Loot creators on Maya Rudolph's viral 'Hot Ones' sequence and kooky billionaire antics
It's a good time to write a comedy about billionaires.
Between headlines about Tesla CEO Elon Musk's many children and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos' solo rollercoaster ride at Disneyland, "Billionaires are writing episodes for us all the time by appearing in goofy news stories," Alan Yang, the co-creator of Apple TV+'s zany workplace comedy Loot, tells EW.
The grotesque wealth inequity in America, however, is no laughing matter; Loot is acutely aware of this. "It's a show set in that milieu, set in that world, but it's more about analyzing dynamics," co-creator Matt Hubbard adds. "I think the show takes a pretty clear stance on where it stands in that respect."
By Friday's season 1 finale, billionaire Molly Novak (Maya Rudolph) announces plans to give away all of her money after a ten-episode arc focused on her kooky journey to self discovery, supported by no-nonsense Sofia (Michaela Jaé Rodriguez), sardonic Nicholas (Joel Kim Booster), affable Howard (Ron Funches), and potential love interest Arthur (Nat Faxon), among others.
Below, Yang and Hubbard discuss that big decision, Rudolph's viral "Hot Ones" segment ("There's certainly a version twice as long," Hubbard says), season 2, and more.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You both reunite with your Forever star Maya Rudolph for the series. How did the idea for Loot come to be?
MATT HUBBARD: We had done the show Forever with Maya and just absolutely loved working with her. She can do anything, obviously: Comedy, drama. She's just incredibly talented and just a nice person and great to work with, so we wanted to come up with another idea for her to put her at the center of a show. So we were thinking about that together. While that was happening, I started to read things about billionaires in the news. There were some billionaires who were going through divorces. But I was also thinking about how much impact they have in our lives and how obsessed we seem to be with them, and how much power they wield now, especially a tech CEO. And those threads came together. We were like, 'Well, what if Maya plays someone who's been married to a guy like this and he cheats on her, and then she's left with nothing but $87 billion.' That led us down the foundation road and it all started to click. We saw why that character would be funny. We saw how it could become a workplace comedy. We saw how it could say some things we were worried about — about the world and excess and what's going on, and it just felt like fertile ground. We told Maya about it. She loved the idea. And we went from there.
ALAN YANG: It just seemed like the perfect marriage between the role and the actress… But even from the inception of the role, it's like, wow. This could be a big comedy and an emotional journey. There's potential for growth, and there's a real range to the character. At least, we saw that potential at the time. And nobody has more range. I mean, you look at the comedy work she does in episode three, where she goes on "Hot Ones" and has a total meltdown. It went viral, just like the scene in the show went viral. And so that made us laugh, too, because in the show, I think, it gets eight million views and it got more than that on Twitter. So I was like, 'Wow.' That's the first time in history a viral scene in a show went viral in real life. She can do that level of comedy but she can also play the subtler and more vulnerable notes. Some of her scenes with Adam Scott, or her scenes with Michaela Jaé Rodriguez, she's able to hit those as well. There's a big emotional scene in episode six between her and Adam that I think they both do an exceptional job at. When you have this role with elements of drama and elements of comedy, it felt like it was a no-brainer for Maya at that point.
How did the glorious "Hot Ones" segment come to be?
YANG: We wanted to do an episode about Molly hitting back. Her ex-husband does an interview and is condescending and takes a shot at her and she doesn't want to take it sitting down. We talked a lot about different venues for that. We talked about different talk shows she could go on, what the meltdown could be. We were talking to Maya about it and she had come up with a sketch for SNL, or helped work on a sketch, where she played Beyoncé on "Hot Ones." She felt like it was sufficiently different, but she just felt like that's a situation where we could make that work. I don't know, Hubbard, what else happened in the genesis of that? I think the idea of it being "Hot Ones" came up pretty early.
HUBBARD: Yeah. We watched a bunch of "Hot Ones." I wasn't crazy familiar with "Hot Ones." Once we saw it, I was like, Oh okay. I totally get this. We wrote a version of it. And then 100 percent, everyone knows that she just took over, right? We had the script, but [Rudolph] went down there and it's like watching like a master at work. I'm just like, 'I just feel grateful that I get to be in the room when this is happening.' So much of that scene was just her riffing and playing off of [host] Sean [Evans] and it was unbelievable. I get why people like it so much because it was one of the funniest things I had ever seen. I'm glad other people felt that way.
