The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, which premiered on Amazon Prime in November 2017, has quickly risen to popularity as a shining example of “peak TV.” Set in the late 1950s against a colorful New York City backdrop, the comedy follows Miriam “Midge” Maisel — a young Jewish American housewife and mother who, upon learning her husband is leaving her for his secretary, stumbles into the world of stand-up comedy. Spoiler alert: She’s a natural.
From the mind of Gilmore Girls creator Amy Sherman-Palladino, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is filled with witty, fast-talking characters who are as lovable as they are flawed. With Rachel Brosnahan in the titular role, the Amazon series’ all-star cast boasts some of Hollywood’s most recognizable names, including Alex Borstein, Tony Shaloub, Zachary Levi, and Jane Lynch.
While watching Midge Maisel take the stand-up comedy world by storm is undeniably entertaining, these behind-the-scenes secrets make the Emmy-winning comedy that much more interesting. Here’s the untold truth of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.
The father of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel's creator was a stand-up comedian
While you might not consider yourself a stand-up comedy aficionado, watching The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel will leave you feeling like an expert on the ins and outs of the comedy scene in 1950s New York City. A California girl, the show’s creator, Amy Sherman-Palladino, wasn’t born until the mid ’60s — but her stand-up comedian father, Don Sherman, would often regale his daughter with tales of the New York City stand-up circuit.
Speaking with Variety, Sherman-Palladino recalled how her father’s stand-up comedian friends would often visit her family’s home. “It was like Broadway Danny Rose a lot of the time at my house,” she joked.
In a 2018 interview with Creative Screenwriting Magazine, Sherman-Palladino revealed how her father’s stories influenced her own artistic work. “I grew up hearing stories about the comic world in Greenwich Village,” the writer told the publication. She continued, “All of New York City was in awe to me at that time. It was a visual, colorful, vibrant, and energetic place and time to set a TV show.”
This Marvelous Mrs. Maisel star lost jobs for not being funny enough
If you fancy yourself a House of Cards fan, you likely know that Rachel Brosnahan is no stranger to playing the role of a troubled, ill-fated woman. In fact, the star’s previous work is the reason why Amy Sherman-Palladino initially had reservations about casting Brosnahan to play Midge Maisel.
“You look at her [work], and it’s either drama or half the time she’s being tied to a post or thrown in a box or shoved in the back of a van,” Sherman-Palladino told Glamour. “[It’s] all very dramatic.”
As Brosnahan explained to Glamour, she’d almost given up on being anything other than a dramatic actress before landing the starring role in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. “I’ve lost many jobs because people would say, ‘We really liked her, but she’s just not funny,'” the actress revealed. She continued, saying, “I thought, ‘Maybe I should listen to [the criticism].’ Now I’ve realized you can continue to learn things, even when you’ve formed a really solid sense of self.”
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel was born out of Amy Sherman-Palladino's disdain for technology
Before creating Amazon’s mega-hit The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Amy Sherman-Palladino was perhaps best known as the creative force behind another wildly popular television show about two hilarious, whip-smart, no-nonsense ladies — Gilmore Girls.
Starring Lauren Graham as Lorelai Gilmore and Alexis Bledel as her daughter, Rory Gilmore, Gilmore Girls followed the lives of the mother-daughter duo as they navigated life, love, and loss in the whimsical, fictional town of Stars Hollow, Conn. While laden with plenty of pop culture references from which you’ll undoubtedly still get a giggle today, Gilmore Girls aired from 2000 to 2007 — long before social media became a cultural staple. According to Sherman-Palladino, she saw The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel as a chance to take refuge in another fictional world untouched by the burden of being constantly plugged-in.
“[Of] course, the opportunity to do any sort of show where I don’t have to think about Snapchat — I’m thrilled, delighted, because I don’t understand technology,” Sherman-Palladino told Vanity Fair. She continued, “I just want to go back to a time where there wasn’t any.”
Rachel Brosnahan thought she bombed her audition for The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Rachel Brosnahan was rejected for comedic roles in the past, but she’s definitely getting the last laugh now. As of 2019, the actress has won an Emmy and two Golden Globes — among multiple other awards — for her portrayal of Midge Maisel. In an interview with Harper’s Bazaar, Rachel Brosnahan shared that snagging the starring role in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel was the result of a disastrous audition process. “I went in for the preliminary audition and promptly felt like I had bombed it, big time,” Brosnahan told the publication.
