After a season of secret passageways, glitter bombs, and liverwurst-and-marmalade sandwiches, Only Murders in the Building had one final twist for the Arconia gang, and it was some truly psycho-level shit: Turns out Poppy (Adina Verson), beleaguered assistant to podcasting titan Cinda Canning (Tina Fey), “just wanted to make a good podcast” of her own — even if that meant knifing down a sexagenarian for the story. She had the help of her lover, Detective Kreps (Michael Rapaport), whom she met back in Oklahoma when she, twist, disappeared from her ordinary life as Becky Butler — the subject of Cinda’s blockbuster podcast, All Is Not OK in Oklahoma. Poppy used her own story to get a job with her hero, but it wasn’t enough, so she sought fame by orchestrating another murder mystery into existence with the help of an erotic painting — a stroke of storytelling genius (or sociopathy, rather) that Verson thinks has been implied since season one.
Are you never going to listen to podcasts again after this?
I’ll keep listening to podcasts. I’ve been wondering if Poppy would be able to listen to podcasts in prison. Or start her own podcast.
She’s destined for a prison podcast.
Food reviews of the prison meals. Give her a food show.
Poppy is a terrible person who murders people, but I’ve got to give her credit for being inventive. She justifies her actions by saying she “deserves” success. Do you weirdly understand where she’s coming from?
Absolutely not. [Laughs.] I understand not feeling seen and feeling like you’re being walked over. She’s a smart person, she’s very clever, and she’s good at what she does. It almost seems that Cinda is purposely squashing her at any chance she can. I understand the rage it could instill in somebody. I can’t make the leap from that to murder. But I think she’s living in such a world of secrecy being Becky Butler. It’s easy to get disillusioned and feel like you’re above the law, because you’re living in a different reality. Her head got too big.
What did Poppy want to gain from all of this?
She ultimately wants recognition from Cinda, which would possibly give Poppy her own podcast. She could be Cinda’s partner instead of her underling; she would have her own place in the sun. Because she orchestrated All Is Not OK in Oklahoma, she got a little recognition from Cinda. But Poppy is desperate to orchestrate the next podcast as well. That’s where this idea comes from. When she starts to tell Mabel shit about Cinda, her ambitions shift a bit. Maybe she wanted to set up Cinda to make it seem like she did the murder, take her out, then step into her role at the company. She just wants to be recognized — whether having her own podcast or getting a promotion. I mean, she is recognized at the end. She got a little bit of what she wanted.
How long were you aware of Poppy’s big reveal? Have you known since season one?
I didn’t know from season one. Back then, I was hired for basically one episode. It was a great surprise to pop up in the season finale. I assumed it meant I would show up again in the second season — they were setting us up for something fun. When I was asked to come back, I noticed there were some weird negotiations going on. About a month before we started shooting, I had a Zoom call with one of our showrunners, John Hoffman, where he told me my trajectory. I lost my shit!
How satisfying was it? This is your biggest role to date, by far.
The fact that they took such a chance of me, that I’m the only “unknown” on this show — it warms my heart. They trust me as an actor. After all of the excitement, I was like, Oh shit, I have to play a murderer now. I didn’t get my scripts until about a week before I shot each episode, so I didn’t know the specific details too far in advance. So it was interesting to try to weave that into each script as they came.
How did you weave it in? Were you trying to leave clues for viewers?
Yeah, I was, but at the end of the day, I had to play each episode at face value. Poppy is a really good liar, so I didn’t want to play that Poppy was lying. I just wanted to play that she’s a good liar and why. I liked the episode where she’s in Chickasha. You don’t know Poppy’s relationship with Kreps. They told me I might have a sidekick I’ve been working with behind the scenes, but I didn’t know who it was. I had assumed it could be several people and they would piece whoever it was into the edit. Nobody on set knew it was me, either.
Oh, that’s fun. Who was important enough to know?
None of the actors! This was a surprise to me. I got to the set on the first day and was like, I’m a big part of season two, hey! And people had no idea I was going to appear in another episode besides the first one. [Laughs.] In episode four, I did play the person in the passageways who sneezes. Walking from the dressing room down to the set, having all of the crew see me in that suited outfit and clock what it meant was amusing. Selena Gomez and Martin Short didn’t know until they got the last script.
But Steve Martin got to know beforehand!
Yes. John told me that after they wrapped season one, he floated the idea by Steve and he responded like, Okay, that works. He didn’t know how it was going to unfold, though, and he didn’t tell the others.
What lingering questions do you still have about this season?
I’m still curious about what exactly my relationships were to the Rose Cooper art and with Bunny. I do believe Poppy’s relationship with Bunny started because she was investigating Rose Cooper. I look at it like Poppy had a kinship with this story, because Rose Cooper had been someone who disappeared — just like her. What did that timeline look like? I made some stuff up in my head about it. It’s an open question for me.
What did you make up in your head?
Poppy was trying to do some preliminary investigating about the Rose Cooper art. She knew there was a painting owned by a woman who lived in the Arconia; in season one, when Oliver and Mabel come to Cinda and are talking about the unique history of the building, I think Poppy takes it as a sign that’s like, Oh my God, these people live in the building where this painting is. When Ursula, the building manager, says something that season along the lines of “A podcaster had been sniffing around and bought a bunch of Gut Milk,” you’re made to think it was Cinda. But I think it’s me. Then she finds the passageways by diving into the history of the Arconia. Poppy is trying to have that entire Rose Cooper–podcast story ready to go. I think that’s where her relationship with Bunny came from.
The killer-reveal-party scene seemed like a blast to film — you’ve got Martin, Steve, and Tina, a trio of comedy titans, in one room. What was it was like to shoot that?
It was too much fun. Clue is one of my all-time favorite movies, so I was like, Wait, we get to shoot another version of that? We shot it over four full days — 12 hours each. I had mostly only filmed with Tina over the episodes, so it was wonderful to get to work alongside other people. To watch that slow-motion scene over and over again was tough. I was always on the verge of cracking up and ruining the shot. For every take, seeing them do this ridiculous stuff? Sometimes with tomatoes? I’ll be telling my grandchildren about it.
Tina could only be there for one of those days, so she had this wonderful stand-in I stood next to. We were held in Cinda’s recording-studio set while waiting for the room to be ready every morning — hanging out on the couches, eating gummy bears together. I can confirm Steve and Martin are very good at banter. It’s like they’re constantly rehearsing for their stage tour. One of the four days was actually Martin’s birthday. They got him an ice-cream truck, so we would go outside during breaks for some Mister Softee. I couldn’t imagine a better moment to end the season with.
Can you confirm if a liverwurst-and-marmalade sandwich tastes good?
I don’t know if it’s because I’m Jewish or what, but that sounds great to me. [Laughs.] I’m a big fan of chopped liver and liverwurst. Put some marmalade on there? Hell yeah.
It’s got to be in the Paddington universe somewhere.
Hey, I did steal one of the menus from the Pickle Diner. It’s framed on my wall at home. I’ll always have the No. 14–sandwich special with me.