Category: Press

Press: Rachel Brosnahan & ‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ Nominated for the 2019 SAG Awards

Press: Rachel Brosnahan & ‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ Nominated for the 2019 SAG Awards

Another huge congratulations to Rachel Brosnahan and the rest of the cast and crew of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel for their Screen Actors Guild Awards nominations! So happy its looking like another Marvelous awards season!

A full list of SAG Awards nominations can be found here.

“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”
Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series – Rachel Brosnahan
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series – Alex Borstein
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series – Tony Shalhoub

The awards will air on both TNT & TBS on January 27th 2019 at 8PM ET/PT.

Press: Alex Borstein Talks About Rachel Brosnahan and Why She Loves the World of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Press: Alex Borstein Talks About Rachel Brosnahan and Why She Loves the World of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Sometimes it all comes down to having just the right chemistry. Several years ago, when Alex Borstein heard about Amy Sherman-Palladino and her husband Daniel Palladino’s idea for a television show about a woman in the ’50s doing stand-up, breaking into a man’s business and balancing family, and she was definitely intrigued.

This was two years before Sherman-Palladino actually had a script and mentioned there might be a part for Borstein, who portrays Susie Myerson, the curmudgeonly manager of Miriam “Midge” Maisel (Rachel Brosnahan) in the critically-acclaimed series from Amazon Studios.

The much-anticipated series, which garnered eight Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Comedy Series, recently returned for season 2. The third season of colorful episodes has already been ordered.

Borstein, 47, who won an Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actress for Mrs. Maisel, has two decades of show business experience in such diverse projects as MADtv, Getting On and the voice of Lois Griffin on Family Guy and films Good Night, Good Luck, Dinner for Schmucks, Ted and A Million Ways to Die in the West. She has known the creators of Mrs. Maisel for many years and appeared as a cranky harpist and eccentric seamstress in the beloved mother-daughter series Gilmore Girls, also from the same creative team.

For Borstein reading the part of Susie opposite of Brosnahan’s Midge for the first time seemed like kismet. “It is really just kind of like speed dating; either it’s there, or not and it was just there,” she recalled. “It was something you can’t really put in a script; that’s how chemistry works.”

How is the second season of Mrs. Maisel different for you than the first? Are you more comfortable in Susie’s skin?

The newness is gone and now you’re stuck with this character, and what do you do to make it different and not hit the same notes all the time? And in Susie and Midge’s relationship, the honeymoon is over. They are, ‘OK, let’s do this. Now, we’re thrust into this relationship. But do I even like you? Can I work with you? Why are you annoying? You’re passive aggressive. Well, you’re aggressive-aggressive.’ So we have all this back and forth because Susie and Midge are a kind of an Odd Couple that happens.

Did you expect both the show and your character to be so well-embraced?

I know that Amy creates incredible worlds and I knew when I read the first script that this was one of those worlds. I knew that the part was special because Susie is such a cool woman to play, as are all of the women in it…I didn’t know how this show would be received but I was pleasantly surprised that it has been so warmly embraced.

What’s it like to be in that world created in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel? When I watch the show I see this nostalgia for those who remember that time and a yearning for it for those of us who were too young to remember it.

It’s cool because in some ways it feels like this nostalgic fantasy and kind of cozy and safe… In other ways, it was a pretty turbulent time that was coming up with civil rights around the corner… It’s taking a picture of one tiny space within that world but there’s something very warm when you show up to the set and it’s all designed in the ’50s, and the cars from that period are all parked in the streets, and everyone that walks by is Dapper Dan and dressed to the nines. There’s something very lovely and calming about it in today’s crazy world.

So, then going out of that world into your real life, is that jarring to you?

Yeah. It’s quite different, but Susie, the character, is hard-assed, and aggressive, and was kind of before her time. So, she doesn’t feel antiquated or old-fashioned. She feels like she could really fit into any time period.

Talk about the chemistry between you and Rachel, because it’s pretty strong right from the pilot and it continues to increase on-screen.

I came to New York to audition for Susie. I probably spent half an hour with Dan and Amy alone and then Rachel came in and we read together. And from the get-go, the chemistry was there. We just had this Mary Tyler Richards-Rhoda kind of thing that just worked and it worked well.

What do you think are the ingredients?

I don’t want to say it was pure luck because Amy wrote it and she said she had me in mind. She’d already found Rachel, so it’s not shocking that it worked, and Amy’s taste is pretty cool, and so she knows what’s going to go together.

