Selena Gomez watches true crime for the same reason many women do: To be prepared.
“In every situation, I automatically think of what I would do to get out of it,” she told Refinery29 over Zoom. “I'm obsessed with escape rooms.”
Only Murders in the Building takes its name from a fictional true crime podcast, launched by former actor Charles (Martin), washed up Broadway producer Oliver (Short), and their neighbor, the mysterious and elusive Mabel (Gomez) after Tim Kono, a resident of their fabled Upper West Side building, is murdered. It’s a comedy, but one that hits a dark nerve in the cultural zeitgeist: Our obsession with murder content has long reached fever pitch, and celebrities are far from immune. In March, Joe Jonas made a memorable appearance in “Murder Show,” an SNL sketch poking fun at women for whom dead bodies are synonymous with a relaxing night in. Gomez, meanwhile, is a fan of the hit podcast My Favorite Murder, hosted by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark. This past spring, she also joined the world in watching Kate Winslet and her weather-beaten parka investigate Erin McMenamin’s death on HBO’s Mare of Easttown. Podcasts, TV shows, movies, plays — killers, and to a lesser extent, their victims, continue to fascinate, disgust, and titillate.
“There’s this itch I always have to scratch — true crime, mystery, figuring something out.” Gomez said. “The psychology and the science behind solving these cases [is what] I find so interesting. I could never do what these people do. And yet I'm so grateful they exist, and they are in the world.”
In Only Murders in the Building though, amateurs rule. Mabel, Oliver, and Charles bumble their way through an ersatz investigation, only to quickly realize that they might be getting in over their heads. And if you’re thinking: Really? Steve Martin, Martin Short and... Selena Gomez? Believe it! The casting is the secret sauce that makes the entire thing come together, and the show has recently been renewed for a season 2. As she’s proven in the past, Gomez is a charismatic and wry performer, one who can and does hold her own opposite the comedic behemoths. If she was ever intimidated, it doesn’t show.
“They really are legends,” Gomez said of her co-stars. “In the very first few episodes, I would watch how they would work... they would kind of give each other their lines and say, ‘Hey, I think this would sound more like you and you should take this line instead of me.’ They made it so comfortable for me to do the same, being in control of what [Mabel] wears and how she says certain things. [Sometimes] the writers would write a line and I would say I don't think a 28-year-old would say that, and then we'd kind of redo it."
But Gomez doesn’t need Martin or Short to teach her to be assertive on set. A seasoned producer in her own right, she now holds 10 credits under her belt including Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why, Hulu’s Selena + Chef, romantic comedy The Broken Hearts Gallery, and the upcoming drama In The Shadow of The Mountain, which she’s also set to star in.
Her experience as a producer, she said, has led to more interesting opportunities on-screen. “I'm lucky that I have built up a resume [that is] somewhat respected, so the material that I get sent is exciting and I want to be a part of it,” she said. “Going back into TV and stepping into the world of humor was really intriguing to me,” she said.
Soon, the world will finally know who killed Tim Kono. And Gomez? Well, she’s ready to move on to the next
case project. “I'm going to go to the studio to work on my music,” she said. “I try to find the balance of my life. I'm so happy that I get to do what I do, [but] I know when I need to break it up.”