God bless Molly Shannon. The actress has been making the world feel better about themselves through comedy for years now, dating back to her days on Saturday Night Live. She’s on a hot streak lately, though, with roles on HBO’s hit series The White Lotus and the second season of The Other Two, now on HBO Max.
On The Other Two she plays Pat Dubek, Ohio-raised mother of ChaseDreams, a Justin Bieber-like pop star who tends to outshine the creative endeavors of her other two children, Cary and Brooke Dubek. While Pat spent much of season one as an overly supportive and driven parent, this season, she’s become the host of her own daytime talk show and is seemingly working herself to the brink of mental collapse. As Pat, Shannon is the perfect blend of loving and put-upon, clueless and harmless. The Other Two is one of the funniest comedies on TV right now, and she’s a big part of its success.
The A.V. Club recently sat down for a Zoom call with Shannon to talk about The Other Two, losing her own mom at a young age, and her upcoming role in Vanessa Bayer’s I Love This For You. You can watch video of the interview below; a condensed and edited transcript follows.
The A.V. Club: Like you, I’m originally from Cleveland. There’s a look to Midwestern—and specifically Ohioan—adults, and that’s part of what I love about Pat Dubek. There really is a Midwestern mom aesthetic there that capture.
Molly Shannon: That’s so true. And Pat hasn’t really changed much, even though she’s been in New York City for a while. You would think she’s going to get a little cooler, maybe get a better colorist or get a cooler haircut. But no, she still likes her Ohio looks, and we haven’t changed that much. But it’s very fun to have short hair like that.
AVC: Pat is working hard the season: She has her new talk show and she seems to be working 24 hours a day. It doesn’t necessarily seem like her family or her boyfriend/manager really recognize the amount of work that she’s taking on. Can she sustain what she’s doing?
MS: I think she is excited for all these new opportunities and her renaissance and getting to host her own talk show. But she’s going to have to learn how to also take care of herself. She’ll burn out because it’s too much.
AVC: There’s a scene early in the season when Pat is doing meet-and-greets on the street, and all these women are saying things like “I know someone that knows you. She went to college with you,” and they put her on the phone to talk with this stranger. Does that happen to you?
MS: Yeah, that does happen a lot. People will find you on Instagram and say, “We were in grade school together, remember?” Or people will want me to make video birthday messages as Sally O’Malley.
If you’re walking on the street, it’s so hard. So, like Pat, I had to figure out that I can’t say yes to everything. You have to take care of yourself, too. I struggle with the same stuff my character does in my own life.
AVC: Do you recognize any of your own mothering skills in Pat?
MS: I think Pat and I have the same values about our family, like we just love being moms. To Pat, family is everything, and I feel that same way. My kids are teenagers now, and I do like working, but I would never want to work too much. So it’s just striking that balance between work and being a mom.
AVC: You are writing a book that’s in part about losing your own mom and how that affected your life. How has that journey affected your own relationship with motherhood and how you’ve raised your own kids?
MS: Well, I think because I didn’t have a mom, I really know how great it is to be alive and get to live. Her life was cut short, and I’ve been able to live beyond her life and get to do stuff that she was never able to do. It’s deeply fulfilling and deeply satisfying. I think you heal those parts of yourself through getting to be the mom, and I feel very grateful.
AVC: I was thrilled to see that you’re going to be on Vanessa Bayer’s new Showtime series about a home shopping network, I Love This For You. What can you tell me about that? I know that she had you watching all the shopping channels at home.
MS: Vanessa taught me how, when QVC people are selling something, they always say “Now, what’s so great about this is the way that it…” [Grabs some hairspray and demonstrates.] They always have their nails done and they will always touch [the product]. They’re always touching it, feeling it.
It’s really fun to watch those people on QVC. It’s mesmerizing. I see why people want to buy. They make everything look so cute and comfortable, so it’s a very interesting world and it’s a great world to make a TV show about.