July 18, 2019

Cast, Creators, Talk All Things ‘Mrs. Maisel’ at PaleyFest

From left: Alex Borstein, Tony Shalhoub, Marin Hinkle, Dan Palladino, Amy Sherman-Palladino, Kevin Pollak, Rachel Brosnahan, Michael Zegen, Caroline Aaron. Photo courtesy of PaleyFest L.A.

For the opening night of the annual PaleyFest LA television festival at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood on March 15, the cast of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” and its creators Dan Palladino and Amy Sherman-Palladino delighted attendees with wisecracks, character insights and a few hints about the show’s third season.

The lively, hour-long event featured a panel discussion moderated by Patton Oswalt that kept the packed house in stitches. Clad in black boots and signature top hat, Sherman-Palladino shared childhood memories about her stand-up comedian father, “a 6-foot-4 Jew from The Bronx” who is the inspiration for the series’ protagonist, Miriam “Midge” Maisel. Sherman-Palladino said she chose the1950s milieu because she loved the colors and cars, and “didn’t ever want to hear the word Snapchat.”

Rachel Brosnahan (who plays the titular Mrs. Maisel) said there wasn’t much time between accepting the role of Midge and starting production on the pilot. “I got a crash course in comedy,” she said, adding that she was filming the series and appearing on stage in “Othello” at the same time.

Tony Shalhoub talked about the inspiration for playing Abe Weissman’s reaction to his daughter’s stand-up career and his wife Rose’s newfound independent streak. “I have a lot of rage,” he deadpanned. “I’m the father of two daughters that are around the age Miriam is. You think you know who they are and then they turn out to be completely different people. They’ve become amazing human beings in spite of what my wife and I have tried to teach them.” 

Comparing herself to her character, Susie, Midge’s lovably abrasive manager, 

Alex Borstein said, “We’re very similar creatures in many ways. There’s a lot of Amy in Susie, also very much my grandmother, a Holocaust survivor, and my mother. But she exists in her own bubble, not informed by anything.”

“Susie is a tough broad, but she is terrified that she’ll lose everything that’s important to her,” Sherman-Palladino said. “The interesting thing about the dynamic between [Susie and Midge] is they’re not going to get where they need to go without each other, and that’s key to the series.”

According to Dan Palladino, viewers can expect some revelations about Susie’s past. “There’s a 10-year period in Susie’s life that we haven’t even delved into,” he said. “We find out things like she’s a very talented classical pianist.” 

Michael Zegen, who previously “kicked people in the face” as gangster Bugsy Siegel on “Boardwalk Empire,” said that he has had far more negative reactions to his role as Midge’s husband, Joel Maisel. “On this [show], all I get is, ‘You’re trash!’ ” he said. “I’ve leaned into him being the villain.”

“The interesting thing about the dynamic between [Susie and Midge] is they’re not going to get where they need to go without each other, and that’s key to the series.” — Amy Sherman-Palladino

“You have the hardest role in the show because there’s nothing harder than being the guy who dumps the girl that everyone loves,” Sherman-Palladino said to Zegen. “But for the audience to give a [expletive] about Rachel, they have to see what she saw in him, for them to care that she lost him.” 

Filming on the first episode of the third season in New York City is underway, and Sherman-Palladino characterized it as “a bigger show because the story has to push out.” Midge will be on the road and “dealing with audiences that aren’t her people. That is going to bring its own story twist to it,” she said. “We’re definitely going to some different places in Season 3.”

Miami is one of the rumored locations, but that topic was not brought up at the panel, and neither was the possibility of Sterling K. Brown playing a guest-starring role. 

When asked what historical situations they’d like to see their characters in, the cast gave some surprising answers. “I’d like to see interaction with the birth of the feminist movement,” Brosnahan said of Midge. “’I’d also like to see her drop acid.” Shalhoub agreed with the last part, saying he’d like to see scientist Abe “tiptoe toward the whole Timothy Leary thing.” 

“I would like to see Susie bang Elvis. A young, firm Elvis,” Borstein said. Zegen fantasized about Joel being at Woodstock, at Roger Maris’ 61st home run game, or opening a club where the Beatles could play. And Kevin Pollak, who plays Zegen’s father Moishe, posited this scenario: “Moishe makes a suit for [John F.] Kennedy, goes to the White House and steals an ashtray.” 

The evening’s other comedic highlights included a discussion of the romper Abe wore to do his morning calisthenics. “I have it on underneath,” Shalhoub quipped. “It should be in the Smithsonian,” Dan Palladino said.

“I have no life,” Sherman-Palladino said when asked how she knows all the pop culture references in the show. She added that she has a storehouse of books and records at home, but calls upon a research librarian for tricky research questions.

As the session drew to a close, Sherman-Palladino had the last word, and used it to praise her cast, in typically profane fashion. “You can have a wonderful script and beautiful costumes and a gorgeous set,” she said. “But if you don’t have the right people, you’re [expletive].”

“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” is now on Amazon Prime.