It is a phenomenal cast of highly skilled actors, who have really sunk their teeth into these characters.

Like, Tony Shalhoub, I have had a massive crush on him from Galaxy Quest, and I got to know him years ago when he did a guest starring role on MADtv, the sketch show that I was on. I just thought he was amazing and he was so kind, and so cool to work with, and had always been one of my favorite people. When I heard he was doing this show, it was like ‘holy cow,’ here is yet another reason that I couldn’t possibly say no.

Have you worked together yet?

In season 2, our worlds meet a tiny bit. But he and I have yet to really get down and dirty and get to really, really work together. I’m hoping as the show continues to go, there’ll be more and more.

You do work with Michael Zegen, who plays Midge’s husband Joel?

Yes, and the chemistry between Michael and I, playing Joel, is just perfect too, that there is a disdain and a competitiveness between the two characters that it’s really cool and works really well between us.

You’re both vying for Midge’s attention.

It’s a love triangle. It really is.

Have you been to comedy clubs since the show began and did Mrs. Maisel change your perspective of them?

I did stand-up for a lot of years, and I’ll go if there’s somebody I know is there to see them. I still love seeing a well-crafted set, but it’s not my choice for a night out. It’s like I don’t watch sketch comedy anymore after doing MADtv for years.

It sounds like something that your character Susie might say. You must be proud of winning the Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy. What was the experience like?

Very strange. First of all, I was very late. My parents and one of my best friends, Will, also came with me. He lives close to my parents. So, I told him to come to our house and I will pick everyone up with the car service. So, of course, he was late. We showed up and they wouldn’t let us in. They said, ‘You have to wait until a commercial break.’ And I’m getting texts of ‘Where the hell are you?’ I was like, ‘Excuse me, I don’t want to cause any trouble, but they’re telling me I need to be sitting because I think it’s time for my awards category…’ and they are not letting us sit, they are still telling us we have to wait…

That sounds nerve-wracking.

Yes. It was just very crazy, and stressful, and then finally they’re like, ‘OK, you can go in and sit down.’ Then literally, we sat down, and at that moment they announced, ‘The nominees for Best Supporting Actress are…’ So, I just made it. So when they called my name I was so not prepared in any way.

During the hiatus, are you writing? Are you acting? Are you looking for different projects?

I live in Barcelona, Spain, and I’m doing a musical with a small theater company there that opens on January 31. So, I have two children, and the bulk of my days is getting them to the bus stop, picking them up, going to piano lessons, going to dance, homework and making dinner, yelling at them, bath time, and then I go to rehearsals for this musical, which I’m just loving it so much. The musical is like feeding me.

How old are your children?

My daughter is 6 and my son is 10.

Have they seen the episodes of the Gilmore Girls that you’re in?

No, I don’t think so. I don’t think they’ve seen any Gilmore. They have come to the set of Mrs. Maisel and seen some episodes that we’re shooting. And the project I did before this was called Getting On, and they often came to the set. Well, my baby girl was born on that set, basically, so she was there every day, but my son was about 4 years old at the time and he visited a lot.

Do people recognize you from this show or any other work while your children are around, and what’s that like?

Yeah, people do. It bothers my son a great deal. If someone asks for a photo, he does not like it.

Yeah, he’s being protective.

He gets very angry and he knows that I don’t want him in any photos, so he’ll try to jump in to mess up the photo.

I used to go to Broadway shows in the ’80s and there was a group of autograph collectors who would share their stories. One guy had nearly every famous person who had performed on Broadway for some 50 years.

Well, it’s nice when someone is an actual collector. But now, people wait outside and they have 15 cards and they want you to sign them all, and you know they are going to put them on eBay that night. So I want to say, ‘What are you doing? This isn’t for you. This is Crazy!’

Well, if you put their name on the autograph they are probably not going to sell it.

Many times, I will… If someone says, ‘Can you just sign your name, please?’ I’ll write, ‘To eBay’ and then I sign my name or I sign someone else’s name and they don’t notice until they get home.

Source: Parade

Press: Rachel Brosnahan & ‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ Nominated for the 2019 Critics’ Choice Awards

Press: Rachel Brosnahan & ‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ Nominated for the 2019 Critics’ Choice Awards

A huge congratulations to Rachel Brosnahan and the rest of the cast and crew of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel for their Critics’ Choice Awards nominations! You guys deserve it for your, excuse my pun, marvelous work on the show.

