EXCLUSIVE: Inside The Mansion’s Transformation for Starring Role in ‘Only Murders’

'Only Murders in the Building films inside The Mansion diner/Upper East Site
'Only Murders in the Building films inside The Mansion diner/Upper East Site

MANHATTAN – To Yorkville residents, The Mansion restaurant is a true neighborhood staple. Occupying the corner of York Avenue and East 86th street for the last 76 years, The Mansion is continuing to reinvent itself and ‘keep things fresh’. By fresh, we’re referring to the local favorite being the hosts and starring in the hit TV show ‘Only Murders in the Building.’

Starring Selena Gomez, Steve Martin and Martin Short, ‘Only Murders in the Building’ is a record-breaking comedy series, setting a viewership record for Hulu as the most-watched comedy premiere on the platform. 

The Mansion restaurant serves as set for Hulu series 'Only Murders in the Building'
The Mansion restaurant serves as set for Hulu series ‘Only Murders in the Building’/Upper East Site

Due to popular demand, the hit-show is now filming its second season with filming right in our backyard.

We sat down with The Mansion owner, John G. Philips, to discuss what it was like to have his restaurant be the setting for such a popular TV Series– though under the ficticious name ‘The Pickle Diner.’

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A true ‘Only Murders in the Building’ fan himself, John said he is thrilled to host the show.

“The process took about two months from start to film,” Philips said. 

“First we were a part of scouting, they took photos and video and said they would let us know whether we’d been selected or not,” he added.

The Mansion restaurant serves as set for Hulu series 'Only Murders in the Building'/Upper East Site
The Mansion restaurant serves as set for Hulu series ‘Only Murders in the Building’/Upper East Site

Flash forward roughly two months and their iconic UES diner is dressed with the finest studio equipment, and rolling into ‘ready, set, action.’

While Philips remained tight-lipped about the talent involved in the shoot and the plotline involving the diner— he tells Upper East Site that the relationship with the show will be “a continuation process.”

The Mansion restaurant remains decked out as 'The Pickle Diner' after 'Only Murders' shoot
The Mansion restaurant remains decked out as ‘The Pickle Diner’ after ‘Only Murders’ shoot/Elizabeth Blasi for Upper East Site

As this reporter is a Yorkville local— and frequent visitor to the iconic Mansion—  there were some obvious changes that had been implemented in the restaurant that weren’t removed during film crew’s set breakdown— implying there could be more shoots for the hit-series happening at The Mansion in the future.

Could our local UES landmark be a pivotal scene for the show?

New skyline painting added to The Mansion for 'Only Murders' filming
New skyline painting added to The Mansion for ‘Only Murders’ filming/Elizabeth Blasi for Upper East Site

Here are some of the obvious changes from the TV shoot:

  • The first noticeable sign is located on the exterior windows. Blue and green stickers for the fictional ‘Pickle Diner.’
  • The back wall was dressed with an iconic New York City skyline painting
  • The pendant lights over the counter have been swapped out for a different kind
  • The left wall in the back of the restaurant has deli and Italian props mounted on the wall 
  • The blinds and wall along the window-facing right side are completely different. 

We don’t know for certain which talent filmed at The Mansion. However, when walking by during filming, we spotted character Bunny—played by Jayne Houdyshell, as well as sighted character Oliver’s trailer – played by Martin Short. 

Jayne Houdyshell, as Bunny, films 'Only Murders in the Building' in Yorkville
Jayne Houdyshell, as Bunny, films ‘Only Murders in the Building’ in Yorkville/Elizabeth Blasi for Upper East Site

When we asked Philips why he decided to host ‘Only Murders in the Building,’ he replied, “I did this for the staff and restaurant, not the money. I enjoy keeping things fresh.”

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“This isn’t the first time our restaurant has been in the lime-light, we’ve hosted Gossip Girl and a variety of independent films.”

Tailer marked with 'Oliver,' the name of Martin Short's character in 'Only Murders'/Upper East Site
Tailer marked with ‘Oliver,’ the name of Martin Short’s character in ‘Only Murders’/Upper East Site

The logistics behind hosting a hit TV series were simple, John says, with little to negotiate. The show had to cover three days of revenue for the restaurant, as well as pay staff scheduled to work those days.”

Additionally, the series had to provide crew for set-up and breakdown. 

New light fixtures inside The Mansion were part of 'Only Murders' transformation
New light fixtures inside The Mansion were part of ‘Only Murders’ transformation/Elizabeth Blasi at Upper East Site

While some small businesses may see filming as an opportunity for a break, Philips saw it differently. 

On set everyday, willing to help and assist when needed— he approached filming the same way he does his restaurant— with perfection and hands-on, hard work. 

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