Exclusive: Cast Talks ‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ at the NYC Premiere

Photo Credit: The Knockturnal.

The Knockturnal got a sneak peek at the second episode of Amazon’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel at the historic Village East Cinema and attended the star-studded after party at Cipriani 25 Broadway on Nov. 13, 2017. The full first season will stream on Prime Video on Nov. 29th, 2017.

Coming off the heels of her cult-classic network show’s (Gilmore Girls) heavily binged revival on Netflix just under a year ago, writer, director and series creator Amy Sherman-Palladino and her husband, executive producer Daniel Palladino, secured a two-season pick up of their latest pilot, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, after a hit debut with Amazon Prime subscribers on March 17, 2017.

Set in the late 1950’s on both Manhattan’s pristine Upper West Side and the comedy scene in Greenwich Village, we follow a perfectionist uptown Jewish housewife (Mrs. Miriam “Midge” Maisel, marvelously brought to life by Rachel Brosnahan with equal parts effervescent charm and bawdy confidence) who takes up stand-up comedy to make something of the mess that her home life becomes after her husband abandons it, drawing comparisons to the rise of Joan Rivers. The relationship to watch is actually the budding mentorship (not to mention bail money) Midge receives from Alex Borstein’s Susie, in knockout roles for the pair of them.

As she introduced the second episode exclusively to the audience seated in the aptly chosen landmark Village East Cinema (the last remaining Yiddish theater building, with its ornate crown moldings and gilded Star of David chandelier medallion) the marvelous Mrs. Sherman-Palladino began to choke up when it came to thanking Dhana Gilbert, Matt Shapiro, and her husband Daniel, among her many producers and collaborators, for fighting so hard to usher in her vision.

Spirits were playful at the swanky after party at Cipriani, complete with a live big band and “Punch Line” cocktails. Hostesses under fascinators (complementing the writer’s signature veiled top hat) helped party-goers model for a vintage photo shoot before sending them home with freshly pressed vinyl records of Sutton Foster (another Palladino regular), Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks singing “I Enjoy Being A Girl” with a B-side of their own choosing from the show’s soundtrack (that’s a homemade Spotify playlist courtesy of former Gilmore Guy/Bunhead Bro/Marvelous Maisel Man podcaster @KevinTPorter).

We caught up with the cast on the pink carpet and talked everything from setting the scene for vintage New York City, the bonds forged in the Sherman-Palladino expanding cast family, and keeping up with her signature pace fit for the ‘50s. Only after, of course, bewildered selfies were taken.

So can you tell us about your experience with the show?

Joel Johnstone (The Newsroom, Getting On; playing “Archie Cleary”): We did the pilot a little over a year ago, which I can’t believe that. I got cast out of L.A. I used to live here forever, so it’s kind of been a dream come true to come back, especially to work with Amy and Dan.

What’s a favorite memory from the set?

Joel Johnstone: The night we shot at a bar right near here. It’s one of the oldest bars in Manhattan and I’m drawing a blank…. It’s a bar that I’ve been to a thousand times, so just getting to go back there to work was cool… I used to go there during college a lot. It’s on 18th St. [Writer’s note: We both blanked. Google searches led to either Old Town Bar or Pete’s Tavern]. It felt like second nature.

How did it feel to be transported in these sets, you’re back in the late ‘50s in New York, where every day you can see hints of the old world glamour?

Joel Johnstone: I’ve always kind of had a nostalgia for that time, I was close to my grandparents, so a lot of that was stuff that I had already internalized a little bit. The music was a big thing for me. One thing that I found really helpful was to go on Spotify, and whatever month it was supposed to be in whatever year we were in, I’d just look up “what were the top 10 songs this month.” I started listening to a lot of Hank Williams records, to be honest. It never resonated with me before now.

Marin Hinkle (Speechless, Two and a Half Men; playing “Rose Weissman”): You know I’ve always loved New York, and the parts of New York that perhaps I loved the most are the historic parts in which you kind of open up a door and see some architecture that’s been there through the beginning of the age of innocence and you can imagine people in the carriages, and the beautiful cloaked women as they arrived to a ball. And the idea that we got to have that extraordinary touch of the past in the city I love this much, it was a backdrop that was truly like a character in our piece.

Rachel Brosnahan (House of Cards, The Blacklist; playing “Mrs. Miriam ‘Midge’ Maisel”): It’s amazing. I live here, so to be able to work at home is incredible. The show is kind of a love letter to old New York in a way. It’s very romantic, it’s very stylized. I have nothing to do with bringing that part to life but I love seeing our brilliant production designer Bill [Groom] do it… we feel like we’re time traveling.

Max Casella (Jackie, Vinyl; playing “Michael Kessler”): I play [the] defense attorney that [Midge] needs to bail her out, help her out with her obscenity charge. I love that period, it’s very exciting, this kind of a guy. Pre-civil rights, these guys are starting it out, fighting against McCarthyism.

And you already have experiences with a period piece, going back in time for your characters. So what was your process of getting into that headspace?

Michael Zegen (Boardwalk Empire, The Walking Dead; playing “Joel Maisel”): It’s amazing, you know once you put on the outfits, and get the hair done, you’re just there. You’re transformed, and you’re just surrounded by it. The sets were incredible, they got all the cars lined up, all the old ‘50s cars, it’s just a dream job.

Amy Sherman-Palladino is known for her obscure pop culture references peppered throughout her previous series, Gilmore Girls and Bunheads. So obviously “pop culture” would be different in the ‘50s. Is she still making those kinds of references?