A full list of Critics’ Choice nominations can be read here.

“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”
Best Comedy Series
Best Actress in a Comedy Series – Rachel Brosnahan
Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series – Tony Shalhoub
Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series – Alex Borstein

The awards will air on The CW Network on Sunday, January 13th 2019.

Press/Photos: 2018 Magazine Spreads

Press/Photos: 2018 Magazine Spreads

Photos of Rachel in recent magazines have been added to the gallery. A big thank you to my friend AliKat for her contributions.

Press: ‘Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ Star Rachel Brosnahan on Exploring Love and Privilege in Season 2

Press: ‘Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ Star Rachel Brosnahan on Exploring Love and Privilege in Season 2

[This story contains spoilers from season two of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.]

The award-winning actress talks with THR about the sophomore season of Amazon’s critical darling — and how Midge’s estranged husband Joel fits into the picture.

Rachel Brosnahan’s buoyant and nuanced performance as housewife-turned-comedian Miraim “Midge” Maisel was one of the highlights of last year’s TV slate, and has been deservedly lauded since by critics and awards bodies alike.

Amazon’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel presents some unique technical challenges for its star, who must deliver lengthy stand-up comedy monologues with spontaneity — since Midge’s style is often stream-of-consciousness and off-the-cuff — and at the lightning speed that creator Amy Sherman-Palladino’s world demands. Season two, now streaming on Amazon, gives Brosnahan even more opportunities to shine, as Midge’s new life as a rising, struggling comic scrapes up against her old one as a perfectly content housewife. Featuring extended jaunts in Paris and the Catskills before following Midge and her manager Susie (Alex Borstein) on a multi-state tour, the new episodes see Midge grappling with the realities of the path she’s chosen, and what she may have to give up in order to truly succeed.

Below, Brosnahan speaks with The Hollywood Reporter about Midge’s season two journey; her relationships with Susie, estranged husband Joel (Michael Zegen) and new love interest Benjamin (Zachary Levi); and how the comedy world is impacting her social skills.

Did filming season two feel different from season one, now that you know how successful the show is?

Fortunately, no, it didn’t. It still feels like we’re shooting in a vacuum a little bit, because it’s a really intense show to shoot. We have a lot of pages in a very short period of time, really long hours, and so we do get to escape. We got to dig deeper into almost all the relationships on the show this year, and I’m so fortunate that as Midge, I have relationships on the show with almost every other character. I enjoyed getting to work more with so much of our core ensemble, and to be able to shoot more together. That was one of the biggest differences between season one and two, is that in season two, you get to see a lot more of the whole family, and the whole ensemble together. Those scenes were fun to shoot — crazy, psychotic, but fun, just to get to see each actor and character have moments to shine.

Starting the season in Paris must have been an interesting change of pace.

The Paris scenes were actually the first that we shot, which was very strange! It was all of our same people, but we also had partially a French crew, and it was a bit of a strange note to start the show on for season two, to be somewhere else. But it was a blast — we got to go to Paris and hang out and shoot in beautiful locations and eat 12,000 baguettes!

So the first stand-up scene you shot for this season was the one in Paris, where Midge has a translator?

Yes, which was strange mostly because with the translator, the timing is a little bit different. You really have to wait for that laugh, and it was nerve-wracking, and also most of our audience [in the scene] only spoke French and genuinely had no idea what I was saying without the translator. It was an entirely French background [cast], and we had a French coordinator, so having the French translator was useful!

Was it harder to get back into character because you were in a new location?

The challenge was less getting back to the character in a new location, and more getting back into the character after having had six months away. We’d only shot one season and it was eight episodes, so there’s always that fear that you’ve forgotten how to play them! About halfway through Paris, we were all collectively like, “Oh, we do remember how to do this, we know these people still,” and it was like putting back on a comfy old sweater.

Joel is still a big part of the show this season, and there’s a lingering question of whether he and Midge might give it another shot. What’s your take on that?

The big question at the end of season one is whether or not Midge and Joel are going to get back together, and it’s something that we’ll continue to explore throughout season two. I remember Amy saying to me before we shot the pilot that Midge and Joel have children together, so they’ll never be able to be completely out of each other’s lives. And while there may be various points — as you saw at the end of season one — in which they may feel like they’re back on the same page, almost as quickly one of them will always take a step forward while the other takes a step back, or sideways, or on a diagonal. They will, as is true for so many relationships, continue to just miss each other, perhaps forever.

