If you’re here on AwardsWatch then it’s probably safe to say that you’re obsessed with the Oscars and have been for a very long time (to date, there is no known cure). Well, have I got something for you.
If you don’t already listen, I have your newest podcast obsession about your favorite subject: the Best Actress Oscar. The Just To Be Nominated: An Awards Season Murder Mystery podcast isn’t simply a chat about the Academy Awards, it’s a murder mystery at the Academy Awards with a delicious meta twist. Think Clue meets Serial meets Little Gold Men. Here’s the set up:
Riley Audrey won the Academy Award for Best Actress after a long and arduous campaign. Later that night, she was found dead in a hotel room. Someone was not happy with her win.
Leo Gold and Terri McPherson are the hosts of the popular award prediction podcast “Just to Be Nominated.” And they believe they hold the key to solve Riley’s death. Week by week, they’ll go back to listen to interviews they did with the major players and contenders of a controversial award season, and try to put the pieces together of who killed Riley Audrey.
Just To Be Nominated is a Kingdom of Pavement production and available on Spotify, Apple or wherever you listen to podcasts. New episodes land bi-monthly on Thursday and the first two are out and ready for listening and stars Anouk Samuel as Riley Audrey, Drew Droege, Adam Faison, Gabriela Ortega, Sid Phoenix plus Brendan Scannell and Zach Noe Towers as Leo Gold & Terri McPherson and many more.
I interviewed Jorge Molina, the creator, writer and director of the Just To Be Nominated podcast about what inspired his love of the Oscars, the incredible cast he’s assembled, some of his favorite Oscar campaign seasons and everything you’ll want to know about his passion project. I have provided an audio version as well as a written one for your needs and/or pleasure.
Erik Anderson: Hi there and welcome to something a little different. It’s a hybrid of sorts of the AwardsWatch Oscar podcast and a sit-down interview. Joining me today is the creator, writer, and director of a brand New podcast that is going to be your new obsession. Just To Be Nominated: An Awards Season Murder Mystery is a murder mystery at the Oscars and I’ll read you the log line just to whet your appetite a little bit.
“Riley Audrey won the Academy Award for Best Actress after a long and arduous campaign. Later that night, she was found dead in a hotel room. Someone was not happy with her win.”
Please welcome, Jorge Molina.
Jorge Molina: Hi. Wow, what an intro. That was everything I’ve ever dreamed of. How are you?
I’m good. How are you doing?
JM: I am good, honored to be here and to have a chat with you, but I’m doing well. As well as one can be these days, which is getting slightly better.
Exactly. A little bit better by the day.
JM: By the day.
Before we jump right into the podcast, let’s talk a little bit about you, Jorge.
What in your-
JM: My favorite thing to talk about.
Exactly! What in your youth made you gravitate toward the Oscars and award season besides homosexuality?
JM: I mean, yes, I was going to say just being a baby gay.
No, I mean, there’s… I don’t know. I mean, it’s truly I just cannot pinpoint the moment it became something I was attracted to. I remember in fifth grade our teacher made us, give a presentation about whatever we wanted to just to give out public speaking skills and just to get us practicing, and I just remember thinking without a doubt, I want to do it about the history of the Oscars. I don’t know where it came from. I don’t know who Inception-ed that into me. So, I remember caring more about the stats of the Oscars before I even care about movies. So, that was, I don’t know. It was something I watched as a kid every year.
The thing that really kind of made me go really deep was the year that being Iñárritu, Del Toro and Cuarón were all nominated the same year for various projects. I think that was ’06? And because the friends back in Mexico, I’m from Mexico for everyone who doesn’t know, was just so high that all three directors had gotten a large number of nominations for the projects. The media just started publishing and the movie film magazine that I subscribed to did this whole issue about predictions and really got me into like, oh, this is what following an Oscar race looks like, and that kind of just grabbed me from then on. So I guess it was, patriotism (laughs).
I think it’s, besides being in our DNA, which I really feel like it is because I-
JM: I feel some scientists need to look at that.
