THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT MOLLY

MOLLY SHANNON - ACTRESS

I’ve interviewed famous people for twenty years. I’ve seen people break into the biz at the bottom and over time, become rotten and victims of the fame game. I’ve also witnessed certain A-List celebrities remain consistent class acts for more than a decade (it can be done). But there are very few humans - celebrity or not - that you can compare to Molly Shannon. Of course I know her work like the rest of the world and am in awe of her ability to make us laugh and more recently bring us to tears - Divorce, Other People - but… there’s just something about Molly. I know her as an incredibly loving mother as our sons have become good friends. I bump into her in our local village shopping with her daughter - very present and always smiling. Each time I feel like I see her heart and let me tell you, it’s as big as her talent.  And when she arrived on her bike (only after asking if she could pick me up anything from Peet’s Coffee for our interview), well, now I have a full-blown crush. Here are my 30 minutes with the lovable Molly Shannon. (PS. A great deal of her charm is her physicality. My only regret is that you don’t get to see Molly as she speaks. She is animated, she's using her hands always, she jumped off my couch at least twice to drive her points home, and also whispered certain answers even though it was only the two of us. What. Fun.)

Catt:
You rode your bike over.

Molly:
I did!  For some reason riding my bike over made it just feel like not business or work, it feels fun!

C:
I love that, that’s the whole point so I’m grateful.  Thank you for taking the time, I know you are so busy. You are promoting a lot! I feel like this year you’ve just had your hands in so much.  Let’s first start with Hotel Transylvania 3 which opens on Friday, July 13th. Thinking about the breadth of your career and how you’ve done so much, you’ve done drama, you’ve done the funny things, and this is animated.  What’s freeing about this type of work?

M:
I find animated work really fun.  It’s pretty easy but it can be hard because it’s just your voice, it’s a little harder.  You can strain your voice. I don’t know if you’ve ever had that happen but I have to be careful because I can get hoarse so sometimes with animated stuff you have to be careful because you can be screaming.  A lot of times it’s action and adventure so you’re screaming, you’re waterskiing and stuff, so you have to be careful with your voice.  This is the third installment, monsters on vacation, with Kathryn Hahn, it’s very cute.  They’re out of the hotel and going on a cruise for some relaxation. I play the mother werewolf. It’s my return to this character and I’m so excited.

C:
I saw that your daughter Stella was with you on the carpet at the premiere. How was that?

M:
She came with me, yeah!  It was actually really nice. She brought her two friends.It makes it not feel like work because she was so excited. They really wanted to meet Selena Gomez and suddenly instead of feeling like an actress, I felt like a fan from Cleveland who wanted a picture. I was like, “Okay you guys come here.  There’s Selena!” I was a really aggressive fan trying to get a picture of my daughter and her friends with Selena Gomez.

C:
How are you about that? I am one of those people, when I know it’s an interview I’m like, this is what I love to do and the exchange is my favorite thing. Ya know, learning people’s stories.  If I see anybody out though - like any kind of celebrity - I never approach. Even if I am a fan, I just can’t do it. Do you just go up and say “I’m Molly, I love your work,” or what?

M:
It’s funny, I remember we saw Justin Beiber at the bounce place (Sky Zone).  The kids saw his car out front and the security guy was like, “Yeah, this is JB’s car!”  So then we saw him inside and my son Nolan said, “That’s Justin Bieber. Go say hi, don’t you know him?” So I was like, okay and I looked disgusting and I was like, “Hey, Justin!”

C:
Had you met him before?

M:
Yeah, I had met him before. I met him years ago when he was dating Selena Gomez. I met them at Hotel Transylvania and he couldn’t have been nicer.  So I will definitely do it for my kids. I met Cardi B at a fashion show and I told my daughter Stella and my phone started ringing like crazy! So yes, if the kids want it, I definitely do it.  

C:
That’s a nice in.

M:
But I know what you mean, it’s because we know what it’s like being recognized.

C:
I guess there’s a respect there.  You want to avoid getting into an awkward interaction. Before we get into your other projects, we’re both from the Midwest.  I know you’re from Cleveland, Ohio and I’m from Indiana. I always like talking to people from the heartland because I know in many ways my childhood has served me in a particular way in “Hollywood.”  Do you feel like that at all? How did your upbringing kind of prepare you for this or did it?

M:
I know what you mean, it’s like good values.  My dad raised us and we would split paper towels in half to save money.  I didn’t order appetizers ever until I started to make money. I always babysat to make my own money.  I try to have that same attitude in show business - like just being polite. You know what I mean? I keep the same core values.

