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Interview: Molly Shannon On Stepping Into the World of ‘I Love That For You’

Courtesy of Showtime

When Molly Shannon does not stop running. From her days on Saturday Night Live as her most iconic character, Mary Katherine Gallagher, she literally threw herself at her work. It is well documented that the actress and comedian put her body at risk to play the clumsy, furniture smashing Catholic school girl character.

The three-time Emmy nominee is putting her all into her latest role as Jackie Stilton on Showtime’s I Love That For You. Jackie is the veteran home shopping network host who kindly takes newcomer, Joanna Vanessa Bayer under her wing. They form a fast friendship that looks to be heading to turbulence if Joanna’s lies about having cancer are revealed.

Shannon gives another outstanding performance as Jackie. In a year where she is taking it slow to spend more time with her family, the actress and exercise buff, is still running at full speed with three noteworthy performances including in I Love That For You, HBO’s White Lotus and The Other Two. Somewhere in between she even found time to write her memoir, “Hello Molly.” Coincidentally, during our call she was on her way to record Dana Carvey and David Spade’s podcast. She never stops. Run. Molly. Run.

Awards Radar spoke with Molly about why she chose to take on the part, working with Vanessa Bayer, SNL, family and friendships. Enjoy.

Steven Prusakowski: What made you want to be part of I Love That For You?

Molly Shannon: Vanessa Bayer and I knew one another. And I just think she’s so talented. It’s really her baby, based on some of her experiences growing up in Cleveland. We’re both from Cleveland. We’re SNL colleagues, and I really loved the script. I just thought it was really original and funny. I really liked the character, Jackie. I just thought sometimes I look at a part and I just think it just seems like a fun world to be in – to be in the world of QVC. It’s a fun kind of world to explore. The world of Home Shopping Network. And I’m fascinated with how what they do is not easy having to sell these products and make people interested. I’ve known people who’ve gotten jobs on that and it’s really hard. They put you through rigorous training, and they’ll test you when they’re kind of trying you out. And they’ll say, ‘okay, sell me this pencil. You have 12 minutes. Go.’ So it’s a real special skill. I just really liked immersing myself in that world, the character of Jackie, and it’s just a great team of writers and producers, and I just really wanted to be a part of it.

Steven Prusakowski: Jackie opens up and you see a real friendship forming. Instead of co-workers they become friends hanging out, letting their hair down and being yourself. It plays so real. What do you credit that chemistry to?

Molly Shannon:  I already really liked Vanessa, and we had already socialized. Before she even, you know, had the show, we’d gone out for coffee and I just thought she was just so funny and so sweet. So we already had that connection. And I also liked that on the show, they’re real friends. Sometimes you’ll see you’ll have female characters on the show, but they’re not really friends or they’re not really supporting one another. I really liked that they become really fast friends and my character really starts to kind of need Joanna and open up to her. She’s also her mentor, but then my character really just takes a real liking to Vanessa’s character, so they form a fast friendship.

Courtesy of Showtime

Steven Prusakowski:  Jackie has this inner strength that does not alway show itself. Then it does in the oddest places. One of course being that hilarious drive thru scene where McFlurry all she wants is the Mini M&Ms, and the order taker won’t do as she asked so she kind of loses it. 

Molly Shannon: Well, it’s interesting with that McFlurry moment. I think that because she doesn’t have power with her boss, Patricia (Jenifer Lewis), she’s acting out to somebody you know, outside of her because she’s mad. She’s like, ‘Nobody can control me and nobody tells me what to do.’ And she’s acting childlike. Her anger is coming out at McDonald’s while they take her order, because she can’t express her feelings of frustration fully to her boss. So, it’s coming out because she wants to be real. She doesn’t want to have to pretend to be something she’s not on air anymore. Even though Patricia wants her to be that, she’s like, ‘That’s what people like, that’s what sells stay in your lane.’ And Jackie is kind of busting out of that and about to burst and you know, it’s just an interesting thing, because that stuff will come out whether you want it to come out or not, you know. She needs to express herself and be who she is and change.

Steven Prusakowski:  Jackie’s so passionate about our work. It seems like something that you share with the character. How far have you gone for a job or to get a role?