Still, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel‘s creator Amy Sherman-Palladino and her husband, executive producer Dan Palladino, wanted Brosnahan to travel to Los Angeles for an informal test — one that almost didn’t happen. Brosnahan explained to Harper’s Bazaar that she got “sicker than [she’s] ever been in her life” ahead of meeting the husband-and-wife creative team. “I rallied, but I honestly was so sick during the camera test,” Brosnahan revealed. She continued, saying, “[At] best, that test was a beautiful disaster! But Midge is kind of a disaster sometimes.” Fortunately, it all worked out in the end.
Rachel Brosnahan doesn't consider The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel's Midge a feminist
Midge Maisel, the titular character of Amazon’s hit show The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, is a woman ahead of her time. When audiences first meet Midge, she’s a mother and housewife with a penchant for making brisket, never wavering in her support for her husband’s stand-up comedy dreams. However, by the end of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel‘s first season, Midge has transformed into a single mother with stand-up comedy aspirations of her own (as well as an arrest record).
Despite the hurdles along the way, Midge carved out a place for herself in a world dominated by men, which is why many people consider the character a feminist. According to Rachel Brosnahan, however, Midge isn’t that far ahead of her time.
“What I love about Midge is that she is so not a feminist. She’s a creature of her time,” Brosnahan told The New York Times. Still, the actress applauded her character for always reaching for more. “[She’s] curious. She’s insatiable. If she doesn’t know things, she wants to know them. And she doesn’t know any other way than forward,” Brosnahan told the publication.
The cast and crew of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel have seen each other through some tough times
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel might be a feel-good show, but, for the Amazon hit’s cast and crew, shooting Season 2 was anything but all fun and games.
“We’ve had deaths of loved ones happen while we were shooting — for us and for some of the cast,” Amy Sherman-Palladino revealed to The Hollywood Reporter when asked to describe the worst day on set. She continued, “Those are the worst because everyone has this feeling of ‘the show must go on,’ and it’s usually someone else saying, ‘Hey, the show doesn’t necessarily have to go on exactly like this. Take some time.'”
One of said deaths was that of Rachel Brosnahan’s beloved aunt, designer Kate Spade, who passed away in June 2018. “Every single person from top to bottom involved with [The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel], they were a family,” Brosnahan told People. She continued, “They absolutely rallied behind me [and] gave me all of the support and love and space and time that was needed to be with my family.”
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel creators never intended for the show to make a statement
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel‘s first season was released on Nov. 29, 2017 — a date that, as many people likely realize, came only a month after the resurgence of the #MeToo movement.
Considering The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel centers around a woman succeeding in a male-dominated world despite the powers that be trying to keep her down, it wouldn’t be a stretch for viewers to assume the show’s creators were trying to draw parallels between Midge Maisel’s world and the #MeToo era. However, Amy Sherman-Palladino and Dan Palladino revealed to Rolling Stone that the timing of their show was completely incidental.
“Once the series came out, everybody was reading into it,” Dan Palladino told the publication. He continued, telling Rolling Stone, “We still get the ‘MeToo’ things, and we deny that we intended to do it, but we don’t deny that those issues are dealt with … I think if you pay attention to the characters and their motivations and their psychology and all that stuff, people are going to read into it these universal things.”
Don't expect this Marvelous Mrs. Maisel character to go away anytime soon
One of the most divisive characters within The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel universe is Joel Maisel — Midge’s college sweetheart and husband who, in the very first episode of the Amazon series, leaves his wife for his secretary, Penny Pan. However, as those who have seen Seasons 1 and 2 of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel can attest, Joel works hard to once again find himself in Midge’s good graces.
However, if Joel has yet to convince you that he’s worthy of Midge’s affection, we have some bad news — it’s unlikely that he’ll be going anywhere anytime soon. When asked by Rolling Stone if she was a fan of Joel, Amy Sherman-Palladino replied, “Oh, I love him. [I’m] mad about him.”
According to Sherman-Palladino, while Joel is a flawed character, he was also one of the first people to recognize and support Midge’s comedic talent. “I think that there’s something really interesting about that,” Sherman-Palladino explained. She continued, “He’s with us for life. There was never five seconds where we thought, ‘We could just get rid of Joel and bring in more men.'”
