June 6, 2023

Molly Shannon on ‘A Good Person’ & How She Snuck Onto ‘Twin Peaks’


While most will immediately recognize her from her time on Saturday Night Live, Molly Shannon has a career that spans genres. Though her presence on film often guarantees a laugh, Shannon’s performance in dramas like Wild Nights With Emily and Other People, showcases another facet of her talents, one she flexes in writer/director Zach Braff’s A Good Person. Shannon plays Diane, the mother of Florence Pugh’s Allison, who’s attempting to overcome an opioid addiction. Though she does provide a light in the film’s darkness, Shannon’s character is struggling with her own addictive battles, and in an interview with Collider’s Steve Weintraub, she shares her interpretation of the script and the journey it takes.

During her conversation, ahead of A Good Person’s theatrical release, Shannon discusses the importance of the story Braff is telling, and speaks on the script from an outside perspective on addiction, describing her character’s feelings of helplessness and the line between tough love and being an enabler. She describes performing a scene with Freeman as “being at an amusement park,” and “absolutely thrilling,” and shares how much of the Shark Tank scene was script vs. improvisation. Shannon also shares with us a funny story about how she landed her part in Twink Peaks years before she was Molly Shannon from SNL.

You can watch the interview in the player above, or read the full conversation below. For more on A Good Person, which also stars Morgan Freeman and Celeste O’Connor (Ghostbusters: Afterlife), check out Ross Bonaime’s review that suggests this film “…shows growth from Braff as both a writer and director.”

COLLIDER: You’ve had a great career, and I’m curious, if someone has never seen anything you’ve done before, what is the first thing you’d like them watching, and why?

MOLLY SHANNON: Oh, that’s a great question, Steve. God, I love that. I think I really feel so proud of the movie I did with Chris Kelly called Other People. It’s very dramatic. I play the mom dying of cancer, but it’s funny, and I won the Independent Spirit Award for that. So I really feel so proud of that movie, or maybe Superstar, too, because that’s so close to my heart.

Image via Vertical Entertainment

100%. Early in your career, you did an episode of Twin Peaks, which was right at the beginning. Do you remember your experience on that set and how thrilling it was to get a part?

SHANNON: I was so thrilled, and – I actually wrote about this in my memoir – my friend and I couldn’t get in the door to get a break. So we made up this scam that we said we worked for David Mamet, and we would make calls for one another pretending to be agents or pretending to be people that worked with David. We were recommending these young kid actors who we thought were brilliant, and we just made up this whole story to get in the door. And I really wanted to be on Twin Peaks, so I said to my young friend Jean, “Can you call the casting director, Joanna Ray, and get me in because I really want to be on Twin Peaks?”

So he called doing the scam, saying, “This is Arnold Katz calling from David Mamet’s office. We have this young girl, Molly, who we really believe in. We’d love for you to meet her.” And Joanna Ray was like, “I would love to meet Molly!” And so, we got in under that, and then I met her, and she said, “I really want you to meet David, and you’d be so great on the show.” So I got cast on the show through the scam, and as a happy helping hand lady, and it was directed by Caleb Deschanel, and it was like one of my first big parts, and I couldn’t believe it because I would drive by Joanna Ray’s office and kind of where they were shooting, and I was like, “Oh, I really want to be on Twin Peaks.”

So, I kind of visualized it. Isn’t that wild?

First of all, it’s insane because you could never do that today, I don’t think.

SHANNON: Yeah, no, no. We kind of knew that there was no cross-checking with David Mamet, so we thought, “Oh, I don’t know…” We knew that he was more– he wasn’t coming to California too much. So people didn’t have a close relationship with him, but they were such fans of his, so we could get into a lot of different offices.

Jumping into why I get to talk to you, trying to portray addiction, realistic addiction, on-screen can be like touching the third rail because if it doesn’t work, it’s just bad. But Zach did such a great job with this. What was it like for you to read the script for the first time, and see the way he was really trying to present this in an authentic and real way?

SHANNON: I really liked it because I think that, [with] anybody I have known who’s gone through struggling with a loved one with addiction, it’s such a hard roller coaster ride where you feel powerless and you can be like an enabler. You try tough love and nothing’s working. People just don’t know what to do. They feel so helpless. So I thought it was very realistic in that way.

And then, she’s also a mother, and she doesn’t want her daughter to die, and she’s scared. So she gets to a very low point where she’s such an enabler that she goes, “Oh, here, honey, here’s pills. We’ll figure it out. Just take these,” because she doesn’t want her to disappear again, or it’s too scary. I mean, I watch that show Intervention so I feel like I love it, and it really helps you understand the whole– it’s a family disease. It’s a codependence with the addiction, and very hard. And I love Sam, the author Sam Quinones, and I read a lot of his books. I’ve read Dreamland and I like reading about the crisis, and I’m fascinated with it. I read a lot about it during my free time because I find it interesting.

Image via MGM

What was your reaction when you found out you were gonna be, and I rarely say this, but getting to do a scene with Morgan Freeman?

SHANNON: It was, oh my gosh, it was so fantastic, Steve. I felt like it was a dream. I actually couldn’t believe I was in the scene with him, that it was hard to concentrate. It almost felt like a feeling like– I’m doing my lines, but in my head, I’m like, “I had a scene with Morgan Freeman!” It felt like being in an amusement park and going up a roller coaster, like up, up, up, “Here we go!” It kind of felt like that, just like absolutely thrilling. And he’s very kind and so professional, and everything you would want him to be. And there was a moment where we had a little break, and they were fixing the lights, and I said, “I have to tell you, I’m pinching myself. I can’t believe I’m in a scene with you.” And he was just so nice, and he just smiled and was just so sweet.

This is a really funny story, Steve. Actually, my daughter and I went to the wax museum in Hollywood and I took pictures with the Morgan Freeman wax figure, and I old him and he was like, “That’s funny.” So I think I showed him the picture. So it was really funny.

Image via MGM

I like learning about the behind-the-scenes, the making of a show or a movie. Is there anything that you think would surprise people to learn about the making of A Good Person? Anything that a fan of the movie might be interested to learn.

SHANNON: Oh, yeah, let’s see here. Well, I think if you go through something hard and you feel like you made a terrible mistake, and you’re a good person, I think the path to forgive oneself can be a really rocky road, and people can be so hard on themselves. But there are good people who make mistakes and I think you have to have compassion for others and compassion for yourself. And hopefully, if you can get through that, you can come out at the other end a better person, and maybe find forgiveness for yourself and redemption. So, I think the movie does a good job of showing that, and then Morgan Freeman writes a letter at the end talking about embracing your fate, and those ideas

Image via MGM

There’s a scene of you outside Florence’s bedroom, you’ve clearly been drinking, and you are pitching her on why you guys should do Shark Tank. When you’re filming a scene like that, how much is that exactly what Zach wrote, and how much is that a mix of you getting to add a little bit of yourself?

SHANNON: That’s a great question. It’s definitely Zach’s idea of like, “You’re gonna pitch your Shark Tank,” but then he lets me be very loose with it, and I’m drinking, and so I have to be loose with it because she’s like, “That’ll be so fun!” So, he pitched me a couple of ideas, “…And maybe you could say this, or that, or this,” like a couple of different Shark Tank ideas. He let me really kind of improvise that, be pretty loose because she’s kind of drunk and she’s like– you know, the daughter’s in the room doing drugs and I’m out there in my own world with my Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, and, you know, I’m using wine the way she uses drugs. I have my own little release to numb out.

A Good Person is now playing in theaters. Check out our interview with Braff below.

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