Martin Short Says It’s ‘Coincidental’ Meryl Streep Joined ‘Only Murders’ (Exclusive)

Meryl Streep called Martin Short up one day, raving about Only Murders in the Building and asking for a part in the new season — it was just “coincidental” that they were looking for a romantic interest for his character at the same time. 

“The story with Meryl is she phoned me and said, ‘I want to be on it,’” Short, 74, tells PEOPLE during an interview at Harrah’s Resort SoCal, where he was sworn in as the mayor of Funner, California on May 13. 

“They already planned that I would have a theatrical experience and there would be a love interest,” he says of how Streep, 74, came to join the hit Hulu series — which Short stars in alongside its creator and his close friend, Steve Martin — as Broadway star Loretta Durkin. “So that was coincidental, but she just wanted to be on the show. She didn’t know about [the love story].”

Speaking to the slew of other stars who have also joined the show throughout its three seasons, Short says, ​​”The writing is so good, and the directing, and the execution of the show is so good that it makes people say, ‘Oh, I want to be on it.’ ”

Since she joined the series — which she’s returning to for season 4, as was confirmed in February — speculation has arisen about the nature of Streep’s relationship with her costar, who she seemed particularly close to at the 2024 Golden Globes. 

A rep for Short told PEOPLE in January that the pair are “just very good friends, nothing more,” and the actor later shut down the claims again on Bill Maher’s podcast, as he said he and Streep are “not a couple, we are just very close friends.”

Meryl Streep and Martin Short at the 81st Annual Golden Globe Awards, airing live from the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, California on Sunday, January 7, 2024.

Todd Williamson/CBS via Getty 

Now, Short says of the interest in his relationship with Streep — who PEOPLE confirmed in October had separated from her husband of 45 years, Don Gummer, six years ago: “It’s always interesting. Show business relationships and spec.”

As for whether he feels weird being asked about it, he says, “No.”

“She’s fabulous. There’s no one who doesn’t adore her,” he notes.

When the Mamma Mia! star joined the show last year, Short admits he found himself a bit more nervous heading to set than usual. 

“I remember driving to work and thought, ‘Gee, this is odd. I’m a little bit [nervous]. Oh, of course! I’m going to do a two-person scene with Meryl.’”

Meryl Streep and Martin Short at the AFI Awards 2024.

Michael Buckner/Variety via Getty

Nowadays, those nerves are gone. “It’s a very, very, very loose, fun-filled set,” he shares. “I think everyone has the same review of that working on the show — that it’s really fun and loose — and that’s kind of the philosophy of Steve, the way he’s always worked, and so is Selena [Gomez].”

“Everyone works in joy and happiness, because we’re lucky people,” he says of the Hulu dramedy, which returns for season 4 on August 27.

Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE’s free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer​​, from celebrity news to compelling human interest stories. 

All three seasons of Only Murders in the Building are now streaming on Hulu.

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