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel's Rachel Brosnahan got advice from actual stand-up comedians
Midge Maisel, the housewife-turned-comedian, is so effortlessly played to perfection by actress Rachel Brosnahan that you may walk away from watching Seasons 1 and 2 of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel convinced that Brosnahan had stand-up comedy experience under her belt before scoring the role. However, according to Brosnahan herself, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. “I had never really done comedy, let alone standup,” Brosnahan revealed to Variety. She continued, “It’s one of the bravest things I can possibly imagine. I will never be that brave.”
In a 2018 interview with Elle, Brosnahan revealed that she consulted some of her more comically-inclined stand-up friends for advice on getting into character. “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,” Brosnahan told the publication. She continued, revealing that her friend also advised her “to not try to mimic anyone else’s style of humor.”
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is a "tragically expensive show"
It’s easy to get caught up in the aesthetics of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. From Midge Maisel’s glamorous apartment to the hustle and bustle of 1950s New York City, to Midge’s Season 2 trips to Paris and the Catskills — the Amazon series serves up an abundance of awe-inspiring backdrops. However, while fans of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel are busy admiring the intricately detailed set pieces, the creative team behind the show is busy working them into the series budget.
“It’s always been an important thing for us to remember to, like, have [Midge] out in the world,” Dan Palladino revealed to Gold Derby, discussing Midge Maisel’s adventures throughout New York City and across the globe. Added Amy Sherman-Palladino, “It’s a tragically expensive show. We’re kind of surprised [Amazon] let us into the building.”
As Sherman-Palladino explained to Deadline, it’s not just the extravagant sets that cost a pretty penny. “[Amazon will say], ‘OK, it’s really expensive. There are so many skirts, and cars, and the wigs — it’s fake hair, is it really supposed to be that expensive?'”
Rachel Brosnahan gets frustrated by the flack The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel receives for Midge's parenting style
In the very first episode of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, viewers learn that Midge Maisel has two children with her husband, Joel — a toddler named Ethan and a baby girl named Esther. However, the Maisel kids are only seen a handful of times throughout Seasons 1 and 2, with their appearances dwindling in number as Midge’s stand-up comedy career slowly begins to play a larger role in her life. Mrs. Maisel’s perceived lack of concern for her children have caused some critics of the show to call her a “terrible mom” — something actress Rachel Brosnahan neither agrees with nor appreciates.
“I find some of that criticism valid at times but also frustrating,” Brosnahan revealed to Script. She continued, “In a show like this, I appreciate the idea of what a good mother could be — someone who is out to provide for her children, looking to make herself satisfied, and to grow. I don’t know what part of that makes Midge a bad person.”
Lenny Bruce's daughter is a fan of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Aside from Midge Maisel’s husband, Joel, and her manager, Susie, the character that plays one of the largest parts in helping the main character get her comedy career off the ground is a guy by the name of Lenny Bruce. If you don’t fancy yourself a stand-up comedy fan, you might have assumed that Lenny Bruce was simply a character invented by the creative forces behind the show. However, Lenny Bruce was very much a real person. In fact, Bruce is considered by many to be one of the most influential stand-up comedians of all time.
While Bruce tragically passed away in 1966, his daughter, Kitty Bruce, is alive and well today. And, according to The New York Post, the legendary comedian’s daughter is thrilled with actor Luke Kirby’s portrayal of her father on The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.
“It’s obvious that Luke has taken this role very seriously. He has worked very hard to capture Lenny Bruce in nuance and comedic timing,” Kitty Bruce told the publication. She continued, revealing her excitement for “a whole generation” to be introduced to her father’s comedy through Amazon’s hit series.
Rachel Brosnahan studied Joan Rivers and another surprising female figure to prepare for her Marvelous Mrs. Maisel role
According to Vanity Fair, Rachel Brosnahan prepared for her role as a housewife-turned-comedian by attending stand-up comedy open mics and watching aspiring comedians in their natural habitats. The actress told the publication, “Having even had a taste of what [stand-up comedy is] like, I am the one laughing the loudest at everybody’s jokes in the back, because I want them to feel seen and heard and encouraged.”
However, Brosnahan also delved into the works of some of the world’s most influential female comedians, including the legendary Joan Rivers. In January 2018, the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel actress revealed to InStyle, “I’ve been watching a lot of Joan Rivers.” Brosnahan continued, “[Rivers and Midge are] very different, but something about their drive is similar, I think.”
Brosnahan also revealed that she drew inspiration from her own grandmother to fully embody Midge Maisel. The actress told InStyle, “My grandmother and Midge shared a lot of traits. My grandmother is a fabulous, fabulous woman. And I think her and Midge would have shared a fashion sense, for sure.”
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