It was a bittersweet week for the people who love Lynn Shelton, the Seattle filmmaker who died unexpectedly in May at age 54.
Shelton received a posthumous Emmy Award nomination earlier this week for her directing work on the Hulu limited series “Little Fires Everywhere.” The news spurred an outpouring of support from her colleagues, close friends and family, including the comedian Marc Maron, her creative and romantic partner.
“I know for a FACT Lynn Shelton would be thrilled with her Emmy nomination for directing for (‘Little Fires Everywhere’),” Maron tweeted. “Deserved. She was the real deal. Miss her. A lot. Love her.”
Maron gave more details about his relationship with Shelton, their work together and her final days in a Q&A with The New York Times published online Friday.
Maron told the paper “she was not a big doctor person,” but that she went to the doctor for a COVID-19 test after discovering swollen glands in her neck the week before her death. The test was negative and she started a round of antibiotics the next day. But three days later she had a fever of 104-plus degrees that he described as “relentless.”
“On Thursday, I’m like, we’ve got to go to the doctor,” Maron said. “She was going to go in that Friday morning to get a blood panel and that’s when I woke up to her collapsed. I called the ambulance and she was dead within 18 hours. Acute myeloid leukemia is what’s on the death certificate. Organ failure is the primary cause and then acute myeloid leukemia is what they signed off on.
“I went [to the hospital] that night and spent a few minutes with her body. It was the heaviest thing I’ve ever done. It was just devastating. I was blown out, totally traumatized. Totally heartbroken.”
Shelton was a director, screenwriter, producer, editor and actor. She graduated from the University of Washington School of Drama and the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan after growing up in Seattle. She made a series of eye-catching independent films in Seattle, including her debut feature, “We Go Way Back.” That film, about a woman haunted by her former teenage self, won the Grand Jury Award at the Slamdance Film Festival in 2006. Other films included “Humpday” and “Your Sister’s Sister.”
She was beloved in the Seattle area, not only for the films she created but for leading and nurturing the Northwest film industry and the people in it.
She also moved into television work over the last decade of her career, directing episodes of “GLOW,” Maron’s comedy about the Glamorous Ladies of Wrestling, “Mad Men,” “The Morning Show,” “New Girl” and “The Good Place.” She served as executive producer and directed four of eight episodes of the well-received “Little Fires Everywhere,” which starred Kerry Washington and Reese Witherspoon.
“The tears came this morning when I heard about Lynn Shelton’s nomination for ‘Little Fires Everywhere,’” Washington told The Associated Press on Tuesday morning. “I’m so incredibly grateful that the Television Academy has chosen to honor Lynn with this very deserved nomination. I know she’s celebrating in the beyond.”
“That Lynn is honored by the Television Academy is not only a tribute to her accomplishments as a director but her style of directing,” Shelton’s parents, Wendy Roedell and David “Mac” Shelton, said in a statement to the AP. “Always in control but kind-hearted. Making the final decisions but always soliciting input from her colleagues. Colleagues, yes, that is how she regarded everyone on the set, from grips and gaffers and set and costume designers to the director of photography and the actors. This is an honor for the ultimate collaborationist who knew that she would produce her best if she teased the best out of her teammates.”
The actor Mark Duplass, a frequent collaborator, told the AP, “We need to continue the legacy for people like Lynn. She’s important for so many reasons. She was helpful and supportive to her peers. She always raised people up and helped them get to where they wanted to be. She was a nice person. She was able to be successful while also being kind. She was also a woman who didn’t direct her first feature film until she was over the age of 40. That sends a message that wherever you are in your career, you can have this.”
Maron and Shelton met in 2015 when she appeared on his podcast, “WTF.” They collaborated on a pair of comedy specials, “Too Real” in 2017 and “End Times Fun” in 2020, and his IFC series “Maron.” He also appeared in her 2019 film “Sword of Trust.”
The two were working on a screenplay at the time of her death. Asked if he thinks he’ll ever make the film, Maron said it would probably be too difficult.
“It’s a complicated story,” he told The Times. “We wrote the draft over a period of years and there’s a lot of funny stuff in it. We just needed to tighten up this final scene, and it revolves around how this main character dies of cancer. Yeah. So. That was the unfinished business. I’ve gotten some people who are asking me, like, why don’t you finish that script and make it happen? Maybe find another woman to direct it. I don’t know that it would honor her. Because this was always the thing that she was going to direct me in. That was the whole idea of it. It would be upsetting.”
Maron says he cries every day.
“The challenge now is to not get bitter or sad or angry,” he said. “How do I not do that? How do you stay loving in something as relentless as what’s going on now? I don’t know. I sit on my porch and it’s nice out here. It was a lot to lose. But I just try to stay in her light as much as I can.”