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The Untold Truth Of Only Murders In The Building

The critical darling sendup to true crime podcasts "Only Murder in the Building" might just be one of Hulu's best shows. The comedy-mystery stars Selena Gomez alongside the legendary comedic duo of Martin Short and Steve Martin as they try to solve a murder that occurred in the historic Upper Manhattan building where their characters all live. The show revolves around the unusual trio of Charles-Haden Savage (Martin), a retired actor who once starred in a cop show of his own, struggling stage director Oliver Putnam (Short), and Mabel (Gomez) a mysterious young woman who knew the murder victim. You might come to see the hilarious hijinks of the three playing bumbling investigative podcasters, but you'll find yourself hooked by the deeper mysteries in the hearts of these characters. They don't truly know each other and each has a darker past than they make known.

The strange situations these characters find themselves in aren't the only unusual thing about "Only Murders in the Building," as some unique circumstances lead to the show's creation. These are the behind-the-scenes stories and production details that most fans don't know about "Only Murders in the Building."

Steve Martin and Martin Short's friendship started over three decades ago

In a sense, the only reason "Only Murders in the Building" happened is because of the lifelong friendship between Martin Short and Steve Martin. The two comedians met on the set of the 1986 comedy "Three Amigos," which also starred Chevy Chase. They have been show business buddies ever since and have appeared in movies together over the decades, such as "Father of the Bride" and its sequel. "Steve and I made each other laugh, and we're clowns," Short explained in an interview with The Guardian. "That created a determination to see each other, and then have dinners, and that evolved into taking family vacations together."

Known by many for these '90s comedies, the duo has made a huge comeback with the success of "Only Murders in the Building." Steve Martin is a co-creator of the show, alongside showrunner John Hoffman, and pitched the show to Hulu (via Deadline). This created a natural opportunity for him to cast his life-long friend in a role that would bring the two back together for the first time in years.

The Arconia is based on real building in Manhattan

While the grandiosity of the name "Arconia" fits the titular building, an apartment complex of that name doesn't exist in Manhattan — but that doesn't mean the building they shot for the exteriors of the Arconia is fabricated. In fact, it is a real building that resides on the Upper West Side of the city (via The New York Times). The name of the building is not Arconia, but the Belnord, and it is a famous building with a long history.

Originally built in 1909, The Belnord has been a luxury rental building for its entire 100-year lifespan. Covering a full city block at the intersection of West 86th Street and Broadway, the Belnord was described as the largest residential apartment building in the country at the time of its construction. The Belnord fell into disrepair in the 1970s, which led to tenants organizing. The result was a 16-year rent strike, the longest in the history of New York City. Throughout the years there have been various changes in ownership and interior renovations, but the Renaissance style of the building remains intact to this day.

Steve Martin had never seen Selena Gomez's signature role before casting her

The prevailing attitude of Steve Martin and the creators of "Only Murders in the Building" was that if they could get Selena Gomez to do the show, they should. As Martin told Vogue, "There was no question except 'Can we get her?'" Thank goodness they did, as the chemistry between the young singer and actress and the elder statesmen of comedy is dynamite. However, Steve Martin was going out on a limb when hiring Gomez, since it turns out he wasn't familiar with her best-known acting role before the casting.

According to the same Vogue profile, Martin hadn't seen Selena Gomez on the Disney Channel show that gave the actress her start, "Wizards of Waverly Place." Turns out sometimes going off a gut feeling is the right move, and by now Martin Short and Steven Martin know when to trust their instincts. We can all laugh knowing there's a chance the two comedians sat down to watch "Spring Breakers" before shooting "Only Murders in the Building."

Gomez didn't know who Martin Short was when she got cast

While Steve Martin might not have been familiar with any of Selena Gomez's work when he called her up to be on "Only Murders in the Building," at least he had heard of her. The same cannot be said of Gomez's reaction to working with Martin Short. In fact, she wasn't even familiar with his existence. According to an interview Short did with Deadline about the making of the first season, Gomez didn't know much about Short prior to filming. Short said, "she's such a great actress because she pretended to know who we were."

According to Short, when the comedian asked Gomez what the first thing she did after finding out she would be working with him, she replied, "I Googled you." The comment just goes to show that on-screen chemistry can overcome even the biggest generational gaps. Now, let's just hope she did her homework and watched "Father of the Bride" before coming to the first day of shooting. 

Gomez bonded with Martin and Short while filming the first season

One of the worst kept secrets of "Only Murders in the Building" is just how much fun the stars have while filming it. The premise alone is fun enough to encourage on-set silliness, but there wasn't a guarantee Selena Gomez's millennial sensibilities would blend with the dynamic Martin and Short have been building up for years. As it turns out, Selena Gomez was the perfect fit for "Only Murders in the Building." The three of them had a blast, got way closer than expected, and happened to make a pretty good show in the process.

In an interview with The New York Times, the trio shared stories about their time on set, during which Gomez called Martin and Short her "crazy uncles." She went on to say, "They were wonderful with giving advice, even just about my personal life... I'd ask them about boys and dating. They'd be like, 'Well, make sure he's kind.' They were just so sweet."

