When Peggy Tachdjian joined Only Murders in the Building along with editors as a first-time editor of the comedy mystery series in its second season, she was already a huge fan of the cast.
The show, which stars Steve Martin, Martin Short and Selena Gomez, follows a trio of neighbors who live in the Arconia and come together to create their own podcast in order to solve the murder of a different resident each season. While season one focused on the murder of Tim Kono, season two brings viewers into the life of another resident, Bunny Folger.
The show has consistently received critical acclaim and was nominated for 17 Emmys in its first season, while it is currently nominated for 11 this year.
Recently, Peggy spoke with Below-The-Line about her work on the Emmy-nominated series in which she received a nomination for her editing work on the episode, “The Last Day of Bunny Folger,” in the second season.
Below the Line: Congratulations on your nomination. How do you feel?
Peggy Tachdjian Excited. Really, really, really excited. I was very surprised. I voted in that category and I saw how many amazing episodes of comedy series and not-so-comedy series—dark comedy series—were up for nomination and I knew it would be a tough category so it was really exciting to get the nomination.
BTL: How did you first become involved with the show?
Tachdjian: I actually got a call about the show before the first season had aired. They were already starting to staff up for the next season. They had reached out to me, and all that was out was a trailer and as soon as I saw it—with Martin Short and Steve Martin—I’d grown up watching them and then you add this element of Selena Gomez—and my interest was piqued and I was totally on board. It didn’t seem like the scheduling was going to work originally so I sort of recommended somebody else for them to meet with, and their schedule got pushed, and they reached back out and then I just interviewed with everyone.
They had gotten my name from a producer I’d worked with before who had recommended me to them because it’s the same post team as This is Us and a producer and friend of mine had worked on the last season of This is Us so she’d recommended me very highly, I guess, because they reached back out and I was so glad they did because then I was able to work on it this show and it was awesome.
BTL: Did you find any challenges with coming into the second season especially when the show already has an established tone in its first season?
Tachdjian: Definitely. I mean, I think those were big shoes to fill. They’d done such an incredible job editing the first season. They set such an amazing pace and tone so it was definitely about figuring out how to match that, but also bringing our own thing for all the season two edits because all the season two editors were actually new. We all kind of were in it together trying to figure out how to keep that original tone, but the story had evolved. And in season two, we do a lot of more personal and emotional stories and there was a lot more room to play with tone and pacing. So it really was just dependent on the episode that you’ve got, trying to match that first season. I think we watched it a lot.
We all talked about what we liked and what was working and what we knew wouldn’t work for us. A big part of what changed in season two is we knew that the score had to evolve to meet those emotional moments a little bit better just because there were so many more of them. So, you know, you have the score from season one to play with while you’re cutting season two, but it might not fit exactly how you wanted and our composer, Siddartha Khosla, is brilliant and was able to elevate that season one score and help make those emotional connections between characters.
BTL: Did you read the script before? How did you approach this episode where it came to giving Bunny more depth as a character?
Tachdjian: I definitely read the script before I started cutting it. As soon as I got the script before they started shooting it, I knew that this episode would be a little bit different than the usual “Only Murders” episode and that’s sort of what I love about it. It just feels like this little capsule episode where you really get to dive into who Bunny was. You get a real sense of her almost immediately from her friendships and her day-to-day life. It was definitely a challenge knowing that at the end of season one, we leave and everyone kind of hates Bunny, right? She’s this annoying person who wants to kick out the trio podcasters kicked out of the building.
I knew that it would be a different episode. I knew that it would be a slower episode. There’s a lot of melancholy, which you could read even in the script. Once I started getting the dailies and I saw Jayne Houdyshell’s performance as Bunny Folger, she was so humanized, but she was also so relatable. Everybody has these moments of feeling left out or unliked, or feeling purposeless. It was just really fun to kind of get into her brain and figure out how to make the audience fall in love with her by the end of the episode, so that you’re ready to avenge her death moving forward in the season.
BTL: I definitely love this episode. I love how you see Bunny’s daily interactions with Uma and other residents in the building or the waiter she meets when she goes out to eat. Who did you work closely with to make sure you were all on the same page for the vision of this episode?
Tachdjian: The director, Jude Weng, gets the first pass at it. She was awesome. There was so much great footage to pick from which was really lucky for me with my first episode on only murders. she just had really nice, beautiful shots, beautiful coverage and beautiful performances out of everybody. We work really closely with John Hoffman, our showrunner. He’s one of the creators of the show and he is very particular. He knows what he likes, but he’s also open to ideas.
There was a lot of playing around, especially with that final sequence in “The Last Day of Bunny Folger,” trying to figure out how to tell the story of Bunny’s murder, and making it feel really emotional, but also make it feel exciting. Viewers are getting new information, even though we know that by the end of this episode, she’s going to die. It’s called “The Last Day of Bunny Folger,” right? But how do we get there? It wasn’t in the script, but we decided to cut in some pieces from the finale of season one where the trio is up on the roof after the Tim Kono case and they’re up on the roof celebrating.
