Molly Shannon walks onto the stage of Jimmy Kimmel Live, every muscle in her face radiating excitement as she waves her hands in the air. It’s an infectious spirit, one that Kimmel himself can’t help but comment on. “When you walk out, it’s like a ray of…rainbows, a ray of sunshine altogether,” he says.
Shannon blushes and thanks him before turning the focus around, congratulating his recent duties as Oscar host. “You make it look so easy,” she tells Kimmel.
The same can be said of Shannon herself. There’s an effervescent charm that surrounds the 58-year-old, who has the ability to elevate any project she lends her talents to. From Saturday Night Live to The White Lotus, good luck naming any show or film that isn’t immediately funnier or more nuanced thanks to her skills. By all accounts, she is a ray of light, immediately making those who meet her feel better about themselves.
It’s one of the many reasons fans of the comedian and actor were stunned to learn the details of the tragedy that shaped her in her 2022 New York Times best-selling memoir, Hello, Molly. In 1969 her father was at the wheel when their family car crashed, resulting in the death of her mother, her younger sister, and her cousin. (Shannon, who was four at the time, survived along with her dad and older sister.)
While Shannon credits her father, who passed away in 2002, with nurturing her talents and being there for her during her formative years, there was no replacing her mother. It’s why Shannon—with all of her professional accomplishments—says there’s no greater or more important role for her than that of mom. (She has a son and a daughter with husband Fritz Chesnut.) Perhaps it’s also why being nurturing and comforting to others is second nature, though she says she is learning to set more boundaries.
But it all comes from a place of gratitude for the actor, who says she still dreams that she’s waiting tables or driving around looking for jobs. “I struggled so hard to get here, so I really appreciate the opportunities that I’ve been given,” she says. “I know what it’s like to not have any money and be bouncing checks.”
Forget that Shannon plays Florence Pugh’s mom in Zach Braff’s powerful new film A Good Person, in theaters nationwide on March 31, or that the second season of her HBO Max comedy The Other Two premieres next month. Or that she’s just been tapped to host the April 8 episode of Saturday Night Live with musical guests the Jonas Brothers. Shannon still can’t believe she’s in this much demand.
“I appreciate everything because I worked so hard to get it, but no, I’ve never thought about [being an icon] too much,” she tells Glamour when we interview her for this feature, which is called Icons Only. “That’s a very big compliment. It’s so sweet. It makes me blush.”