The following story contains light spoilers for Only Murders in the Building Season 3, Episode 2, “The Beat Goes On.”
WHILE THE MAIN draw to Only Murders in the Building, Hulu’s Emmy-winning hit comedic murder mystery series, has always been its three above-the-line stars (Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Selena Gomez), part of what makes the show a magical, cozy watch is the fact that just about every character, whether played by an A-list star or someone who looks maybe, kinda, familiar, is fully fleshed out and feels like a real relatable person in this world. No one is flat.
So, while Season 3 of Only Murders in the Building does indeed add a couple of A-list legends (in Meryl Streep and Paul Rudd), there are several other less-famous-but-still-wonderful talents who enter the show and immediately feel like characters we know, understand, and want to see more of.
One of the most interesting of those in the early goings is Maxine, a theater critic who clearly goes way back with Oliver Putnam (Short). Maxine and Oliver share a conversation at Ben Glenroy’s (Rudd) funeral that not only tells us a lot about Oliver’s history in the theater world, but also tells us a whole lot about both characters.
Maxine is played by a familiar face, too—the always wonderful Noma Dumezweni—making for ingredients of a dynamic that we’ve only seen a bit of so far, but are eager to see more of as Season 3 progresses.
So who, exactly, is Maxine in Only Murders in the Building Season 3?
While I suspect we’ll see more of Maxine throughout Season 3 of Only Murders in the Building, it’s clear that she’s got a long history with Oliver Putnam; their conversation in “The Beat Goes On” touches on his past plays, and she seems to be able to recall each of them in detail. Oliver also knows her well; her tell, he says, is that when she likes a show, she’ll close her notebook shut.
Maxine is a theater critic though, and it’s clear that she’s a good one—and in this case, she closed her notebook shut because she did not like the show. She was ready to tear Death Rattle to shreds.
When Oliver asked what he did wrong, she tells him: just about everything. But she uses a metaphor that really breaks through: the show didn’t sing. And so Oliver (after a minor heart attack detour!) comes to a realization—Death Rattle needs to sing! And so he decides to transform his murder mystery production from a play into a musical.
Establishing that Maxine is a tough critic is a smart move for Only Murders, because it shows that she’s a straight-shooter, always willing to tell something like it is and not someone who’s going to sugar coat the truth.
So, if Oliver does manage to win Maxine over by the end of the season, you know it’ll be for real—and quite well earned.
Maxine is played by Noma Dumezweni
If Maxine on Only Murders in the Building looked familiar, it’s because she’s played by actress Noma Dumezweni. You may not know her name, but you’ve likely seen her in one project or another over the last few years.
While the South African-British actress has primarily been known for her work on the stage (She won Laurence Olivier Awards for roles in both A Raisin in the Sun and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child), she’s also become an increasingly prominent figure in American film and television over the last few years. Just this summer she appeared in Disney’s live-action adaptation of The Little Mermaid as Queen Selina, and she’ll next appear alongside Liam Neeson in Retribution, just to name a couple.
She’s been even more prolific on television of late. Fans of HBO’s murder mystery The Undoing will recognize her as the talented/expensive lawyer Haley Fitzerald. She also appeared as a main cast member on Max’s sci-fi/comedy series Made for Love and Netflix’s fictionalized true crime story The Watcher.
Up next, you’ll see her alongside Jake Gyllenhaal in the Apple TV+ version of Presumed Innocent (based on the 1987 novel of the same name, which previously spawned a 1990 film adaptation starring Harrison Ford). The limited series is written by her old The Undoing friend David E. Kelley.
Evan is the culture editor for Men’s Health, with bylines in The New York Times, MTV News, Brooklyn Magazine, and VICE. He loves weird movies, watches too much TV, and listens to music more often than he doesn’t.