 Instagram @theofficialsusperstar

Instagram @theofficialsusperstar

C:
Yes.  What was your first big splurge when you did make some good money?

M:
I think my cappuccinos. When I got Saturday Night Live I would suddenly order cappuccinos which felt kind of expensive and fancy.  I remember when I first dated my husband Fritz, we were living together and we had a loft in New York and a friend of his came over and we didn’t have a lot of furniture and she was like, “You guys need furniture, you need to decorate.” And he was like “Oh Molly doesn’t do that.” I felt so bad because even all the years I had an office at Saturday Night Live, I would never hang anything up and I didn’t buy much stuff.  I would always want to be able to pack my belongings in a bag in case I needed to move and I’d want to carry it on my shoulder. Or I always had a thing where I thought things would just blow up. My mom died when I was little so I think I felt like I never wanted to set up shop because I was always afraid it might just blow up. Isn’t that crazy? So it made me sad and feel bad so then I went the opposite and decided I’d commit and if it doesn’t work out, oh well! At least you’re enjoying your life as it is each day.  I never used to buy furniture or anything. I just had clothes and like a futon.

C:
How interesting. I feel for you! 

Can we talk about Divorce? You are so good on the show. One of my favorite scenes is when you come out in your red corset and your stockings and your boobs are all out. I watch that and I’m like “I love Molly so much!” You just go for it! What are those scenes like for you to shoot? On the day you get up and you know that’s coming, what is that like?

M:
Well, it’s so funny Catt. The day before we were shooting that I was like, “Oh god!” I pretty much eat whatever I want for the most part. I don’t think about that, I try not to worry about that. But a few days before shooting that I said, “I gotta make sure I trim down a little,” so I just ate protein for a few days—chicken and vegetables. And I thought, “Oh my god. I could do this forever, this is so easy!” And then I said, “Nope. Not gonna get into that...That’s not a healthy way to live.” And so I was so glad that I don’t do that. I did it for three days. It made me feel speedy. You should do whatever works for you, as far as food goes, so that you’re not thinking about it too much. And for me, it’s 'eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full.' Eat whatever you want, no restrictions. That’s how I live without thinking much about food. But in regards to shooting scenes like that -  there’s no way around the fact that it’s hard and a little awkward and it makes me feel shy but I try to just be the character. But even as much as you’re trying to be the character you feel a little self-conscious, you know what I mean?

C:
I cannot imagine! But you pulled it off brilliantly! That’s why it’s so fun to watch you in all of your work because you go to extremes in every sense. And my only regret is that I haven’t seen Other People yet. I have to see it and I keep hearing so many good things.

M:
You will love it because it’s about a mother and her kids and her son especially, her close relationship with her son and it’s beautiful. It’s really good. It’s very low budget.

C:
But you received so many accolades and such critical acclaim for your performance. What was your biggest takeaway from that experience playing someone with cancer?

M:
It was incredible, what a gift to be offered a part like that. The script was so beautiful. There was a line when I was reading the script, when the mother is dying and the boy says, “I want to do stuff with you, I want to take you around the world,” because he sees the time with her is slipping away.  And she says, “It’s ok you don’t have to take me anywhere because I get to see my whole world at dinner tonight,” and that line alone was just the most beautiful. There were several lines like that in the movie where I asked the writer and director Chris Kelly, “Did your mom say this?"  She’s like Emily Dickinson, she’s a poet.  It was one of those things where I read the script, closed it, cried, went running and I think I listened to a Miley Cyrus song called, “We Can’t Stop,” and I could just feel that it was going to be such a special movie.  I actually went running because I was so excited and I called Chris Kelly right away.

 Instagram @divorceonhbo

Instagram @divorceonhbo

C:
That is sensational. When it all comes together so beautifully like that.  On Divorce you’re obviously sharing the screen with Sarah Jessica Parker...

M:
Who loves you! We talked about you during an interview!

C:
You did?!

M:
Yes, we did! We talked all about you and your departure from your job - and she was just so vocally supportive of you, as you know. And I said, “I know Catt Sadler!!!"

C:
That’s amazing! Her support and the support of so many has meant so much to me, but I don’t know Sarah. You share the screen with her and are basically friends with somebody I think we’d all love to be friends with. So what’s one thing that would surprise us about her?