I think so, because I think watching the Oscars is probably my earliest memory as a child, but I think we’re also too, we’re looking for some type of representation and I’m glad that you brought up the thing that really kind of kicked it off for you because I think any of us that aren’t conformed into a very traditional straight, white, cis male demographic don’t get to see ourselves represented at the Oscars and it ends up being this kind of push and pull relationship where we-
JM: Oh, totally. I mean, it’s that feeling of, there’s a lot of like underdogs winning and narrative plays such a big role in getting what it’s due, and I remember one of the earliest, or a moment I vividly remember, which is the most random win, but I remember when A Series of Unfortunate Events won best production design. A very random win, but I was a very big fan of the books, it’s still one of my all-time favorite series books, and I just remember when it won it gave me this sense of validation that like, oh, what you like it’s being awarded by other people, and that means that what you like is okay.
So it’s that sense of being vindicated and like, oh, okay. I don’t know, it’s weird, which I don’t know… A lot of it with the queer experience, and again, someone write an academic thesis paper on this.
Let’s dive into, to quote the podcast itself.
Tell me a little bit about its inception and just the creation of it.
JM: Yes. I’ve always wanted to write something set in the world of award campaigning. I’ve always felt it’s such a fertile ground for drama and for conflict and for tension and for big persona, so I knew there was a story to be told there. And for a while, I just I couldn’t find an entry point to it, what format would it look like? I was like, is this a Veep type of satire with that? Is this like a Scandal type of situation? What is it?
So I never could find an entry point, and then a couple of years ago I was working on another project, another script that was very much inspired by Agatha Christine and like murder mystery, so I very much dove into that world for that other project, and I just was in that head space rereading a lot of books, watching a lot of the movies, and so then when I was in that world, this other… I don’t know. When I pulled back the idea of the award campaign, I started thinking about it and the two had a lot of things in common. The two had a lot of similar themes about, betrayal and legacy and character archetypes and how do people feel this character archetypes, and failing expectations. So I don’t know, it made sense to combine them. A lot of similar sensibility, so it’s like intersect the two.
So I started developing this as a pilot actually, and then I got put in touch with a production company that was taking pitches for scripted podcasts, and they were like, “Do you think this idea could work as a podcast?” and I thought about it and I sat down with it and as you know, better than a lot of people, podcasting is such a huge part of Oscar punditry world. It’s so ingrained in the culture that it was like, Oh, this is actually a great framing device to tell the story.
So I told them the idea, they really liked it, this company called Kingdom of Pavement who has been awesome, and they were like, “Okay, now, go and make it.” So that was kind of how it all started. So now it was just like, okay, what are the key players that usually coming in in an award season? You helped me out very early on. I put together a panel of friends that I know that are Oscar pundits and very into the Oscar knowledge to help me figure out, before I even got into the murder, what a fake award season would look like and what the key players would be. So that was the inception of it.
Yeah. And I remember that well.
JM: Yeah, it’s a lot of fun. It was a fun couple of hours we all had.
One of the great things I like how this has turned out is that it’s sort of a podcast in a podcast because the podcast itself is an Oscar podcast.
It’s the murder mystery that is then imposed on that and your hosts, Leo Gold and Terri McPherson, who are hilarious.
JM: Oh yeah, we love them.
They sort of task themselves as detectives to figure this out, which I can’t think of a funnier thing than an Oscar pundit who wants to insert themselves into the race.
Because that’s what we do sometimes.
JM: Exactly. Yeah. I mean, I was just like who… Because I also was like, “Who would have the most information that would help them decipher and these people that year-round, not just during Oscar season but on the off-season they with so much detail and tooth-combing the season, that they would have the facts of what this looked like. So it felt very natural to kind of frame it in that way.
It is, it’s perfect framing, and speaking of detail, in these 20 plus minutes, you don’t miss the details of these races and specifically best actress because obviously we are talking about the best actress race here.
JM: Oh yeah, totally. I knew I had to focus on a single season. I mean, it would have been so much fun to craft an entire season with every single category, but I mean, I knew I had to focus on one. But yeah, I tried to make it as all encompassing of what one would see in any given Oscar race with the types of characters and the people. The Meryl Streep, who’s obviously always going to be in the race, and she’s the only real person amidst a bunch of fictional characters.
JM: Sure is.
And I swear to God, I just re-listened to episode one again, and her film Simpatico which is called “Hereditary meets an Activia commercial,” I am dying every single time.
JM: Yeah, it was a lot. Yeah, that was fun. And yeah, so the way I did it, it’s just like, I came up with this character archetypes. I gave them an extensive backstory, which was a lot of fun to write, and then kind of plotted this intricate murder mystery around them. But the actual podcast and the interviews you hear are almost entirely improv-ed by the actors who I just gave the backstory of the characters and the facts that they needed to convey in order for the mystery to make sense at the end. But a lot of them is like, it’s them.