Molly Shannon: I remember once, I was trying out for the part of a nun. This is when I was a struggling actress in Hollywood, it was a studio lot, like, 20th Century Fox, I forget. But, I actually dressed up as a nun. And my manager thought it was so funny. He was like, ‘I heard you’re dressed up as a nun.’ I did not get the part, but I just thought, ‘let me give you an idea of what it could look like.’ And so that was taking it really far, because they didn’t expect me to do that.

Steven Prusakowski: You have been quite the prolific actress. Is that because Hollywood just keeps sending you scripts or are you hunting them down? Are you a workaholic? What keeps you so busy?

Molly Shannon: Initially, I had to work really hard to break in. But now that I’m established, I do get offered a lot. Mostly, my focus right now is on my children, I really don’t want to work that much, because my daughter’s heading to college in the fall and my son next year. So, I’m really enjoying being a mom. I really don’t work as much because I really treasure the time with the kids. But before, I was really hustling and wanting to do everything. Now my priorities are different. I really, really, really just loved being a mom. 

Steven Prusakowski: Besides being apparent and besides acting, what do you like do?

Molly Shannon: I really like to exercise. I swim and I run and I listen to podcasts and I take walks with friends. The exercise really helps me relax. I have a lot of energy. I have to calm my body down. So I love to exercise every day. I really try to do that every day. It makes me feel so good and I sleep so well. So I really am into exercising.

Steven Prusakowski: Is there a character or a role that you played that you would want to revisit?

Molly Shannon: I had a great time on White Lotus.  So if Mike White ever did another season I would love to play my character Kitty the difficult, opinionated mother-in-law. That would be really fun. I really liked playing her. I would love to do that if Mike decided to continue the series. He’s doing season two now in Italy. But if he did a season three, it would be so fun to return.

Steven Prusakowski:  You of course made your mark on SNL with Mary Katherine Gallagher. Did you have other characters that were dear to you?

Molly Shannon: I mean I love doing this character, Jeannie Darcy on SNL the bad standup comedian, it was very relaxing to perform. She’s kind of a nerd and she’s not a very good standup comedian, but she has a lot of big dreams and big hopes. That’s a really fun character to perform. Because that character is very different than me. She’s very careful with her words. So I really enjoyed playing Jeannie Darcy on Saturday Night Live – I would love to revisit that character.

Steven Prusakowski: How do you look back at your time on SNL? 

Molly Shannon:  I had such a good time. And I loved it. Then you get to a point where you’re like, just want to pass the baton to other hungry young performers. But I really enjoyed it. I feel it was the right job for me at the time. And then I went on and had kids and met my husband. You know, my husband had kids. And so I was ready for a different portion of my life. But God, I had a blast and Saturday Night Live.

Steven Prusakowski: Do a lot of those friendships remain that you’ve made throughout?

Molly Shannon: Oh my god. Yes. It’s like a family. Yeah, I’m close with so many. Will Ferrell and I are so close we actually just had coffee, and we had kids at the same time. So our kids know one another. And it’s just great when you go through those changes together, like having kids at the same time. It’s so great. But yes, you really feel connected to those people because you did the show together. So you have this kind of easy understanding of one another.

Steven Prusakowski: To wrap up, can you give me three words to describe Molly Shannon?

Molly Shannon: Oh my gosh. That’s hysterical. I would say um… lyrical, energetic, passionate, and silly

Steven Prusakowski: I like it. Thank you so much for your time. I’m really enjoying your work on ‘I Love That For You’ and I’m looking forward to more.

Molly Shannon: Oh, my God, thank you so much.

Season one of I Love That For You is streaming on Showtime. The finale episode airs this Sunday nights at 8:30pm,

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Written by Steven Prusakowski

Steven Prusakowski has been a cinephile as far back as he can remember, literally. At the age of ten, while other kids his age were sleeping, he was up into the late hours of the night watching the Oscars. Since then, his passion for film, television, and awards has only grown. For over a decade he has reviewed and written about entertainment through publications including Screen Radar and Awards Circuit. He has conducted celebrity and red carpet interviews with some of the industry’s biggest names. He is a graduate of RIT film program. You can find him on Twitter and Letterboxd as @FilmSnork – we don’t know why the name, but he seems to be sticking to it.
Email: filmsnork@gmail.com

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