M:
She’s really interested in other people. She would always ask you a question about yourself. There might be some actresses that are more self-centered and she is the total opposite of that! She’s really interested and very real and just very genuine talking about anything. She’s just very down to earth and a really hard worker and funny. She always has a book, she’s always reading really good books, and she likes soup! So she always has a book and a cup of soup. And she really loves business and working and being a mom, she likes it all! You could tell that she thoroughly enjoys both and seems to have a really good balance. She’s a doll, she’s everything you want her to be and more.

C:
I feel like you’re describing yourself! You have this varied career, it’s been a long career. You’ve got your husband and two kids,  you’re in Hollywood and that’s impressive. I won’t use the word “balance,” but you have made it work. So is there a key, formula, or a daily mantra?

M:
I do Catt. I do love working and it’s fun when you work so hard to get there. You don’t want to turn anything down because I remember the times where I had to audition for everything. I worked in restaurants for years before I started getting parts. I worked at Cravings on Sunset Boulevard as a hostess for four years, I worked at Melrose Baking Company and Mel & Rose as a waitress — I was more known as a waitress around town. Cravings served an amazing grilled lemon chicken salad and people would see me and point to me and yell, “Grilled lemon chicken salad!” People associated me with a salad, not an actress.

C:
Was this before your stage show?

M:
This was during my stage show. I did a stage show then, but I was a struggling actress so I had to make money waitressing. But basically, I think because I was always hustling and auditioning trying to get parts that now it’s weird when I get offered stuff and if I pass on something it makes my head spin because I feel like I should take everything because I’m so used to knowing what it’s like trying so hard to get parts. So it’s a little weird. It’s not easy for me, but usually what I do with balance is if I am feeling a bit too busy it’ll put me in a bad mood. I just go based on a feeling of, “I don’t really want to do that.” Even though it sounds fun, the truth is I’d rather drive my son to camp and just go to Peet’s Coffee and ride my bike around town. I can usually tell when I’m burned out, and I don’t think it’s good for anybody because you get snappy. So sometimes there’s no good reason but you can just feel a feeling. I go, “Does this feel fun or no?” I look at it that way. But of course there’s some stuff you have to do for money and provide for your family, but there’s some stuff where if I’m just feeling burned out I don’t.

C:
That’s great and you earned that - to be in the position now to do that - what a wonderful thing that must be. So good for you, you deserve it!

 Instagram @divorceonhbo

Instagram @divorceonhbo

M:
I had a thing where I remember years ago I had broken up with a boyfriend and I was kind of depressed. I was doing Saturday Night Live and there was a spot for me to do Conan, and I really didn’t want to do it just because I was just kind of down in the dumps at that time. And I remember my therapist saying, “You don’t have to do it.” It was more of being burned out and feeling dark. And she told me to just take a walk around the block and I asked if that was enough of a reason and she said yes. I felt so guilty but it was as though I needed somebody to give me permission and that was enough because we can push ourselves.

C:
Especially women.

M:
Especially women doing it all, being mothers and working, it’s so tough.

C:
But you nailed it. If we overextend ourselves then there’s nothing left to give and no one benefits.

M:
Yes, because then you’re crabby.

C:
Then nobody wins, so that’s good that you learned that lesson when you did. That’s awesome. But speaking of motherhood, our kids are similar ages, teenagers. There’s so much out there when you become a mom to do with toddlers and babies. There’s all these manuals and how-to books.  But then you get teenagers! For me, it’s a harder phase. I think it’s a much different time to be a mom; it’s challenging. Do you feel that way at all at this phase?

M:
That is interesting. My mom died when I was four and my babysitter was saying, “I go to my mom for everything. I don’t know how you do it,” because I don’t have anybody to go to. I don’t have a guide. I didn’t grow up with a mom, so yes I do relate to what you’re saying. I’m always reading and trying to learn, and you’re right. I completely relate to what you are saying. It is different.

C:
It’s like a different muscle because when they’re younger it’s basic needs. Making sure they eat and sleep. I have a 17-year-old and these are some of the hardest times for me as a mother because I second guess myself more now than I ever have about handling things. I think I'm gonna write a book for the mothers of teens. Anyway - I digress.  

C:
The climate in Hollywood with everything that’s kind of going on - with Time’s Up and Me Too - things are certainly more exposed and more talked about today in a way that’s obviously been hard for a lot of women.  In your years of acting, have you ever experienced pay disparity or had frustrations or experiences you never talked about?

