Shirley MacLaine Interview on Only Murders in the Building

when Only Murders in the Building, the hit Hulu comedy about a trio of podcasters investigating suspicious deaths in their Manhattan co-op, comes back for its second season on June 28, the mystery central to the drama involves finding out who it was that offed Bunny Folger, the grouchy board president of the fictional Arconia apartment house. (The three have been accused themselves, of course.) But, what lurks at the heart of that grayly crime might not be the season’s most exciting surprise. That honor belongs to Shirley MacLaine.

Playing Bunny’s mother, the imperious and impeccably dressed Leonora Folger, MacLaine appears in the season’s second episode like a silver-haired hand grenade to launch her own investigation into her daughter’s demise—and reveal some unseemly secrets about the building’s history—and takes no prisoners when dealing with the amateur sleuths, played by Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Selena Gomez. She’s a smartly dressed, tough-talking broad, and in MacLaine’s hands de ella, she arrives to deliver an intoxicating cocktail of elegance and attitude.

Shirley MacLaine stars as Leonora Folger—the mother of murdered board president Bunny—in the new season of Only Murders in the Buildingairing now on Hulu.

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“I’m an old friend of [series creator] John Hoffman and I guess if he was writing a grocery check he would think, OK, somehow let’s include Shirley,” MacLaine says from her home in New Mexico. “He’s very creative and he’s a good friend, so he wrote this part. And I love this character, I think she’s terrific.”

Was taking on a TV series in this so-called golden age of streaming something MacLaine—who’s won an Academy Award, an Emmy, and six Golden Globes and written 15 books, including three bestselling memoirs—felt passionate about? “I don’t know about that, but I just loved the character and wanted to work again with Marty and Steve, to be in Manhattan doing something creative, and I wanted to see how John would be as a director; he really did a good job. I just wanted to do it, period. Are you writing this down?

MacLaine is supposed to be in New York City, promoting her new film American Dreamers at the Tribeca Festival, but stayed home instead to avoid the crowded theaters and close-talking cocktail parties a movie premiere entails. “My doctor said no,” she explains, “they thought it was better not to.” Luckily no such medical advice kept her from Manhattan late last year when she was filming the series—not that she did much in the way of living it up.

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Shirley MacLaine and Peter Dinklage in American Dreamersa new film that recently premiered at the Tribeca Festival in New York City.


“Listen, babe, this was in the middle of Covid,” she explains. “I didn’t go anywhere. I have to say how incredible our crew was, how darling and sweet and protective and disciplined. When I was there filming, the crew was the whole city to me, or at least it was during the pandemic.”

Still, New York holds a special place for MacLaine. “I’ve spent so much of my life there, I’ve done so much learning,” she says of the city. “I went to Manhattan when I was 16 from Arlington, Virginia, where all the politicians make shit up. I loved how New York gave me discipline and organization and a sense of survival and creativity. It was the future.”

The Arconia, where only murderers plays out, isn’t too far from another fictional address on MacLaine’s resume—the imaginary Upper West Side address where The Apartmentthe 1960 Billy Wilder movie that earned her an Academy Award nomination, was set.

“Which apartment,” she asks when alerted to the coincidence. “Oh, the movie I did? OKAY. I’d have to check my script to see what that address was, I don’t know.”

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Shirley MacLaine and director Billy Wilder on the set of The Apartment in 1960.

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I think it was an imaginary address on West 66th Street, I tell her. “Is it really? Sixty-sixth street? That would be some little dig at the world working with Billy Wilder,” she explains. “Sixty-six is ​​a bad number.” Oops, it was actually 51 West 67th Street. “Well, that’s different. That’d be an improvement. Now you’ve got my mind going to The Apartment, and you don’t want me to do that. It seems to be everybody’s favorite movie that I’ve done, and I’d like to think I’ve done more than that.”

Of course she has. MacLaine has starred in films like Sweet Charity, Terms of Endearment, Steel Magnoliasand Postcards from the Edgeappeared in television series including downton abbey, and been on Broadway four times. But still, The Apartment was a great movie. “It’s very good, very good,” she admits. “We only had 30 pages of a script, maybe less when we started; we improvised some stuff. Now everybody’s dead, so I can tell the truth about the movie.” Por favor! “No, that’s another interview.”

Anyway, what she really wants to talk about is Leonora. “I just loved her. I love her spit from her and her spite from her and her spunk from her —and then you get to see what she’s really like underneath. ” She was a character, MacLaine says, who didn’t require much in the way of intense preparation. “I just let her do it, which seemed to be quite easy,” she explains. “Some of it wasn’t written, some of it was improv. Are you asking how I act? I can’t answer that question. I just loved how she was all over the place, improvising herself.”


Despite all that she’s done, MacLaine hasn’t lost her interest in storytelling. What comes next for her hasn’t yet been decided—though she’s keen not to let Leonora go just yet, saying, “she should get her own movie, frankly”—but she says she’s still enjoying the craft at which she’s spent eight decades working.

“Of course, it’s fun,” she says of making a series like only murderers. “I’ve known Steve and Marty both for years. We talk about the world and our past—we do a lot of that—but they’re also very intelligent, so we talk about real stuff. I think some of them didn’t believe I was still alive.”

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