Awards acceptance video for Best Music Documentary for her emotionally raw look into her life, “Selena Gomez: My Mind & Me.” Just days before, the 30-year-old was nominated for a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Culinary Series for “Selena + Chef,” her Max cooking show.
It’s a lot.
For those familiar with Gomez’s unflappable character Mabel Mora on “Only Murders,” it will come as no surprise that she appears equally cool under pressure in real life. This is, after all, a woman who began as a child star, morphed into a pop princess and has grown into an accomplished performer — Grammy, Emmy and Golden Globe-nominated — who holds her own against comic legends Martin Short and Steve Martin in the comedy series she executive produces, but also serves as a tireless advocate for mental health awareness.
And yet, speaking to Gomez for any amount of time reveals the singular joy that “Only Murders” brings to her life, from working with Martin and Short, whom she describes as “some of my best friends,” to the care and craft poured into building Mabel as a character.
Selena Gomez doesn’t stop and, honestly, we wouldn’t want her to.
Production recently wrapped on Season 3 of “Only Murders in the Building.” Can you talk a little about the experience of filming?
I think when you’re part of a series that means a lot to people, there’s this pressure of wanting to make sure you’re delivering the best and, if anything, you want to beat what you’ve done. Which to me seems impossible, but the team of people that we have — from the writers, directors, and obviously Steve and Marty — are constantly surprising me with storylines and the mystery of it all. I do think this is our best season yet and I’m beyond thrilled. I had such a great time and I couldn’t believe the people I was working with.
When trying to top yourselves, it’s probably a smart move to bring in Meryl Streep.
Working with her, for any actor I would assume, it takes your breath away to be around someone who is a part of history, who has paved the way for so many actresses and told so many powerful stories and is recognized for that. And she couldn’t have been more humble, more nice, more, just, adorable. I don’t know how to explain it. She was so sweet to everyone and on time and never looked at her script. It was really inspiring.
Speaking of history, your co-stars have their own significant entertainment histories. Was it intimidating to walk onto set when the show began and go toe-to-toe with Steve Martin and Martin Short?
I remember when I was leaving L.A. to go and shoot the first season, I was worried that I’d be a little lonely because I’d be on set and most of the time I would be with Steve and Marty, who I had only met briefly on Zoom. And they were the sweetest and I was aware of their work — obviously not as aware as I am now, but they were wonderful. And the moment I got on set they made me feel included. They asked questions about my character and they valued my opinion. Eventually they kind of just took me under their wing and picked on me and made me laugh and had words of wisdom when I needed them. All of the fear of me feeling like I would be alone went away, and now they’re my guys. I was just watching videos of them and I got emotional because I’m like, “Those are my guys.” Some of my best friends are 70-year-olds.
Do you think they were intimidated to work with you? After all, your accomplishments are incredible in their own right, and you bring in an audience they otherwise might not have.
I am nowhere near as cool as Steve Martin and Martin Short. I think, for me, I’m a newbie, I’m a baby. Still. I’m doing what I am doing as best as I can. But these are icons and I don’t feel like they were that intimidated. The only thing they ever said to me was, “We thought you were going to be annoying and high-maintenance.” So I guess that means I’m not those things if they like working with me.
Beyond acting in the series, you also serve as an executive producer. Has that responsibility allowed you more input on developing Mabel as a character?
Being an executive producer on this was a lovely surprise. Because from the beginning, they were open to the idea of me being a part of creating Mabel. When we had the first discussion of who she was, I had just gotten back from CrimeCon, which is basically a convention where we’re trying to help solve a real cold case. It’s a three-day weekend and I went with my mom. And we just ended up talking about all these different stories of mysteries and the idea of me being into (true crime) as a character. How would I dress? How would I say that? And now, being a part of it, I’m able to say, “I don’t feel like that sounds OK.” Even down to certain scenes. There was one where I thought it was just a little off. Like, we should do something different. Let’s try to make it funnier, let’s try to make it smarter. So I get to do things like that. I trust these people as much as I possibly can, because look at what they’ve created. You don’t want to mess up a perfect recipe, honestly.
In Season 2, there’s a delightful moment when Mabel and her dad watch “The X-Files.” Was that a reference you understood, or was it a little old for you?
My mom and I used to watch true crime shows all the time, so I was very aware of all of these types of shows. It wasn’t about the incident so much as it was about the forensics. I’m interested in how people are able to figure things out. And that just so happens to be my job on the show as well.
A lot of your early career was spent doing comedy. How was it to return to that?
Working with Steve and Marty, I was terrified at first, but relieved that comedy happened to be in my comfort zone. If anything, they’ve helped sharpen my skills. I hope to be as funny as they are one day. They are just really gifted at creating a situation out of nothing and making people laugh and I admire that deeply. I guess comedy comes quite naturally for me, but it’s also helping me become more confident in approaching other roles that might be very different.
Is there a lot of breaking on set? How often are you ruining takes with laughter?
If there’s a period on set that is complete silence for longer than 15 minutes, there’s a problem. Someone’s not happy. We’re constantly laughing on set. And I think that is coming from the top, meaning Steve and Marty really make sure that they are coming from a place of joy. They just want everyone to laugh. Like, they get so happy when there’s a camera guy behind the camera just moving their body because they can’t laugh out loud. It is the best feeling to make someone laugh. It truly is. It’s awesome. So they’re constantly doing jokes. I’m picking on them, they’re picking on me. Even in the morning, just walking into hair and makeup, sometimes I’ll just look at Steve and laugh. And then he’ll laugh because he knows I’m just laughing at him just being him. It’s ridiculous. Both of us.
Let’s go back to Season 2. There’s a scene in the finale that I have to ask you about filming, which is the slow-motion scene.
Oh, dear God.
In the scene, everyone in the room is moving in slow-motion to unnerve Cinda Canning (Tina Fey), who has an inexplicable distaste for it. Can you walk me through the filming of that scene?
The slow-motion part felt unbelievably unnatural to me, so I struggled with it. And the reason is because I don’t feel like Mabel would really be into that. So I tried to play it off as a character choice. And yes, the first three or four takes, I could not help but laugh. It took us so long to shoot that scene because it was just hysterical. I mean, every take they were doing the weirdest stuff, and I just would barely move because I didn’t want to look like them. It was really fun, though.
I do think that’s the right character impulse, though.
I think Mabel would think it was stupid.
Probably just standing there thinking about her life choices.
“How did I end up here? How did I end up in this moment?”
You have so much going on all the time and so many things you care about. How do you find balance within your own life?
I don’t think balance is consistent for me because of my lifestyle. The older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve understood that this is my job and this is what I want to do with my life, so I want to enjoy it. And I make time for the things that are important. This is the perfect example. I just wrapped my show and I’m spending one week with my family and then I’m going off to Paris and then I’ll return to them but I’ll be working on my album at the same time. I just have to do it all. Right now, that’s just how I function.
Maybe when I get older, I’ll be different, but who I am — my work ethic, my life — is this: the hustle. And I get bored. I just want to do so many cool things with so many awesome people.