If you are not watching Comedy Central’s The Other Two, then I question your life choices.
One of the best new comedies of the year, the series, created by former Saturday Night Live head writers Chris Kelly and Sarah Schneider, tells the story of the Dubek family — mom Pat (Molly Shannon) and kids Brooke (Heléne Yorke), Cary (Drew Tarver) and Chase (Case Walker) — as they navigate a whole new world when Chase becomes an overnight music star á la Justin Bieber.
The most recent episode found Pat revealing a massive secret about her husband’s death while the entire family was on a publicity flight for Chase’s album. To protect Chase, Pat had told him that his father died of cancer but, in actuality, he was an alcoholic who froze to death on a cold Ohio night. Much like the series, Shannon’s award-worthy performance is, by turns, hilarious and heartbreaking.
“This was the first episode we shot after we were picked up to series,” reveals Kelly, who directed Shannon in 2016’s Other People. “We had to shoot the whole season out of order, and it was VERY intense to start with this episode. But because I knew Molly and had worked with her before, we all knew it would be great, even though we didn’t get to ‘build up to it.’ In some ways, that episode — and Molly in particular — really set the tone for the rest of the shoot. Because she was just so damn good. It made us all so excited to shoot the rest of the season. I remember Drew saying, ‘Tell me if I forget to act in any of scenes and I look like I’m just a fan of Molly Shannon.’ He was just so impressed by how good she was — she was just so funny but also so grounded and dramatic and sad.”
EW talked to Shannon about playing Pat, this pivotal episode, and working with Helen the therapy pig.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What was it about Pat that you responded to?
MOLLY SHANNON: Well, I really related to that she’s a mother and she just loves her kids. She’s really having a chapter two because, as you know, her husband passed away and so this is kind of the second part of her life. She really likes show business! She has a very positive attitude. I told Chris that I think we have similar values. He’s always like, “You do? What do you mean?” I was like, “Well, I think we have similar spiritual values and family values.” I love that she’s excited to be in New York City — it’s like Ohio comes to New York City. I’m from Ohio in real life. She has a positive attitude about showbusiness and the biz and celebs. She just loves marketing! [Laughs] She’s really into it. I relate to her — I mean she’s a little cheesier but I relate to her values system.
You have better hair.
I do. I have better hair. I wear that wig during our walk-away dinner breaks and I walk around and sometimes people recognize me and they’re like, “Oh my God! Did you get your haircut?” They think it’s my real hair! Isn’t that so funny? [Laughs]
When you started the show did you know that Pat’s husband froze to death?
No. I just found out when we read the episode at the table read. I have to say that’s a very serious, dramatic monologue. It’s gorgeously written. To me, it’s a comedy show but I’ve never seen that like that in a drama or a comedy. It’s like seeing the point of view of the wife. It was brilliant. I loved it. This sounds so actor-y but I was like this material is such a gift that I want to slay it like a dragon! I was like, “I’m going to cut this s— up!”
I memorized it when I was swimming. I was staying at a Hilton in like upstate New York or something. I was swimming in a pool memorizing that monologue and there was a prom going on and the kids in the prom could overlook the pool. They were looking down and I was the only person swimming. I was just swimming and memorizing and swimming and memorizing. It was a really long monologue. When I got out, I had the worst Charley horse and I had to drag myself while the people at the prom watched me! And they recognized me! [Laughs] It was not a high moment in the life of Molly Shannon.
Did you have to do that monologue multiple times?
We did it a lot. We shot it on that plane and there were little kids. Chris made me laugh because he was like, “It’s so weird casting kids because there are kids who are 13 but look 20 but then there are 20-year-olds who look 13!” He’d be like, “She’s good!” And they’d be like, “She’s 35!” It’s a weird world.
You worked with Chris on Other People which you told EW is one of your favorite roles ever. What makes you two such a good team?
First of all, we’re friends. Second, he just writes so well for everyone. We just click. He makes me laugh. All I can say is the first time we ever met was for Other People … I had not met Chris because we didn’t overlap at SNL. We went to Le Pain Quotidien and we talked for hours. We had coffee and talked about our families and this and that. It was just such an easy, instant connection. The kindest, nicest, and so humbled. The way he writes, for me, it just fits like a glove. It’s like a gift!
There are so many scenes with you, Heléne and Drew in that tiny bathroom. What’s it like working with them?
They’re so nice. They’re so excited to get a special job like this. I think I knew because I was older than them and I was like, “Oooh this is a special one.” I feel like the older person who’s so excited with them. They couldn’t be nicer and they’re such good actors. They’re amazing.
Did you get to work with the therapy pig?
I did! It was fantastic. The woman who brought the therapy pig and I exchange texts because she’s a farmer and she’s so knowledgeable about ticks! I love hearing about farming and stuff. She’s the best! She’s so interesting.
Are you concerned about ticks?
I have a tick phobia. I’m like get me away from ticks! I want to be nowhere near where there are ticks in a nymph state. Yuck. So she told me to roll your ankle with peppermint oil and it acts as a barrier. Put that in the article, Tim!
Everyone I know is obsessed with this show. Are you finding people are talking to you about it?
I am! It’s kind of ramping up slowly. I know it’s changing so rapidly how people consume content. I just wanted to make sure people could watch it because I’m like, “How are the kids watching TV these days?!” I was worried about that because I know how good it is. But the funny thing is I knew it when I was shooting it. I feel like I have good instincts about that! And to work with such great people it’s just fun. It’s 100% fun. That doesn’t always happen in show business. I did a movie where I felt like it just wasn’t funny and I got kind of depressed. I was like why is this depressing me? It was just because I care so much. I think it was that I felt like I had to pretend to dumb myself down and pretend like I don’t know what’s funny and it made me depressed. So this is the opposite of that.
The thing that’s so special about this show is the merging of emotion and comedy.
Yeah, that’s what’s so great is you can swing into that heart and drama. That’s what ties it together. It’s really about love but it’s a comedy. How they brilliantly figured that out is way above my head of understanding. That’s my favorite kind of thing is dramatic comedy. It’s my favorite thing to do, like Terms of Endearment!