Episode five ends with an incredible moment where Midge realizes that Abe (Tony Shalhoub) is in the audience halfway through her set, and has to keep going. What was that scene like to film?

It was crazy! Midge is a fast talker anyway, but I have never talked so fast in my entire life. All I can think about when I think about that scene is the days leading up to it, where I drove every single member of our crew insane, running around the set just saying that entire speech over and over and over again, at lighting speed. Susie says early on that it’s the biggest crowd that Midge has ever performed for, and it was also the biggest crowd that I have ever performed for. It was genuinely nerve-wracking, doing stand-up in front of Tony. He’s never been around for any of those scenes — nor has anybody but Alex, and Michael I suppose — and it was petrifying and exhilarating and he was so wonderful. There was something really cathartic about it, to have it all out in the open, for it finally to come out in such a Midge way. Because man, she can’t shut up!

What’s happening in Midge’s mind in that moment?

Midge is one of those people who, when the elephant is in the room, she cannot stop talking about the elephant. About what it looks like, how much it weighs, how it’s standing in the corner, how nobody else is talking about it — she’s a master of observational comedy, and she cannot keep her mouth shut. She just shoots herself in the foot over and over and over.

Zachary Levi’s Benjamin introduces a completely new dynamic for Midge. What does he bring to the show?

His character is so much fun, and such a good foil for Midge. The thing about Benjamin is that he is just as smart as she is, and just as stubborn as she is, and that makes for some very entertaining and frustrating scenes between the two of them. They are both weird, and they’re a funny pair, they both make complete sense, and make no sense at all. Zach is a wonderful actor, he’s so funny, and it was a blast to have him join our crew, we’ve been kind of a tight group for such a long time and it was nice to have some fresh blood.

What does Benjamin represent for Midge?

Joel and Ben couldn’t be more the opposite [of each other]; and on paper, Benjamin is everything that Joel wasn’t, and everything that Abe wanted. Benjamin is a doctor, he’s tall and handsome and traditional. I guess he’s getting married a little bit late, but he is stable and has money, and once they get past their initial tension he treats Midge very well, treats her like a queen, lifts her up. That’s appealing to those around Midge, but also to Midge in some ways. For someone who thought her entire life had imploded, maybe it’s possible to have a second chance at the life she’d always dreamed of with someone like Benjamin.

How does Midge and Susie’s relationship develop this season?

I love their relationship so much. It’s really the core of the show, this budding womance, as Alex lovingly refers to it. They are such an odd couple, and they’ve chosen to link arms and walk down this unbeaten path together, and they’re going to be faced in season two with the reality of what that looks like. They’ve been on this steady uphill climb, but they’ve hit kind of a block in the road as it relates to Sophie Lennon and Harry Drake and the goons, and they’re going to have to overcome this obstacle together. And they sometimes have different ways of doing that. The stakes are a lot higher for Susie, so they butt heads a little bit this season.

It feels like Midge’s privilege, in contrast to Susie really having to hustle, is being emphasized more this season.

I appreciate that this season, Midge is confronted more with her privilege and the idea that she has a safety net to fall back on. Even if she doesn’t always feel that way, it’s there, and that gives her a kind of confidence that Susie has never been afforded the opportunity to have. It’s all or nothing for Susie, this is it. For Midge, there are things that have the potential to pull her off this path, and I think Susie keeps Midge grounded and Midge forces Susie into her feelings a little bit more and embrace the softer side of herself. Midge is interested in the idea of them being friends. To her, that’s what really marks their relationship as something more permanent. Alex said something really interesting that I think is totally true: Susie’s never been afforded the privilege of having friends. She’s just been trying to scrape by, and I think Midge is maybe helping her relax into that idea a little bit more, the idea of having a support system.

Midge gives an incredibly misjudged wedding speech in episode three. Is her stand-up career impacting her ability to socialize in normal life?
Yes, as she says to Susie later on the phone, she’s losing her societal filter. I think it’s happening with the more time she spends with Susie, but also the more time she spends immersed in this world of comedy, where there really are no rules as long as it’s funny. If it’s funny, anything goes, and that isn’t really true in real life! I think the lines are blurring for Midge, and she’s losing track of where the line is. That seemed kind of a foreign idea to me, but a good friend of mine is also a stand-up comic, and she told me she’d had the same experience in real life. Suddenly she found herself, in real life, just grossly offending people with things that she would just sling around backstage when she was doing shows, and she was having trouble keeping those worlds separate. That’s something that Midge is definitely struggling to maintain in season two.

