When Molly Shannon’s image pops up on Zoom, she is wearing a bright-pink top and drinking a beverage that is equally, vibrantly pink. “I know, isn’t that funny? I’m like pink and pink,” she says of the apparently accidental color coordination.
While sipping something called a Pink Panther — a mix of almond milk, strawberries and pineapple, according to Shannon — the former Saturday Night Live star and busy actor sounds as upbeat as her look. That happy, chipper side is something she channels in her role as Pat Dubek on the comedy The Other Two. In season two of the series, now on HBO Max, Pat has become a phenomenally successful talk-show host who loves a heartwarming story and goes out of her way to accommodate her adoring fans.
During our conversation, Shannon talked about whether Pat might actually be too nice; why the character continues to date Streeter Peters (Ken Marino), the manager of her pop-star son Chase Dreams (Case Walker); and what Pat has in common with the privileged mom Shannon played on The White Lotus. (Hint: not much!) She also weighed in on another White Lotus–related matter, a.k.a. the great question of our times: Is the Pineapple Suite really better than the Palm Suite?
What would you say is Pat’s defining characteristic?
Her defining characteristic … I would say she’s enthusiastic.
I think she’s very nice and it worries me.
Oh, okay. Interesting.
You can tell me if this is valid or not, but I feel like a lot of people around her are saying, “Do this and do that,” and she’s like, “Okay, great.” She’s really accommodating everybody and I worry that she’s going to work so hard that she just passes out.
That’s true. Her ex-husband was an alcoholic so she takes care of people. And you have the scene in the first season, on the plane, where she just has a breakdown, basically, because she is a people-pleaser and she is very sweet. But right, some of those people just do too much. They put themselves last. And while she’s enjoying it, she’s going at such a break-neck pace that she’s going to have to be careful because she has to also take care of herself. So yes, you are right. She’s enthusiastic and maybe she’ll have to figure out maybe how to not be so nice to everyone.
Do you think of her talk-show persona as different from who she is when she’s just herself?
Actually, to your point, I think she really is very similar off-camera and on-camera and it ends up being exhausting. Where the fans are coming up after and they’re like, “Pat! Pat! My husband died, too!” And I’m giving, giving, giving. They’re sweet and she’s interested, but it’s like, she’s new at it. She’s new at fame.
I can relate to the character, too, because I did Broadway with Kristen Chenoweth and Sean Hayes and they kind of taught me the ropes. I, like Pat, would go talk to everyone between shows. I would just go down the line individually and take pictures. And Kristen and Sean were like, “Be careful because it can get exhausting.” Because we would have to do eight shows a week. They taught me the ropes about that and really were like, “You don’t have to do as much as you’re doing. You can do more of a wave or not take pictures.” They showed me quicker ways to get through the line. Pat, my character on the show, is going to have to learn those boundaries to preserve herself, otherwise she’s going to burn out.
I have a question about her relationship with Streeter, which is: Why is it still happening? What is she getting out of the relationship? I can see very much what he gets out of it, but I’m not sure what she gets out of it.
Well, now that she’s so busy she’s like, “Ugh.” She doesn’t really have that much to give to him because she’s exhausted. She’s talking to people all day. When she goes home she just doesn’t even want to talk. She’s tired. So, they will have to figure out that relationship balance. But he really does love her and I think he’s very different than her first husband.
They will have to figure stuff out as a couple because she does not want to be taking care of someone else again the way she did in her first marriage. She is maxed out right now and feels like she has nothing to give to the relationship, but hopefully they’ll figure that out. She does really love him. I think that she really does. And she’s never really had a man who is present in the way that he is. She didn’t have that with her ex-husband so this is a step up for her.
When you play a part like this, do you have a bio or a background in your mind as you’re portraying her?
I do, definitely. But the writers write that, too. They wrote that whole backstory. And I think about her living in New York City. I don’t think she ever thought this would happen, so I think about that, the character, and try to build a deep character with an emotional trajectory. Sometimes it’s not so filled-in for you. Sometimes you’ll do a character and you don’t know what the backstory is so you’ll have to just ask the writer, “What were you thinking? Are we thinking the same thing?” But with this, they really did write that backstory, so I’m able to work from what they created.
I’ve been thinking about what Pat might have in common with other characters you’ve played. Tish Cattigan is also sort of a host. Do you think those two women have anything in common? Would they get along with each other?
Oh, that’s so funny. I think Tish Cattigan thinks of herself as a much more sophisticated lady than Pat. Pat would definitely like Tish Cattigan. She would think she’s a classy, fun, cool lady to go have a glass of wine with. I think they would have fun together, but I would think that Tish could give Pat a little makeover. Like, “You got to go here for color. You’ve got to fix that cut.” Maybe she would get her some new clothes. She’d be like a big sister to Pat, I think.
I also want to ask you about the relationship that Pat and Kitty from The White Lotus might have. Both are mothers who are very proud of their children and maybe a little too overly involved, but I feel like it’s coming from a good place with Pat. With Kitty, I don’t know if it’s coming from a good place. What do they have in common, if anything?
Well Pat, for one thing, she’s a woman of the people. She’s like, “I am you, you are me.” Her fans are one. She relates to them as equals. Kitty feels kind of above it all. She’s in her own world and she does feel better than, and so does her son. His new wife is like, “My mom would never do that,” and he’s like, “Well, yeah. Your mom couldn’t do that because she couldn’t afford it.”
They’re very different. I do not feel they would click or understand one another at all. I can’t even picture them together. I think that Kitty would be kind of dismissive of Pat. She’s somebody not even on her radar.
What is your opinion regarding the Pineapple Suite versus the Palm Suite, which is your son’s obsession throughout that entire series? It’s my contention that the Pineapple Suite’s not that great. I think the Palm Suite is better.
You do? That’s so interesting. You think the Palm Suite is better. Why do you think that? What do you think makes the Palm Suite better?
It looks nicer to me. It looks more spacious. I think there’s too many pineapples in the Pineapple Suite. In fact, I think your character even pointed out, “There’s a lot of pineapples in here.”
And it seems like they might have had a nicer view in the Palm Suite.
Yeah. [Shane]’s just got a bone to pick. And in a way, it’s a way for him to avoid what’s going on in his marriage because he has an obsession with wanting to put that asshole in his place. He is blocking a certain intimacy with his wife because he’s consumed with wanting to get this other room and seething with anger and feeling very fucked over by Murray’s character. Yes, that’s interesting. I think you have a very good point. Too bad he can’t just enjoy the Palm Suite.
I thought it was pretty nice!
He seems like maybe somebody who’s unhappy a lot and it’s never the right room. There’s people like that, right?
For sure. Especially if they paid for it and didn’t get it.
Jess Klein told me — she’s a showrunner I’m working with on the new Vanessa Bayer show — she said that she befriended a waiter at a fancy hotel in one of the Hawaiian islands and she asked what the most outrageous thing a guest ever asked. He said that a couple complained to the hotel staff that the moon was too bright and could they do something about it.
That’s real! Isn’t that funny?