Over the past few years, Rachel Brosnahan’s rise to stardom has been fueled by corsets, Jewish deli meats, and the sound of applause. Currently, Brosnahan plays Midge, the titular star in Amazon Prime’s original series The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and a 1950s housewife who decides to begin a career as a stand-up comedienne in New York City. Season 1 follows her plunge into the comedy world as her personal life falls apart around her. The performance earned Brosnahan her first Emmy award, and the show won for writing, directing, and outstanding comedy series.
Now, just months after the awards show, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is back for a second season. Ahead, ELLE.com talked with Brosnahan about Midge’s role in the new episodes, her favorite New York spots, and the best beauty advice she’s ever received.
In the first season, Midge goes through so much evolution and change. How do you think that continues into the second season?
I think it certainly continues, but I think in the second season she’s also confronted with all of the ways that she has yet to change and grow, particularly in her relationship with Susie. They come from two totally different backgrounds. The stakes are different for them in this big risk that they have both taken and this path they have decided to walk down together. For Susie it’s all or nothing, and Midge has always kind of had this safety net.
Do you have a favorite joke from either the show or real life?
What’s the difference between a tire and 365 condoms?
One’s a Goodyear, and one’s a great year.
That’s good. And easy to remember!
But I think one of my favorite jokes this season from the show, it’s not so much a set-up punchline joke, but I think it’s episode 2 when Midge says—I’m not going to able to quote it right—but about the fact that people think that women aren’t funny because comedy is fueled by disappointment and abandonment and oppression and loneliness. But by those standards, that means only women should be funny.
You mentioned that some of your friends are comedians. Has anyone given you advice that you brought to the show?
My friend, Jasmine Pierce, who is a writer on The Tonight Show and does stand-up, the best advice she gave me probably was to not try to be funny, but to work to find my own comedy,—to not try to mimic anyone else’s style of humor. And that gave me a certain freedom to discover Midge’s and mine simultaneously, through Amy Sherman-Palladino’s brilliant writing.
Midge is also obsessive about her outward appearance. Are there any weird beauty things you have to do for the show that you wouldn’t do in real life?
One thing from the show that I never would have tried in my real life is [from] when we shot that now infamous scene of Midge going to sleep with her makeup on and getting up in the middle of the night and doing her whole beauty routine and then waking up at the butt-crack of dawn and doing it all again. They put Pond’s Cold Cream on my face for the first time. To be perfectly honest, I had it on for hours while we were shooting that scene, and I woke up the next morning and my face felt like a baby’s butt.
Obviously, Midge thinks a lot about how she looks and presents herself. Do you ever relate to that feeling?
I feel that pressure more as a woman in Hollywood than I do, these days, a woman in my own world. I think maybe it comes with age? I’m feeling more confident in my own skin, exactly as it is, in my own world, but I’m feeling that pressure in a way that I hadn’t before within the industry, I suppose. What am I supposed to look like out on a red carpet?
“What am I supposed to look like out on a red carpet?”
Has anyone in Hollywood given you advice about that?
I was so fortunate to work briefly on Olive Kitteridge a couple years ago. It’s a beautiful, beautiful mini-series with Frances McDormand, and she’s long been a hero of mine. She took me and another young actor out to dinner and spent a lot of time talking to us about the pressure that you can feel to look a certain way, to behave a certain way, but especially about the way you look.
She said something to me that I will never forget, that there seem to be 27,000 new products a day out there to alter your face, to look like some ideal that nobody can quite even name, but that your face is a road map to your life and to everything that has made you who you are up until that point. And why would you ever want to erase any part of that? That every line on her face is every smile she’s ever smiled and every tear she’s ever cried and frown she’s ever frowned. And she wears them with pride. I found that so moving and inspiring, and I’ll carry that with me for a long time.
You live in New York, and the show takes place in New York. Do you have any favorite spots that you discovered through the show or on your own?
A new one that I discovered through the show, because we’ve shot there twice, is La Bonbonniere in the West Village. It’s one of [the show’s producers] Amy and Dan’s favorite haunts. It’s a diner; they make amazing breakfast. It feels almost like something plucked out of the ’50s even without us set-decorating it. I love Café Lalo on the Upper West Side. I used to live very close to there, and it’s more just the setting, the vibe, the huge windows that overlook the street. And the Upper West Side just feels so much like classic New York. They also have really good coffee. Jacob’s Pickles? Have you ever been?
Oh my God. Of course.
Best Bloody Mary in the city.