Source: The Hollywood Reporter

Press: ‘Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ star Rachel Brosnahan’s family holiday recipe is retro-cool

Press: ‘Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ star Rachel Brosnahan’s family holiday recipe is retro-cool

Rachel Brosnahan’s family holiday recipe seems like it could be right out of her Emmy-award winning show, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” It’s called “The Cheese Mound,” and it fits right in with the show’s retro world full of Jell-O molds, salmon mousse canapes, and deviled eggs.

The recipe for Brosnahan’s mountainous cheese mound has been in the star’s family for more than 50 years. The holiday go-to uses only four ingredients and seems like it could serve a whole bunch of people.

The cheese mound consists of 16 ounces of light cream cheese, 8 ounces of blue cheese, a fourth of a cup of red onion and one small can of chopped black olives. Once the red onion is grated into a pulp using a cheese grater, all the ingredients are mixed together and formed into a mound shape. Brosnahan serves her holiday dish on a cutting board with crackers.

Inspired to host your own ’50s-inspired holiday party? These are retro dinner party foods we wish would make a comeback.
View slideshow

Source: Pacific San Diego

Press: ‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ Goes to Paris! Rachel Brosnahan Dishes on Season 2

“Extra” caught up with Rachel Brosnahan to get the scoop on Season 2 of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” which premieres today on Amazon.

Rachel revealed, “We traveled a bit to Paris this season, we went to the Catskills.”

Brosnahan also shared one of her family’s favorite holiday dishes as she gave us the lowdown on how the American Express Cash Magnet card can take the stress out of the holiday season. Watch!

Press: Rachel Brosnahan Talks Season 2 of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, How to Be Funny, and the Best Beauty Advice

Press: Rachel Brosnahan Talks Season 2 of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, How to Be Funny, and the Best Beauty Advice

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, 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.

Source: Elle

Press/Video: “Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” Stars And The Questions They Hate | 6 Minute Marathon With Savannah | TODAY

‘Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ actresses, Rachel Brosnahan and Alex Borstein, share hidden talents, bucket lists, regrets and more with TODAY’s Savannah Guthrie on “Six Minute Marathon with Savannah.”

Press: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’s Gauzy, Gorgeous Fantasy

Press: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’s Gauzy, Gorgeous Fantasy

The second season of Amy Sherman-Palladino’s 1950s comedy about an indomitable performer is as delightfully escapist as ever.

There are a handful of fleeting moments watching The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel when reality bites. Like when a well-intentioned woman in a Paris nightclub gives the stand-up comedian Midge (Rachel Brosnahan) the number of a psychoanalyst, telling her, “He’s done wonders for my friend Sylvia Plath.” Or every time Susie (Alex Borstein), Midge’s manager, is referred to as “that” or “it.” The pleasure of watching the series, for me, is always slightly tempered by the anxiety that Midge has lost or forgotten one of her children—an event so plausible that the neglect of baby Esther has been written into Season 2 as a running gag, where even Esther’s first word seems to be a response to the fact that she’s so persistently ignored.

None of this, though, is the point. Of course The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is a fantasy: The strands in its double helix are formed out of old Leslie Caron movies, Borscht-belt humor, millinery, and whimsy. It’s gorgeous, spun-sugar escapism, with pearls, a potty mouth, and a Lilly Daché pillbox. Whenever anything even bends in the direction of inconvenience, it’s swiftly dispatched by Midge’s indomitable optimism and/or her rapid-fire repartee. A cheating husband, sexist comedians, threats of violence from an overzealous manager—all are overcome in what feels like minutes, bitter fruit squeezed ferociously by Midge into the captivating lemonade of her comedy act.

The first season of Mrs. Maisel won critical acclaim, two Golden Globes, and eight Emmys. The second, released in its entirety Wednesday on Amazon, is just as beguiling, even if it circles the runway a good few times before landing. If Season 1 was the origin story for how the wreckage of Midge’s failed marriage helped her find an unlikely new calling, Season 2 is the part where she has to reconcile the two very different faces of her superheroic identity. By day she’s a working mother (with more narrative emphasis on the “working” part), operating the switchboard at B. Altman after a makeup-floor fracas with her husband’s ex-mistress got her booted from the Revlon counter. By night she’s an up-and-coming comedian (the word struggling doesn’t really apply), honing her act and fighting her boorish rivals, whom she humiliates onstage.