The Hereditary meets Activia, that was Zach’s line, and I also wanted to bring a lot of people that have comedic backgrounds and improv backgrounds to help riff. The Drew Droege episode, which is episode two, we have fully I’d say like 40 more minutes of footage we just couldn’t because he’s such a brilliant performer that we just wanted to have more takes with him because he just kept going and I didn’t want him to stop.
Between Drew Droege’s character and the clip from her film, I just… it’s life, upon life, upon life. “The poetry is the tasteful nudity of lit-er-a-ture.” I fed on that for days. It’s phenomenal.
JM: No, he’s brilliant. And I knew him because a few years ago he did a reading for one of my scripts when I was developing this and I had this character because I knew I had to have an overdue Hollywood legend.
Who shall almost remain nameless, but not-
JM: Yeah exactly. (laughs)
She’s name-dropped in the podcast. (laughs)
JM: It rhymes with Blem Blose. And yeah so I started crafting this character and we were trying to cast because we did like half people I knew and then we just open cast and we couldn’t find the right person and then I don’t know, it just hit me that Drew has to play this. And I reached out to him and I’m like, “How would you feel playing Glenn Close via Faye Dunaway? And he was just like, “I’m in. Don’t tell me more,” and he just ran with it and that’s such a fun… But everyone, I mean there’s seven more episodes to come with this whole array of different characters and personas and people you would encounter on any given season.
Yes. I was going to ask about your casting process anyway and since we’re already kind of in that, what more can you talk about the casting process?
JM: Yeah. I mean, again, a lot of it was just reaching out to people I knew that I feel would connect with the project and also it was back during late summer, early fall so I knew a lot of… fortunately a lot of people had availabilities, a lot of actors. So, I knew Brendan, Brendan Scannell who plays Leo. I knew him from, I worked in the Heathers reboot a little bit so he and I knew each other from then. I knew Zach from Twitter and we just had hung out a couple of times and then a few friends. The next episode that’s dropping episode three, which is Diana, she’s one of my closest friends from college, first, she was an acting major.
So a few people that I knew from college, people from other shorts that I had done, and then the ones that, you know… I did not know anyone personally who could do a pretentious French director, so we opened that a little more to open casting we asked for improv background and whatnot. So it was a very standard, half standard casting and a half work with people you like and know. And friend of a friend knew Adam Faison and he really liked the project and he’s great. His character is this betrayed boyfriend, Riley’s boyfriend, who’s being left behind. As her star rises, his is being left behind so he had a lot of fun with that. So yeah, it was like working with people I wanted to work with.
Speaking of Riley Audrey, who is our dead starlet here.
JM: She is, yeah.
Is she based on anybody, more of an amalgam?
JM: Not anyone in particular. There isn’t like a… There’s not the one-to-one almost that there is with Christine and like Blem Blose. No, so I just have noticed that for the past decade or so, these young, naive, wide-eyed young women, ended up usually being the front-runners of the races and a lot of their campaign is based on how relatable and how charming they are and that’s kind of like the personality and the person that I’m thinking.
You know, Jennifer Lawrence, Brie Larson, Emma Stone, Anne Hathaway in supporting, but, this was lead. So I based it more on the archetype of the young, fresh, female Oscar winner, and that’s what I did with a lot of the characters. It was less about basing it on a specific person and more a type that you would find. So like there’s a character that’s the real-life person that Riley played, so that was the Philomenas the real Captain Phillips that are just paraded through these red carpets. The Temple Grandins, which is like the blueprint of it. So it was based on that type of person.
It’s perfect because I think the stat is that the average age of a Best Actress winner is 29 years old.
So ideal, it’s perfect.
JM: Yeah, and then I was thinking like, how would they… A lot of them, probably these ladies, started in TV and they just made a jump, so also try to bring a lot of that into it, and what does it mean to make a serious jump, because Riley started in this kind of Riverdale, Vampire Diaries type of show, and now she’s being taken seriously. So what does that mean? So it… Yeah.
It’s kind of perfect that you are two episodes in, because as we record this, this week the actual Oscar nominations were announced.
JM: They were, yes.
