The Amazon original series “The Marvellous Mrs. Maisel” tells the story of how Miriam “Midge” Maisel, a 1950s Jewish housewife from New York City’s Upper West Side, embarks on a comedy career after being spurned by her husband.
Taking home two Golden Globes and five Emmy Awards, the comedy ― which stars Rachel Brosnahan and was co-created by Amy Sherman-Palladino of “Gilmore Girls” fame ― is also one of Amazon’s highest-rated series, with an average rating of 4.9/5.
The streaming service hasn’t announced a release date for season two (you can check out the teaser trailer here), but here’s some surprising trivia about the beloved series to hold you over.
In the past, Rachel Brosnahan was told she wasn’t funny. Now, she has an Emmy and a Golden Globe for portraying a comedian.
If you’ve watched just one episode of “Marvellous Mrs. Maisel,” you’ll know that Brosnahan’s comedic timing is on point. Whether she’s performing one of Midge’s stand-up routines or verbally sparring with Tony Shalhoub, who plays Midge’s father Abe, she imbues her performance with light-footed verve.
It might come as a surprise, then, to learn that Brosnahan ― who previously appeared on shows such as the political drama “House of Cards” and “Manhattan,” a WGN series about the development of the atomic bomb ― was told that comedy wasn’t her forte.
“I’m laughing [at the fact that] I’m now an award-winning comedic actress,” she told Glamour. “Like, that feels absurd! I spent most of my life being told I wasn’t funny. I’ve lost many jobs because people would say, ‘We really liked her, but she’s just not funny.'”
It’s hard to imagine anyone else playing Midge Maisel, but Brosnahan thought she bombed her preliminary audition and was sick during her camera test with the show’s creators.
Although Brosnahan thought she bombed her preliminary audition, she was called back to do an informal camera test in LA in front of “Maisel” co-creators Amy Sherman-Palladino and Dan Palladino.
But even the second audition didn’t go as planned since she was ill the whole time.
“I rallied, but I honestly was so sick during the camera test – I was so sweaty Amy [Sherman-Palladino] kept stopping me because I had to powder my face, I was blowing my nose, I took my shoes off at some point … at best, that test was a beautiful disaster,” she said in an interview with Harper’s Bazaar.
Sherman-Palladino is known for writing rapid-fire dialogue ― and Brosnahan drank a ton of coffee to get into character.
Rapid-fire dialogue and clever repartee are signatures of any Sherman-Palladino project. (Can you even imagine “Gilmore Girls” without Rory and Lorelai’s pop-culture-heavy, mile-a-minute exchanges?)
Midge is no exception, and to nail her effervescence ― a blend of ideal-housewife charm and proto-feminist free-spiritedness ― Brosnahan made like the Gilmore women and drank lots of coffee to get into character and keep up with the pace.
One of the longest shots of season one was the first to be filmed.
Sherman-Palladino not only relishes complex dialogue but long shots that span eight to 10 script pages. The first scene of the series to be filmed ― when Midge tells her parents that she and her husband, Joel (Michael Zegen), are separating ― was done as a single shot.
“We slammed right into the hardest scene with this cast of theatre actors. And once we accomplished that together, we were like a really tough summer-stock troupe,” she told The Wrap.
Midge Maisel wasn’t a real-life figure ― but she was partially inspired by Joan Rivers.
Thanks to Brosnahan’s performance, Midge seems larger than life. Although she wasn’t a real person, the character is in part a nod to Joan Rivers.
“I think a lot of Midge’s sense of humour is very similar to Joan’s ― the kinds of taboo subject matter that they explore. But the comedy comes from a very different place,” Brosnahan told NPR, noting that while Rivers’ routines were rooted in feeling like an outsider, Midge is at ease in the stand-up world.
In addition, Midge’s manager Susie ― a role that earned Alex Borstein the Emmy for Best Supporting Actress ― was inspired by Hollywood talent agent Sue Mengers.
The overall ethos of the series was moulded by Sherman-Palladino’s exposure to her father‘s circle of Jewish stand-up comics, which included Lenny Bruce’s mother (Luke Kirby portrays Bruce on “Maisel”).
“The show was not so much a conscious homage to any particular comic as it was something that was in my zeitgeist,” Sherman-Palladino told Vanity Fair.
The show’s period-specific soundtrack is basically a character in its own right ― and Barbra Streisand personally gave Sherman-Palladino permission to use some of her songs.
Like the memorable score on “Gilmore Girls,” “Maisel” has a sound all its own. The show’s soundtrack features artists popular in mid-century America ranging from Peggy Lee to Duke Ellington.
Sherman-Palladino also wanted to add some Barbra Streisand tunes to the mix and wrote to the artist to seek permission. Streisand doesn’t often allow her songs to be licensed, but she said she was won over by the show.
“I was impressed with how the show digs deep into the song catalogues of the era and doesn’t just go with the obvious hits,” Streisand told The Hollywood Reporter.
In the pilot, you can hear Streisand sing Cole Porter’s “Come to the Supermarket (in Old Peking),” a deep cut from her first album. The more recognisable “Happy Days Are Here Again” plays as Midge’s marriage dissolves and she moves back in with her parents.
The Gaslight Cafe, where Midge gets her start in comedy, was a real venue in New York City’s Greenwich Village neighbourhood.
Although Midge initially visits the Gaslight Cafe to watch her husband try his hand at stand-up, she later makes her own (drunken) debut at the venue, which was a real place.
According to Untapped Cities, the Gaslight Cafe was a coffeehouse and music venue located at 116 MacDougal Street (the building now houses a craft cocktail bar). Open from 1958 to 1971, everyone from Bob Dylan to Jimi Hendrix passed through its doors.
Exterior shots of the club ― which was also showcased in “Inside Llewyn Davis” and “Mad Men” ― were filmed on St. Mark’s Place, while interior scenes were filmed on a sound stage at Brooklyn’s Steiner Studios.
Some shoots require a bit of TV magic ― like transforming an old bank into a 1950s department store.
Set designer Bill Groom, who has previously worked on “Boardwalk Empire” and “Vinyl,” helped bring 1950s Manhattan to life with period-specific details. For instance, to create a replica B. Altman department store inside a former bank, he asked makeup companies for permission to reproduce boxes and packaging from the era.
“The department store turned into a very big undertaking because those product boxes don’t exist anymore,” Groom told the MPAA’s blog, The Credits. “You might find two or three, but you’re not going to find 200 products from 1958 sitting on a shelf somewhere.”
But there are plenty of filming locations you can visit in real life.
Music Inn, a store that sells instruments from around the globe, has been in business on West 4th Street since 1958.
And if you want to dine like Midge, you can eat at La Bonbonniere, a classic West Village breakfast spot (called “The City Spoon” on the show).
You can even live in Midge’s Upper West Side building.
In reality, the “classic six” that Midge and Joel inhabit is the real-life childhood apartment of architect Allegra Kochman. She owns several apartments in the pre-war building, which is located at 404 Riverside Drive.
The New York Post reported in April that one unit was on the market for more than $US1.8 million.
There’s a sneaky reference in an early episode of season one.
When Midge’s mother (Marin Hinkle) visits a fortune teller after her daughter separates from her husband, the clairvoyant prescribes tannis root as a cure for Midge’s marital woes. But you won’t find the herb anywhere in nature: it’s a fictional plant from the horror film “Rosemary’s Baby.”
The buoyant font used for the show’s title is a neo-retro typeface called Fontdinerdotcom.
A designer named Stuart Sandler created it in 1998 as an homage to the quirky, hand-lettered fonts of the 1950s. It’s named for his website, which showcases his typeface design business.
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