Amy Sherman-Palladino, who wrote and directed half of the 10 episodes (her husband and producing partner, Daniel Palladino, wrote another four), goes all in on the escapism front, sweeping Midge and her parents, Abe (Tony Shalhoub) and Rose (Marin Hinkle), off to Paris in the first episode, after Abe finally notices that his wife has absconded to the city. The scenes that follow are loaded with every cliché in the 1950s-film playbook: street musicians, obstreperous French apartment managers, couples in clinches on the banks of the Seine. It’s a lavish, lovely spectacle, even if it quashes some of the momentum surrounding Midge’s career, a question mark that seems to frustrate Borstein’s superb Susie. (“Money is my main goal,” she tells Midge. “I don’t have any, and I’d like some.”)

Midge’s privilege, pointed out by some critics in Season 1, becomes more exposed in the new episodes, if not fully illuminated. Midge’s boss at B. Altman tells her that she’s the “most presentable of the basement girls,” a lightly veiled statement that ushers Midge back from switchboard purgatory to the first-floor cloakroom. Susie repeatedly reminds Midge that their stakes in her career are very different. For Midge, comedy is a thrilling diversion, but for Susie—who becomes at least partially homeless and scrounges food wherever she can find it—it’s a lifeline. In one scene, Susie comments nakedly on Midge’s “doorman and your maid and your child care and your bottomless closet,” a moment that seems to nod to Midge’s frequent moments of delusion (in a subsequent scene, Midge blunders into an ill-advised wedding speech that brings the bride to tears).

Brosnahan’s performance, though, doesn’t leave much room for unlikability. She’s just too charming, too unflappable, too determined to bend the world to her will. In the fourth episode, Midge, her parents, and the kids (it’s unclear for a good 10 minutes whether Esther is in the car) head to their annual summer vacation in the Catskills at a Dirty Dancing–style camp called Steiner Mountain Resort, complete with a beauty salon, 10-pin bowling, rowboats, and its very own welcome song. Mrs. Maisel’s costume designer, Donna Zakowska, goes to town in the new locale, dressing Midge and Rose in an endless array of floral-print sundresses and bonnets and cat-eye sunglasses. It’s a reminder that few shows on television look as unfailingly lovely as this one, or have the budget to scheme up such elaborate period productions.

The Catskills excursion also gives the show the opportunity to provide the world with a visual bonbon it never knew it needed: the sight of Tony Shalhoub, in a tan romper, going through the motions of a 1959 fitness routine. Shalhoub is, as ever, one of Mrs. Maisel’s greatest gifts, and the second season makes ample space for Abe’s endearing eccentricities, as well as his renewed relationship with Rose. The show also spends more time with Shirley and Moishe Maisel (Caroline Aaron and Kevin Pollak), Midge’s in-laws, and the strange dealings of their clothing business (one of the more engaging plot threads involves Shirley having squirreled money away in locations she draws on a treasure map because the Maisels don’t trust banks).

For all its costume-party clothing, hijinks, splashy locations, and detailed montages (and Sherman-Palladino takes the opportunity for a montage every time she gets one), the heart of the series is ultimately Midge’s comedy. Anything else the show might do, whether it’s heartbreak on moonlit Paris streets or comic interludes in Rose’s life-drawing class, feels like wheel-spinning. That’s why it’s so gratifying whenever Midge finally gets on a stage—any stage, and the mechanics of the first few episodes have her finding a fair few by happy accident. It’s her true gift, her irrepressible passion, her calling. Midge’s most successful stand-up routines find power in truth, whether she’s pinioning sexist comics who colluded to make her the last person onstage, or feeding off a French audience that finds her tales of her husband’s infidelity highly unremarkable.

Sherman-Palladino’s writing is never sharper than in Midge’s act, and Brosnahan’s timing and charisma sell her completely as a nascent star. Mrs. Maisel is the kind of show that could easily go on forever: Not because of its thorny romantic subplots (Zachary Levi plays a new suitor for Midge in Season 2, even though her chemistry with Luke Kirby’s Lenny Bruce is more interesting) or Midge’s engagingly offbeat relatives, but because the trajectory of Midge’s career seems so obvious. Sherman-Palladino has written a woman who’s fearless, blunt, and brilliant at what she does, and watching her rise is Mrs. Maisel’s trump card, even if the show is taking a moment to truly play it.

Source: The Atlantic

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