So, we kind of intercut that with Bunny alone in her apartment as we see the killer coming off the elevator and then also deciding that even after that moment, the show is supposed to end with the shot of the bird in the room as she’s getting murdered in the shadows, but we just felt like it needed a little something more so we added some footage from episode one where Mabel [portrayed by Gomez] remembers trying to go to her apartment and finding Bunny, so we added that first moment where she sees Bunny and gasps and you go out on her gasp.
All of that was really crafted in post with John Hoffman in talking about how to make it more emotional and how to reconnect it to the story that we’re telling for the whole season, not just for the episode, so that you leave the episode remembering that this is also Mabel’s story, and figuring out what happened in that moment when she found Bunny in her apartment, so I thought that was really cool. T wouldn’t have happened without this back and forth between me and John.
BTL: I know you edited a few other episodes from this season as well. When it comes to I know episodes that are about half an hour long, how long does it take you to work on each episode?
Tachdjian: You start with dailies as they’re shooting. At the end of each day, they send you the footage. They shoot—I believe for the show—it was eight days per episode. After those dailies, you have a couple of days to put your cut together. You’re cutting it as you’re getting in, and then you have a few more days to polish, add music, make it really shine, and then you send it to your director. And then your director gets a few days with it. You go back and forth on notes. Once the director is signed off on their director’s cut, you send that off to the producers.
We have three producers that weigh in at that point, John Hoffman, our showrunner, and Dan Fogelman, and Jess Rosenthal. They all start sending notes. And then it’s about finding a way to do all their notes so that everybody agrees and everybody feels good about it. It’s probably a month on each episode just putting it together. And then another couple of weeks in the finishing process of working out the VFX and the mix and the color and all that. We probably spend like an intense month on each episode and continue to tinker with it as network notes come in, and other people start weighing in.
BTL: Did you have a favorite scene you worked on?
Tachdjian: Oh, that’s tough. I have a lot. It’s such a small scene, but I love that scene with Bunny and Uma, where they’re walking on the street and she kind of tells her best friend that she’s thinking about retiring and moving to Florida and it sort of ends with this like loving “Fuck you.” It’s so sweet. They’re these, like, sassy, older ladies that are cursing at each other. But also, you can really feel the love and I thought both Jackie Hoffman and Jayne Houdyshell just performed it so well. It’s such a short scene, but I just really loved cutting it. I just felt really good. I don’t know that we had many notes on it, because it was just such a perfect little nugget, you know?
What else did I love? Oh, you know, the first scene with the trio that we see in the episode where they’re kind of launching the episode and saying, “What does your last day on Earth look like?” You know, that whole scene was really fun. Because it was the first time I was getting to experience the trio and editing them the way that I would. They’re all magnetic and electrifying, and they’re just like such great characters. I could have sat and watched those dailies forever. It was so fun. There’s so much dialogue and so much talking, and they’re moving around the room, and they’re talking to a bird and you’ve got bird POV shots. It was just so fun to play with all of that and figure out how I was going to introduce them in this episode and how to really launch into Bunny’s story so I think that was really fun for me. Honestly, they’re all so fun. I loved her retirement party too. I still chuckle when I think about Howard scribbling notes during the retirement party. I just think there’s a lot of really great nuggets in this episode.
BTL: You said earlier that you’re such a big fan of Steve Martin and Martin Short. Did you actually have the chance to meet them when you worked on the show?
Tachdjian: We’re on a lot of Zooms and ADR sessions with them, but I didn’t really get to meet them until the premiere party of season two, and I got to meet them and they’re all just so lovely and so appreciative. Martin Short joked when he first met me and the other two editors that he had notes. He was just teasing. He was just really sweet and lovable and they’re exactly what you think they would be. It’s such a supportive cast that when the director calls cut, you can hear people cheering other people’s performances or doubling over in laughter because someone just said something really funny at the end of the scene. It’s just such a great camaraderie on that set. It really hops through in dailies.
BTL: You’re returning for season three. Without any spoilers, is there anything that you’re particularly excited for for this season or that you’re excited for viewers to see? Or that you’re looking forward to that you’re allowed to share?
Tachdjian: Oh my god, it’s a huge season. I can tell you that. I think everybody knows at this point we added Meryl Streep and Paul Rudd to the cast and we have our supporting cast. All our guest stars are Jessie Williams and Ashley Park. Matthew Broderick, makes an appearance. Tina Fey comes back as Cindy Canning. It’s just a wild ride. It’s definitely a little bit more outside of the Arconia and in the theater. We’re watching Oliver [portrayed by Short] try to launch and resurrect his play now that his leading man is gone. It’s a really fun season and a lot to look forward to. Each episode just keeps getting better and better.
The Emmy-nominated Only Murders in the Building is now available to stream on Hulu.