Maya Rudolph: Respect for Loot

Billionaire Molly Novak (Maya Rudolph) has a dream life, complete with private jets, a sprawling mansion and a gigayacht – but when her husband of 20 years (Adam Scott) betrays her, she is left nursing a broken heart with US$89 billion in the bank, assuaging her pain by making charitable donations.

This is the premise of Alan Yang and Matt Hubbard’s new series, Loot.

It’s hard not to immediately think of Amazon tycoon Jeff Bezos’ 2019 divorce and his ex-wife MacKenzie Scott’s subsequent philanthropy but, in the hands of Yang and Hubbard, it instead strikes a funny, bittersweet and almost redemptive chord.

Besides, when we spoke to them, they both insisted that Loot’s Molly Novak is a composite character, owing to the high billionaire divorce rate. Who knew?

Rudolph, 49, has been a mainstay of US comedies for more than two decades, although rarely are her unique talents given a solo spotlight.

The daughter of composer Richard Rudolph and singer Minnie Riperton, Rudolph is a veteran of Saturday Night Live; her spoof of US Vice-President Kamala Harris earning her an Emmy.

Married to director Paul Thomas Anderson, the mother of four has featured in numerous films including Bridesmaids, Grown Ups and Inherent Vice and The Way, Way Back, as well as lending her voice to animation movies Big Hero 6, Luca, Mitchells vs. the Machines and Angry Birds.

FilmInk sits down with Rudolph to discuss betrayal and billions.

Molly is a newly divorced billionaire who quickly learns that all the money in the world cannot fill the void in her heart, quickly becoming tabloid fodder for her public meltdowns. How do you avoid the obvious cliches in portraying her?

“Molly is somebody who didn’t really get a chance to figure out what she wanted to do when she grew up. Her life changed because of her husband’s success, and she’s been living a very insular life that only billionaires lead. She never asked herself the hard questions like, ‘What do I want to do?’ The series really starts off with her life completely changing, her figuring out those things, answering those questions for herself and trying to piece together a new life.”

And of course, audiences are fascinated by extreme wealth?

“With rich people, we can live vicariously through their lives and see things that we wouldn’t normally. We all want to know what it’s like to be so rich that you don’t have any worries and I think the extravagance of the life of a billionaire does sound fantastical. Some people flaunt it and that can be a really fun and bizarre world to look at with bright cars, huge homes and all the extravagance. When we were talking about this series, we were talking about people who eat rare exotic animals just because they can or flying things and owning things because they can.”

I’m sure in your professional career, you’ve met lots of incredibly wealthy people. Did any particular person shape your performance?

“I can’t say firsthand that I’ve ever met anyone quite like Molly. I think we all assume when we hear about these billionaires being so out of touch and what that must be like. People have asked, what are these Real Housewives sort of women like, who just have no idea how the other half lives… There’s such an enormous amount of wealth going on in the world and people flaunting it that you see that very shiny version of that, whether it’s on TV or online, but I think that the most important thing to me was not creating someone who was unlikable. I think I really wanted to figure out how – and it was hard – to make someone truly out of touch, not a despicable person and sort of having some core values that were relatable. So, it was more based on just real life things as opposed to one person.”

Was there much improvisation?

“There was maybe a little bit of a buzz, but it was pretty much on paper. I think maybe early on, here and there, like telling Seal to shut up … I think that kind of just flew out of my mouth, which was really fun to say and got a really good reaction from Seal. I apologised to him after, but yeah, that was fun.”

Molly finds her exact opposite in Michaela Jaé Rodriguez’ no-nonsense Sofia Salinas who runs Molly’s charitable non-profit and is all about helping the under-privileged, something which Molly is clueless about. How do they relate to each other?

“I think we were trying to find the funny moments in somebody like Molly not being able to relate to what we all know as the real world and finding the funny parts of that, but also seeing her adapt slowly. Obviously, not everyone has a dog groomer that lives with them or a personal chef or a butler, and just to show how out of touch she’s been for so long… And then watching her slowly figure out how to actually be a real functioning person in the world. There’s so much to do with that. I think we wanted to see the differences in order to find the comedy.”

These two women have things to learn from each other. What did you enjoy most about their dynamic?

“I think it’s so unexpected for both of them that they needed each other in their lives. And the ability to let someone else in, and them aligning. It feels very powerful in the show as well. Because they see each other’s strengths and they see the other person as someone who helps build them up as being vital to their lives. I think that’s such a wonderful thing to showcase and I love showcasing women supporting each other.”

What was the most challenging part of bringing Molly to life?

“For me, it was challenging to make sure that Molly was relatable because she was somebody starting off so out of touch. I wanted to make her someone who was relatable, but also at the same time not unlikable. And that is a hard place to go. So, it’s just a fine line of figuring out how to make somebody out of touch, not be a jerk, really, and watch them learn and become adaptive to their surroundings and also figure out what kind of person they would prefer to be.”

What is the takeaway for Loot?

“I think that it’s good to talk about the problems that we have. Especially, I find so many conversations with other women so helpful. And so, we’re looking at a woman whose life is in crisis. The end of her marriage completely changes her and it’s unexpected. And this idea that life isn’t always what we plan for it to be. And what we choose to do with that is so important. And really talking about it. I don’t feel like we talk about things enough. I feel like there’s a shame involved in feeling like you’re undesirable and someone wanted to leave you, so you’re asking yourself the hard questions like ‘Who did I want to be before I grew up?’ and ‘Am I that person?’ and those are all really important places to look at and talk about.”

What did you learn from Molly’s journey to regain her sense of self?

“I think any time in your life when you can be reminded that it’s your life for the taking and that you really want to make sure that you are living the life that you have intended or that you want or that you’ve chosen… If you have the ability to do so, it’s so important. And also, I think, just in terms of relating to other people, I’ve never been the boss of a company in the way that Molly is, but carrying the show in this way, was new for me and I really wanted to make sure that the whole group’s happiness was taken into consideration. It’s important to me being a cast member or someone in production, and I find that respect is so important, and there isn’t enough of it. I’ve personally been on the other side, and it’s so valuable when I’ve been shown respect from my boss or my peers and just wanting to make sure people are comfortable and happy and safe. All of that is really important to me. It’s like I would make a terrible dinner party host because I want to make sure everyone’s happy. So that’s why I don’t throw parties…”

Loot premieres Friday, June 24, 2022 on Apple TV+

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