YANG: Very sort of like a combination of stuff that had been written down, but also just improvising and enjoying what was going on, [like] hugging the people who were working there. Some of the lines were written and some were improvised. And it seemed like fate because very coincidentally, while we were talking about this idea, I had dinner with Sean Evans, the host of "Hot Ones" very recently, right before this. He's a friend of a friend and we were talking about the idea and I'm like, 'I actually know that guy. I could just text him and see if he wants to do it.' I happened to have just met him. It was very funny. And so the show came out [and] he texted me like, "You wouldn't believe how many people have hit me up about this." It's so funny.
Were there any moments left on the cutting room floor?
YANG: There's a lot more swearing.
HUBBARD: There's certainly a version twice as long. There's also a version where she ends up lying on the floor. I mean, there's a lot of stuff with her on the floor that did not make the final cut. Again, we had to trim it down because it's a 30 minute episode, but, yeah, there was a lot more stuff. We were pretty judicious and conservative [with what] we put in there because there was a lot more stuff.
Let's dive into that finale. You get the sense that sweet Arthur will tell Molly how he feels about her, but she wakes up the next morning in bed with John. How did you land on this closing scene?
YANG: I mean, we love this idea. We always, throughout the course of the show, knew that one of the driving forces was that Molly would be influenced by her coworkers at Wells Foundation to open her eyes to what was going on in the world around her, and have that sort of intellectual and emotional growth. They'd change her in ways that are positive. And she gives this speech. So she has this victory in a professional sense, but you also want there to be some conflict and storytelling juice left for future seasons. One of our writers, Anna Salinas, had a really good idea: What if she takes some professional steps forward, but one huge personal step back?
So we had this whole thing with Arthur set up this season, And they're so adorable together. Maya and Nat are so good together. They're old friends. They have a great chemistry. So we wanted to build up that the whole time. We had Arthur break up with his girlfriend and get ready — get pumped up by his friends to go ask her out. And then we wanted that misdirect. She wakes up in bed with John. We thought that was a great cliffhanger because everyone's going to be appalled. She takes this very silly step backwards, which is believable because who among us hasn't made a dumb personal mistake like that?
What do you hope to explore with Molly and Arthur's relationship in season 2?
YANG: I can see it going either way. We have some ideas about him pursuing her or her pursuing him or vice versa. Also I think there's juice going on with her and John's relationship. I think there's something to dig into there. I've talked to Adam a little bit. I know he's back shooting Severance. That shows a wonderful show, but we'd love to get Adam back and sort of dig into the absurdities of what this means for the future for all three of those people. And the current billionaires are writing episodes for us all the time by appearing in goofy news stories, so that's exciting for us.
What would Molly giving away all of her money look like? What can you tease about that?
HUBBARD: You can't just give away that amount of money immediately, right? It takes a long time. And that's actually something we learned about foundation work. Even if you're MacKenzie Bezos, Melinda Gates, Laurene Jobs — any person who has a ton of money, you have to be very careful about what you're doing and how you do it, so the right people are getting your resources. I would think we still have a lot of juice with, 'How does that play out and how do you pick who is worthy of your money? And what are the ethical implications of that?' But also, Molly personally dealing with what she said she's going to do and how that will affect her personal life moving forward.
YANG: We're looking forward to delving further into the other characters' lives as well. I think there's a lot of territory to explore in Sofia's character, and of course, Arthur and Nicholas and Howard.
Lastly, what do you hope viewers take away from the series?
HUBBARD: I feel like what I'm going to say is going to sound like something that a 4-year-old would say, so I'm going to pre-apologize for this. But I think what's at the base of this show is ultimately a story of redemption. Because of their marriage and what happened to them, they've just been [in] a bubble that none of us are ever brought into. I think that affected them in negative ways. So the pilot is about this terrible thing happening to Molly, but what she doesn't understand is it actually presents an opportunity to be sucked out of her bubble. The story we're telling through this show is, Can someone change? Can someone find empathy again? Can someone become re-engaged with the world through meeting new people that are very different from you? And challenge you and hopefully affect you for the better? Alan and I, two optimistic people at our heart, are saying that hopefully Molly can. So that, I think, is the base [of what] we're trying to communicate with this show.
YANG: If people are looking for additional resources, I recommend books by Anand Giridharadas and Thomas Piketty. So look up those books. They both know a lot more about wealth and equality than we do. We read all those books as research. Don't take our half-hour comedy as economics.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. All ten episodes of Loot season 1 are streaming on Apple TV+.
Sign up for Entertainment Weekly's free daily newsletter to get breaking TV news, exclusive first looks, recaps, reviews, interviews with your favorite stars, and more.