M:
Well, when I was on The John Larroquette Show, I got a speaking part and he was so nice but they asked me to go topless.  They were like “Sorry, it’s too hard to shoot you from behind, we’re gonna need you to take off your shirt.” I forget who it was, I don’t know if it was a producer or director.  John Larroquette was very supportive. It was a sitcom and they were shooting us from behind and I was so excited to have lines as a female protestor. I thought we were gonna wear a cover-up, and they were just shooting us from behind, it’s a network sitcom and they were like, “Sorry all you girls have to take your tops off.” I was a waitress, I had no money, and I was just like “Uhh I’m gonna leave,” and I just packed my bag, walked to the parking lot, and they came after me! They were like, “Sorry, actually, we figured it out. Come back. Come back.  You can wear pasties.” At that time I was like, “I can’t stay. I feel like you’re being so manipulative and I’d rather go sweep floors back at my restaurant than do this.” The other actresses were so happy so I stuck up for all the girls and that was a great experience. I wanted that job. I needed the money. I remember feeling really embarrassed and ashamed and scared and my body walked me out of there. I just walked out and didn’t even know where I was going but I was like, “I am not staying and I don’t care!” And I was a young actress, I was like in my twenties.  

C:
I think that’s self-love. That was obviously a while ago, and that was you speaking up by walking out.  Now people are speaking up. This movement’s very complicated and complex obviously but we are in a movement in the sense that women are being validated more than ever before, as ugly as some of it has had to be.  Do you agree with that?

M:
Yes I do and women were maybe more afraid to speak up before and now because of what you did and because of other women speaking up, that gives women permission to speak up too.  I do think that people get nervous and we have to remember too that how people come up with what they’re gonna say, they have different processes with that and it needs to not be so perfect where if you say the wrong thing you get hung, right? Cause then people get nervous to say anything. They think you have to be like a politician. It can get fake or you feel like a robot.  Let’s begin the conversation and know that there are gray areas and you’re not gonna say this all perfectly and we’re gonna kinda figure it out sometimes and kind of ….

C: I couldn't agree with you more. We're still figuring it all out. 

 Instagram @theofficialsusperstar

Instagram @theofficialsusperstar

What is the first thing you do in the morning when you open your eyes?
I take Synthroid. It’s awful. When I was pregnant I got diagnosed with hypothyroid so I have to take a Synthroid every day.  So I take a Synthroid and drink a glass of water and I have to wait thirty minutes before I can have any coffee! So that’s usually what I do, I take it really quickly because I can’t wait to have coffee.  It’s horrible! It’s horrible having to take Synthroid but it’s a very common medication for women with hypothyroid. You’re very lucky that you don’t know about it.
C: Is it well managed? You’re okay and going on with the rest of your life?
M: Yes
C: Well you’ll just have to delay your coffee then. Poor thing!

Vodka or tequila?
100% Tequila

When I dance, I look like…
A dork haha! Once years ago, I was auditioning for a musical in NYC when I was a struggling drama student at NYU and it was Smile. It was a beauty pageant Broadway show with all these girls and I sneaked into the actors equity because I needed a fake equity card. So I got into the audition and made it to the final final callbacks with girls that were really equity and part of the theater actor’s union.  I made it down to like the final twenty girls or fifteen and I had to sing, and I can sing, and the final audition was dancing. They said you had to be able to “move well.” Miss Debbie Allen was the choreographer so after my final callback, I sang my show tune and they were like, “Great!” Then Debbie Allen was like, “Now for the dance portion of the final callback, can you just show us your moves?!” There was no music and I just had to make up an improv dance! (This is when Molly gets up off my couch and shows me her impromptu “moves”... highlight of my career.) It was horrible and they were like, “Thank you,” and that was it! It was the worst!
C: Were other girls like doing pirouettes and proper dance?
M: I was by myself!
C: Oh so you had no idea.
M: It was terrible! They were very unimpressed but the show probably bombed so who cares.  

One thing you’ll never do?
Smoke cigarettes. I have in the past but I will never smoke again. I am smoke free.

What compliment do people give you the most?
They say I have good energy.
C: Yes you do! I wanna bottle it up!
M: I was at a hotel and a guy brought me a really good margarita, he said he made an “extra special margarita” because I had good energy.  So I got tequila as a gift because I have good energy.

Selena and Justin or Hailey and Justin?
Well, I just saw his Instagram so I guess Hailey. I’m gonna say Hailey because that’s who he’s with.

Most recently binged Netflix show?
The Staircase

LA or NY?
I used to always go back and forth, and there was one period when I finally had a place in both.  I came out here to LA to do a TV series and I kept my place in NY and rented an apartment in West Hollywood and for the first time ever I had a place in both cities and I realized I really like them equally for different reasons, I can’t pick!


Hotel Transylvania 3 in theaters July 13
Private Life on Netflix September 21

Catt Sadler