Shooting scenes with Gomez in NYC was difficult

While most of the show was shot on sets and interiors, it's obvious to anyone who has been to New York that parts of "Only Murders in the Building" are shot on location in Manhattan. However, these were difficult to shoot for reasons beyond filming the first season in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic (via Variety). The main problem, as it turns out, was Selena Gomez.

Gomez was a joy to work with according to Martin and Short, but her fame made it difficult to shoot her scenes in the city. Avoiding her dedicated fans, many of which are children, gave the crew difficulties trying to shoot scenes. This was especially tough for Selena. Anyone who follows Gomez knows she loves interacting with her fans. Aaron Dominguez, who plays Oscar in "Only Murders in the Building" told Town and Country, "there were people all over the place, paparazzi and fans everywhere. During all what felt like chaos at times — because we were trying to shoot a scene and there were people everywhere yelling her name — we were trying to stay within the scene."

Most of the show's first season was actually shot on a set

Ultimately, a combination of casting, production decisions, and global events led to difficulties shooting "Only Murders in the Building" on location. As it turns out, most of the show ended up being filmed on a set. While the show often oozes a tangible feeling of having been shot on the real streets of New York, thanks to its excellent exterior shots, you have to remember most of the show takes place inside the Arconia.

"The pandemic actually helped us enormously because we were able to define all of these spaces and keep them under our control," Production designer Curt Beech told IndieWire. These constraints allowed Beech to make the most of the sets and give each apartment a personality that reflected its inhabitants. The interiors of the Arconia had to all fit the nouveau riche vibe of the building, but each character's apartment has a thoughtful and detailed decoration.

The costumes say more about the characters than you might think

In addition to the production design, the costuming is also an unspoken star of "Only Murders in the Building." Each character wears outfits that reflect their personality and mood. From the striking burnt orange attire and iconic Beats headphones that Mabel wears while making her series debut to Oscar's (Aaron Dominguez) tie-dye hoodie, each character's wardrobe helps the audience understand a little bit more about them. Sometimes, these choices even reflect the inner desires of the characters, such as the way Charles dresses like the detective he once played on TV. We also see characters like Jan (Amy Ryan), who dress a certain way to try and hide their true intentions. 

When discussing the costuming of Oliver with Martin Short, costume designer Dana Covarrubias came up with an especially funny quirk for the character (via Vulture). He would only dress in clothes he felt Timothée Chalamet would also wear. "We would hold up a piece of clothing and say, 'Would Timothée wear this?'" Covarrubias said. 

Aaron Dominguez did his own stunts

One of the main complicating factors in Mabel's life is Oscar, played by Aaron Dominguez. Mabel's desire to reconnect with her old friend — who recently got out of jail — contradicts her goal of building a new life and escaping from her past. Initially a suspect in the Season 1 murder, Oscar is eventually cleared and he and Mabel wind up as just friends, despite hints at a romantic relationship throughout the show. 

In an interview with Town and Country, Dominguez dishes on shooting "Only Murders in the Building." One of the most interesting reveals that came from this discussion is that Dominguez does his own stunts. While there isn't a ton in terms of crazy stunts in "Only Murders in the Building," Oscar was involved with some of the more violent scenes in the show and was asked by the producers if he was comfortable doing his own stunts, to which he said yes. 

The cast got a private Sting concert while filming the musician's cameos

The biggest cameo in the first season of "Only Murders in the Building" is without a doubt the appearance of rockstar Sting. The musician who once fronted The Police shows up in episodes three and four. Upon realizing that Sting lives in the building with them Charles, Mabel, and Oliver soon begin to suspect that the English rocker might just be a prime murder suspect. The trio brings him a turkey in order to see inside his apartment in one of the show's most memorable gags.

During the filming of that episode, named "The Sting" — because what else would you call it — the cast of "Only Murders in the Building" got a private concert from the legend himself. There's a moment in the show where Sting improvs a song about the victim, Tim Kono. Since he had his guitar on him in between takes of that shot, Sting used some of the downtime to play songs from his long musical career (via The Wrap). Co-creator and showrunner John Hoffman said, "literally, we had like a Sting concert happening, unplugged, on our set. We were just in love with him. He was just brilliant."

Selena's friend Taylor Swift loves the show

It's no secret that Selena Gomez runs with a high-profile crew. With a friend group that includes "Only Murders in the Building" Season 2 recurring cast member Cara Delevingne, the actress counts some of the world's most influential celebrities among her friends. One of Gomez' best friends is Taylor Swift, as all of Swift and Gomez's devout followers are sure to already know. The two have been close since 2008 when the two of them met for the first time because they were each dating a Jonas Brother. Celebrities are just like us! 

Now, it just so happens that Taylor is a big fan of Selena's latest project. In an interview with USA Today promoting the second season of "Only Murders in the Building," Gomez revealed that Taylor Swift had told her friend that she loves the show. She didn't give much more info about this in the interview bits that were aired, but at least we know that the two are still besties.