I looked at the list and then I thought about the podcast, and so I want to ask you who you think would be the most likely candidate to suffer the fate of Riley Audrey?
JM: To be murdered? Oh, God. I mean, if we shift from Lead Actress to Supporting Actress, I feel like if a Maria Bakalova or I feel like even an Amanda Seyfried ends up winning, she probably would have gotten the chop and not saying because there’s a other certain nominee, but because it does correlate very nicely. I mean, I’d love to see Olivia Coleman as a murder suspect, you know?
Yeah, I think the Supporting Actress nominees handed you a wonderful gift.
JM: Exactly, because there’s even the foreign nominee, so yeah, that would be an interesting thing. And Lead Actress, I mean, there’s a lot of… If Carey ended up winning, I could see her getting it, or if Vanessa. I mean, Frances has murder in her eyes, so you know, it’s…
I’m sure she has before.
JM: Yeah, and I would let Viola Davis as murder me, so it’s…
And she would get away with it.
JM: Exactly. She knows enough about it. So yeah, I would do that. Of the men, I don’t care about them, so I don’t want to get into it.
It really, really does not matter. No, no. What have been some of your favorite Oscar races in the past?
JM: Ooh. Oh, I wish I had… Okay.
I probably should have helped you prep on this, because I- (laughs)
JM: Yeah, no. I would have opened up my archives. Let me try to think. I really liked the 2017 Oscar race that ended up with Shape of Water winning. I feel that was just a weird, uncertain race, and I always think it’s funny when people look back on it and mention that movie as the safe choice. I was like, “Have you seen the movie?” And that also had like the whole Laurie Metcalf, Allison Janney of it all which the gay Twitter wars were all about that.
JM: So that was a fun race to follow of recent years. I mean, if we go back, I’m very invested in the Baby Jane Oscar year, because that’s, I mean, talk about conflict and drama and something that would translate well, if one of them had ended up dead. So those are coming to mind, I’m sure I would have much better options if I had more time to think about it.
Yeah, I should have let you prep.
JM: Yeah. That’s fine.
That’s very bad on me. Well, what can we expect on the next and in future episodes of Just to Be Nominated without getting too spoiler-y?
JM: No, no, no. There’s not… I mean, there’s still a bunch… Because I’ve had people reach out, I mean and I love that they do that, with their theories of who they think did it. And I mean, we have just barely scratched the surface, there’s a lot more people to come. Every episode is based around a different suspect, and every episode we see a bit more of the night colored in and where everyone was, so I would say don’t, you know… There’s more people to bring into the circle of who might’ve been and don’t rule anyone out.
That sounds good to me.
JM: Yeah. That’s what I can say, and yeah, I mean, there’s so much great vocal talent coming and different kinds of interviews, and we’ve been adding a lot more of the fake movie clips because we really like how those were so we’ve been implementing a lot more of that dynamism to it. So be on the lookout for more fun. When I say there’s a fake Riverdale show, maybe you’ll get to hear a little bit of it. So it’s… Yeah, it’s a lot of fun that’s coming and I hope people keep enjoying it.
I hope so too. I think they will. Jorge, tell people where they can find the podcast.
JM: It’s on everywhere you listen to podcasts. Just to Be Nominated: An Award Season Murder Mystery. We are on Twitter and Instagram at @JTBNpodcast so please follow us. We post fun, our graphic designer is amazing, so we just been vomiting a lot of really cool art that he’s made for us. And yeah, please reach out with any theories you may have, thoughts, and I am on both of those platforms at @colormejorge.
Yes, at the end of each of the podcasts, you list off the socials and the “at”s of everybody on the show including it’s a Kingdom of Pavement production, so please listen all the way through, because if you don’t sit for the credits of a movie-
JM: Also, you won’t hear my lovely voice.
JM: That’s where you can find us and we air every other week.
Yeah. So episode three is coming soon, episode one and two are already available.
JM: One and two, episode three air Thursday, March… Let me just look at my calendar. Thursday, March 25th, and then every other week you will see it on your app.
Perfect. All right. Jorge, thank you so much.
JM: No, thank you for having me. This was delightful.
This was wonderful. This was really fun. All right, well, best of luck.
Just To Be Nominated is a Kingdom of Pavement production and available on Spotify, Apple or wherever you listen to podcasts. New episodes land bi-monthly on Thursday and the first two are out and ready for listening.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.