How Carol Burnett and Kristen Wiig Orchestrated Their Jaw-Dropping ‘Palm Royale’ Finale Reveals

[This story contains major spoilers from the season finale of Palm Royale.]

After a series of unsavory encounters with the black sheep of their exclusive social club in Palm Royale, Leslie Bibb’s character Dinah told Maxine two episodes ago, “I cannot tell if you are a country bumpkin or the most ruthless woman in Palm Beach.” If you ask Kristen Wiig — who portrays the eager newcomer into the wealthy Florida community — for her take, however, she’ll tell you, “I don’t think she’s either one of those things.”

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Those words might not best characterize the former Chattanooga pageant queen who tries to impress a different set of judges in the Apple TV+ series (the unneighborly socialites she meets at the exclusive Palm Royale beach club when she moves to Palm Beach). But the duality of Maxine was an aspect of her character that Wiig worked hard to showcase.

“It was trying to find that balance for her of, on paper, being a little unlikable for what she’s wanting and what she goes through to get what she wants. But at the same time, you want to root for her and you see that she’s lacking in other areas and just wanting that acceptance,” Wiig tells The Hollywood Reporter when talking about the entirety of the season. (The finale released on Wednesday.)

And it’s in the season finale that Maxine’s ability to be a sympathetic character best shines through. Right before she’s set to perform a rendition of Peggy Lee’s 1969 hit “Is That All There Is?” during the highly anticipated Beach Ball, she discovers that her husband Douglas (Josh Lucas) has had an affair with her friend and nail technician, Mitzi (Kaia Gerber), who’s now pregnant. Through tears and still in shock, Maxine manages to deliver the number. She sprinkles commentary about her upbringing between verses before outing the secrets of everyone at the Palm Royale, including her unfaithful husband.

“That scene is one of the greatest pieces of acting I have ever seen in my life,” says co-star Carol Burnett, who portrays Norma Dellacorte. “It was a masterclass in acting, with being funny, with being in tears, with losing it. It was Oscar worthy — and definitely Emmy worthy, because this is television. She’s an incredible actress; not just a comedienne, I’m talking about the whole ball of wax.”

Shooting that scene alone took an entire day, says Wiig, who admits she was a bit anxious about the performance and memorizing its many pages of dialogue.

“I’ve never done anything like that before, and it was also a monologue that I had to give in front of an actual crowd,” she says. “I loved the writing so much, so I was also reading it and looking at my friends, people that were in the audience, like Leslie [Bibb], really helped me a lot. Sometimes I would just make eye contact and I felt safe, because I was very nervous.”

The heartbreaking moment is orchestrated by Norma, who plays on Mitzi’s naivete and encourages her to break the news to Maxine during the biggest event of the social season. It’s also a telling move on the part of the Palm Royale queen bee, whose true nature has slowly been revealed over the course of the 10-episode comedy as she recovers from a diabetic episode.

Norma, it turns out, has been conning everyone: She’s unmasked to be the presumed-dead boarding school roommate Agnes, who killed the real Norma and stole her identity.

“It was very nice the first three or four episodes — all I did was get up, go to work and go back to bed because I’m in a coma,” Burnett tells THR of her role, laughing. “But what I love is that when Norma starts to come out of the coma, she doesn’t want anybody to know, because she has a lot of secrets that are her own. That was fun to play.”

Even without a speaking part for most of the series, Norma still manages to steal a number of scenes through her mumblings and frustrated mannerisms.

“Every episode there was always a surprise with Norma. There was always something you didn’t know or something she’s revealing. You kind of couldn’t wait to get her back on the screen and get information, like, ‘who is this woman?’” adds Wiig.

Burnett takes no credit for her understated comedy in those early moments in the season, however, saying humbly, “I was just lying there and listening to everybody, so whatever might have come over my face in terms of an expression was a total accident.”

Palm Royale
Carol Burnett as Norma Dellacorte with Ricky Martin as Robert, whose fate is left up in the air after the Palm Royale finale.

Though Maxine starts the season stealing from Norma and pawning her jewelry to fund the lavish lifestyle she’s long dreamed of living, as time goes on, she develops a soft, albeit still selfish, spot for Norma when she becomes her legal guardian after her aunt-in-law is released from the nursing home and returns to the Dellacorte mansion. Norma, however, never lets up on her scheme to get her nephew and his wife out of her home and, most importantly, the inheritance they’ve been plotting to get. And its that relationship, though turbulent onscreen, that Burnett says she most enjoyed bringing to life.

“I was thrilled that most of my scenes were with this woman who I adore; it was a thrill for me, because I’ve been a fan of Kristen’s forever,” says Burnett. “To know that we were going to get in the sandbox together was a treat. Every minute of it, we had a ball.”

The finale, meanwhile, ended with many cliffhangers — bearing out a recent prediction from director Tate Taylor and executive producer John Norris that a season two will be on the horizon.

First, there’s the big question of whether a pregnant Mitzi will stay in Palm Beach and demand Douglas do right by her, as Maxine unwittingly advised, not to mention the status of Maxine and Douglas’ marriage given the affair revelation. Next, will Mary (Julia Duffy) be charged for her attempted assassination of President Nixon and shooting Robert (Ricky Martin), whose fate is left unknown, in the crossfire? Or, will Linda (Laura Dern) go down for her crime when she’s caught with the gun by police? And finally, the women of the Palm Royale almost certainly won’t take Maxine’s revealing of their darkest secrets during the Beach Ball laying down, either. How they’ll plot their revenge on the high society outsider leaves plenty to the imagination.

Apple has yet to renew the series, but Norris recently said that their wheels have been turning on a second season ever since Burnett told them she was on board for another visit to the Palm Royale.

“Poor Abe in the writer’s room. We just can’t help ourselves with pitching funny ideas,” Taylor recently told THR about doing another season. “What’s great with how the season is left is that there are so many questions to answer. There are still questions to answer from the first, second, third, fourth episode — like Maxine’s life in Chattanooga. There’s so much more to know that I think Apple TV+ owes it to the world to spread this joy.”

Palm Royale is now streaming its entire season on Apple TV+. Read Kaia Gerber’s take on the ending.

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