Prior to joining the cast of the Hulu comedy Only Murders in the Building, Aaron Dominguez had mainly done guest spots on series like SEAL Team, Shaft, and NCIS: New Orleans, so he was more proficient at drama than comedy. But he isn’t a man to say no to a challenge, so he went for it … besides, how bad can it be to take a role where Selena Gomez plays your girlfriend?
“I am going to be honest with you,” Dominguez told Monsters & Critics. “I try to steer away from comedy because it is scary to me. To make someone laugh is tough already, so imagine having to do that on a grander scale. It can be a little nerve-wracking, so it was definitely a new experience for me that I had to fully lean into.”
Of course, he had the chance to learn from experts: Steve Martin and Martin Short, who have been friends and coworkers for years.
“Their language is best friends,” Dominguez continued. “These guys have been friends more than 35 years and you saw that in their dynamic and chemistry every day you came to work. These guys would try new bits, new jokes, physical things that kept us on our toes and kept the entire room dying laughing. So, every day felt new, every day felt fresh.”
Only Murders in the Building is the story of three residents – Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Gomez, of a posh Upper West Side apartment building in New York City, who come together over their shared love of a true-crime podcast. Then, suddenly, they find themselves caught up in a real-life murder in their building, and when the NYPD writes it off as a suicide – mistakenly in their opinions, they decide to investigate the death themselves.
Short’s character, Oliver Putnam, comes up with the idea to create a podcast from their investigation – he also desperately needs any money they might make — and they are off and running. Oscar (Dominguez) becomes involved because he is a friend of Gomez’s character Mabel Mora since years before when there had been another unexpected death in the building, and Oscar was sent to prison for murder.
In his chat with M&C, Dominguez talks more about working with comic geniuses Martin and Short, playing Gomez’s boyfriend, and how he really feels about true-crime podcasts.
Monsters & Critics: At this point in your career, the power you have is to say no more than the power to say yes, so why did you say yes to Oscar?
Aaron Dominguez: The show is definitely comedy and with the people attached – Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Selena Gomez – they have all done comedy before and done great at it. But the show is also rooted in a lot of drama. I refer to it as a dramedy. The reason I said yes to Oscar is because I fell in love with the character’s background.
Being the son of the superintendent of the building, he comes from a blue-collar background. A hardworking family but growing up in a white-collar world. He can’t fully experience the white-collar world, the upper-middle-class stuff, yet he’s living amongst it. Getting to see his journey unfold when I first read the project was beautiful to me, and then, who wouldn’t want to work with Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Selena Gomez, and Amy Ryan? Sign me up! I will always pick up that call, so huge blessing.
M&C: Oscar has been to prison for a crime we suspect he did not commit, what do you think about his attitude coming out that he isn’t really interested in proving his innocence?
Aaron Dominguez: He doesn’t really care because he comes back in the story having to deal with something similar to that, right? He doesn’t really care for trying to find the murderer of the person who played a factor in him going away for a while. So, within that realm, he’s already been through the ins and outs of things of that nature, so when he comes back into the story, he wants to start fresh again, he has a new chance at life and he’s trying to move forward.
M&C: You mentioned the word master, so was it like a masterclass in comedy, which you were hesitant to take on?
Aaron Dominguez: Absolutely. Once again, that’s what it was every day coming to work. It was a masterclass. It was a huge privilege to me. All I remember is every day setting my intention to being the dumbest person in the room in the sense that I wanted to be a sponge and gain the most that I could from them every day, so going to something like that, a masterclass, especially within the craft and within a realm, like comedy that I really hadn’t sunk my teeth in, I really learned so much from these guys.
That could also be a little nerve-wracking. It was scary at times because I felt like I wasn’t the most suited guy for the job at times but what made it so great working alongside of them was they take the pressure off of whoever is playing opposite them because they bring the comedy. You don’t have to worry about that.
All I had to do was remember to just be in the moment with them, and the rest was history. It was a truly wonderful experience working alongside and opposite those guys. I can’t speak enough on them both.
M&C: Part of the comedy in this is that Steve’s character is so uncool, but in order for him to write it, doesn’t he have to be more cool than he appears?
Aaron Dominguez: Right, what’s funny though, is he is not up to date on some pop culture things. A lot of his character also plays into Steve on a day-to-day basis because he would ask Selena and me questions like what a certain word meant, or what is this new hip thing – whatever it was that came out on the daily, and we would tell him, and he would be like, “I definitely did not know what that was.”
And Martin would come in with a joke playing on Steve’s old age, but they’re relatively the same age [Martin is 76, Short is 71]. They would do that all the time.
M&C: Selena Gomez is much more your contemporary although she has her own stardom. Was it intimidating having her as your girlfriend?
Aaron Dominguez: Initially, when I got the job, of course, there was the curiosity and nervousness around not knowing this person and what it was going to be like to go to work with them. I wasn’t worried so much about the work because the work is always the work, the craft is always the craft. I was just hoping she is as sweet as everyone says she is and as caring and easy to work with … as highly as people speak of her, I was hoping it would translate when I met her, and it definitely was that.
She was one of the best people I have worked with in the sense of when we would play opposite one another in a scene, not only making me, but everyone around feel comfortable. So, whether it was us rehearsing or getting to know one another off set in that friendship so it would end up translating well onto the camera, it all felt genuine. She’s just a genuine, sweet girl. It ended up working perfectly.
M&C: Are you a fan of true crime stories? What are some of your favorites?
Aaron Dominguez: I know true crime fandom is huge, so I can’t call myself a true crime fan, but I think we’ve all gotten bitten by the true crime bug at some point where you want to catch up on a show that’s super current.
I am kind of a wimp, though. I get scared by the crimes that take place. My curiosity or my intrigue to see is more so how they end up solving the cases. When it comes to the crime of it all, I get too into it, and then I start thinking it is happening in real life. “Oh, no, now I got to watch out for this!” The true crime stuff scares me a little.
Only Murders In The Building is currently streaming on Hulu with new episodes every Tuesday.