At a party with three other actors over age 70, a producer told Steve Martin, 76, “You should write something for them.” Says Martin, “An idea came to me: older guys who want to solve crimes but don't want to go downtown, so make it Only Murders in the Building” — the title of his Hulu series (premiering Aug. 31). His characters hunt a killer in the Arconia, their ritzy Manhattan courtyard building (kind of like the San Remo, Martin's home for 35 years).
"I thought, Wait, I'm old — I could be in it,” says Martin. “And who do you think of next? Martin Short, the imp who aged!”
"Steve's always had an obsession with true crime,” notes Short, 71, who has been Martin's comedy crony longer than Bing Crosby razzed Bob Hope in their Road to ... movie franchise. “When we do shows on the road, I'll go back to my room and read important books like Chaucer, and Steve will watch a true-crime show he's already seen.”
"True crime is one of my favorite genres,” Martin agrees. His character, the washed-up star of a 1990s cop show called Brazzos, loves it, too — and he channels Martin's fond memories of Michael Parks in Then Came Bronson, Jack Lord in Hawaii Five-O, and Mike Connors in Mannix, though Only Murders in the Building is more like a comic takeoff on Rear Window, Clue and Manhattan Murder Mystery. It's Martin's first lead TV role and his first regular TV role since The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour in 1972.
He befriends Short's character, a neighbor in the Arconia. “I'm a theatrical director who's had great success, but not such great success recently, because of my fiasco production years ago called Splash: The Musical, where people were injured, kind of like in Spider-Man.” In the 2011 Broadway play Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, five actors were seriously hurt onstage, one almost fatally. “I thought of your character as a guy who had moderate success off-off Broadway, and then off-Broadway, and then you got your chance on Broadway and blew it,” says Martin.