The deleted backstory of Meryl Streep

In “Only Murders in the Building” In Season 3, Meryl Streep plays Loretta Durkin, a struggling actress who stars in Oliver Putnam’s (Martin Short) new musical Death Rattle Dazzle.

And as the season slowly pulled back layers from Loretta, production designer Patrick Howe and showrunner John Hoffman revealed to TheWrap that there was more information about her character that ended up being left on the cutting room floor.

“My original information about having to use it to design a small, modest studio apartment is that she lived there for 40 years, worked as a gift wrapper at Macy’s, had very modest means, always tried to get acting jobs and never got more than a little Off-Off-Broadway bit,” Howe told TheWrap. “And so we did all this footage of her gift wrapping and in the gift wrapping department at Macy’s, but then we decided not to tell that story and just focus on all the audition rejections.”

Acknowledging the giftwrap storyline, Hoffman noted that the writers room always tries to “seed something from a person’s story that feels real.” He explained that he himself had tried to be an actor in New York for several years and that one of his friends worked in the gift-wrapping department at Macy’s.

Only murders in the building Paul Rudd Hulu Patrick Harbron

“I ask myself, ‘Gift wrapping is something that can stand the test of time, but does it still do it?’ And they still do. So it felt like something you could traverse, and that might be a visual thing,” Hoffman told TheWrap in an interview, per WGA guidelines, facilitated by his personal publicist. “And that was part of that opening montage at some point and we shot it. And Patrick Howe designed a beautiful gift wrapping set and Macy’s and we had vintage wrapping paper in every decade that was very specific.”

The writers went one step further and tried to figure out if they could consider the gift wrapping as a possible clue to the season’s mystery. While the idea was ultimately scrapped, Hoffman teased that there are origami pieces in Loretta’s apartment that made it into the final cut in episode 5 – a nod to the gift wrapping story.

In addition to the origami, Howe and Hoffman revealed that there are Easter eggs all over Loretta’s apartment, in the form of artwork, books, photos, and even teacups and coffee mugs that pay homage to Streep’s career. They include:

  • An Irish painting from the area where Streep filmed Dancing at Lughnasa
  • A painting by Katie Woodward of the marquee above New York’s Delacorte Theater where The Prom was performed (Streep appeared in the film version)
  • A bespoke ottoman fabric made from a recycled burlap coffee bean bag from Kenya – a nod to her Out of Africa character Karen Blixen who was a coffee plantation heiress
  • A tribute to the bulletin board in Billy Kramer’s bedroom by the freezer door
  • A piece of art just above Loretta’s desk with the lyrics to Kate’s famous monologue from The Taming of the Shrew.
  • A Greek blue and white scarf from Mamma Mia
  • A teacup with a picture of Margaret Thatcher hangs over the stove
  • A Washington Post (Kay Graham) and a coffee table book of Into the Woods
  • The tulips on Loretta’s desk are from the 2009 film Julie & Julia, which starred Streep and Stanley Tucci
  • A framed hanging tea towel as a nod to the 2015 film Suffragette, in which Streep played British political activist Emmeline Pankhurst.

“She was so attached to what was in the apartment, what would be in the apartment and what wouldn’t be in the apartment. Working with her on every detail of Loretta and finding this character for herself and for the show was fantastic. But she was very specific about this apartment, as was Patrick Howe, Rich Murray and the entire team,” Hoffman said. “She only became so aware of it on the very last day of shooting in this apartment… it was a very, very cool experience to watch her go through it all. She also took some things home with her.”

Only Murders in the Building was co-created and written by Hoffman and Martin. The two executive producers are Martin Short, Selena Gomez, This Is Us creator Dan Fogelman and Jess Rosenthal. The series is produced by 20th Television, part of Disney Television Studios.

The cast for season three includes Ashley Park and Jessie Williams, in addition to Streep, Rudd, Gomez, Martin and Short.

New episodes stream on Hulu on Tuesdays.


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