Alex Borstein (Family Guy, Getting On, MadTV; playing “Susie”): There’s still that banter, there’s still that back and forth. It’s a little different it’s not exactly the same as Gilmore Girls. Those two characters, in particular, spoke in code to each other. I think Rachel and I, Midge and Susie, do as well, but we’re coming into each other’s lives now. We haven’t lived together, we’re becoming comfortable with each other, so we’re not there yet. But as the show progresses I assume we will.

Helene York (Graves, Family Guy, Masters of Sex): It’s very obscure, it’s very poppy, it’s sort of done in an off-kilter way. Even the set design it looks like [Midge] lives in a dollhouse. It looks like her life is a doll house. And then she breaks out… I think it’s so good. I was so excited to be invited, and I love her [Rachel Brosnahan], she’s awesome in it. It’s something you don’t expect her to do and she’s crushing it.

Amy and Daniel Palladino have created this kind of family among their various casts [with recurring actors] that they’ve put in [and welcome back to] each of their shows, so what was that feeling like on set as kind of the new person in this world?

Rachel Brosnahan: It’s warm. It’s a very generous group of people, with their time, with their energy, with their resources. I have felt so fully supported throughout this entire process. I couldn’t have asked for anything more.

How was your experience on set around all these strong ladies?

Max Casella: It was wonderful, I am used to being around strong ladies in every aspect of my life.

Had you worked within Amy Sherman-Palladino’s world at all before?

Max Casella: I never worked with them, but they asked me to do it! I was happy to, it’s a great project.

Marin Hinkle: No, but I had seen their work. I was a huge fan of not only Gilmore Girls, but Bunheads as well. Loved it. Everything that they do has a little bit of a sparkle to it. It’s a little bit more exciting than our own lives. Watching those characters have that rapid-fire, incredibly brilliant mind, I didn’t know I’d be able to be up to the task, but I am thrilled that they allowed me to be there and play with it.

How familiar were you with the Amy Sherman-Palladino/Dan Palladino universe before getting this role? Was there a required viewing?

Michael Zegen: Not that familiar. I mean clearly I heard of Gilmore Girls, but I really never seen much of it. But I knew their track record, I knew their reputation, and that we were in good hands. So I was definitely excited to be a part of it. I didn’t have to watch the show to be able to know that this was something special.

Caroline Aaron (Episodes, Transparent; playing “Shirley Maisel”): Were you a Gilmore Girl? My daughter had watched it multiple times and I didn’t know what it was. She said “Mom, if the mother [Lorelei] and grandmother [Emily] had a baby it would be you.” She kept saying that, “You’re like Lorelei, and you’re like her mother.” So then I started watching with her and she said, “We have to watch all seven seasons, and watch the last episode right before you drop me off at college.” Which is what we did. So then when I got this job and told my daughter and she went [crazy.]

How did it feel as a fan first to then be working with them?

Joel Johnstone: Huge… Gilmore Girls is kind of what I grew up with, but this is a completely different animal. The one thing that remains constant is that rat-a-tat pace of the dialogue, there’s a musicality to it. If you love it, and I do, it’s so much fun to jump in there and get to play with it. It’s cool to talk slow now, but back then it was by nature.

Amy’s really famous for the pace of her dialogue and having 80-100 page scripts for a show, so how did you get your head around mastering that pace?

Rachel Brosnahan: Well we had a lot of rehearsal before the pilot which was very useful, first of all, to find the pace together and get on the same page. I guess I must naturally be kind of a fast talker because it never felt that crazy to me. Although sometimes you think that you can’t possibly be going any faster and then Amy comes in and goes, “Pace it up!” and we go, “We can’t!” and she’s like “You better!” 

And it seems like a natural fit for the ‘50s, where you think of the old Hollywood movies.

Rachel Brosnahan: Radio, Vaudeville…Yeah, a lot of tongue twisters.

What was it about your character specifically that drew you in, where you felt like, “Oh, I know who this person is!”?

Marin Hinkle: I used to be a dancer, and there’s a kind of perfectionism that this character has that is similar to a dancer’s life, or to a gymnast, or that kind of thing. So I think I was drawn to the idea of the pursuit of excellence, and in a very vibrant, and colorful person, that enjoys the theatrics of her own life. And that made me excited.

With all your iconic characters [and cameos within the Palladino universe, like Drella, Miss Celine, and various bits of voice work], do you think that Susie is closer to who you are in real life? Because all your other characters were a bit on the extreme with their eccentricities…

Alex Borstein: You know Amy said she wrote it with me in mind. What we have in common is we’re both kind of an implacable person, we’re indefatigable. Those are good words! We are stubborn, ambitious in a way. Though my ambition is a little different. And we’re both foul-mouthed. But there’s a lot of differences. Susie isolates herself a lot more, Susie doesn’t feel like she needs anybody or wants anybody and I’m different that way. I love to be taken care of and I like to have people around me. And I like socializing. 

And what excited you most about taking this role?

Alex Borstein: The most exciting part was knowing that it’s quality. Knowing that it’s going to be good. I’ve been so lucky that I’ve gotten to work on MadTV and created my own characters. I worked on Family Guy and had this huge piece of the human existence now be on my resume. And Lois is strong, she’s a typical sitcom mom but we turned her on her head. She’s dark, she’s got an underbelly, and she’s opinionated and she’s sexual. And then I got to do Getting On, which is a really interesting character, and special and not typical. And then this, so I feel really really lucky that I get to play the coolest women.

And we love to see all your work and how you inflect your own creative takes in each role.

Alex Borstein: And my filthiness? Being filthy’s good, girls. That’s my recommendation to all girls. Be filthy. I want everyone at The Knockturnal to be filthy.

Photo Credit: The Knockturnal.

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