The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel has quite a name to live up to—and it does.
Amazon's streaming period comedy about a divorced woman who enters the world of stand-up comedy hails from Gilmore Girls creator Amy Sherman-Palladino. Mrs. Maisel took the world by storm when season one dropped in November 2017, and since then, the series, which stars House of Cards veteran Rachel Brosnahan as the titular character, picked up accolade after accolade, from Golden Globes to Television Critics Association awards.
The award show run (for season one at least) will conclude on Monday, Sept. 17 at the 2018 Emmys. Brosnahan, costars Alex Borstein, Jane Lynch and Tony Shalhoub are all nominated in acting categories, as is the show in the Outstanding Comedy Series category, Outstanding Casting for a Comedy Series, Outstanding Cinematography for a Single-Camera Series (One Hour), and Sherman-Palladino for Outstanding Direction for a Comedy Series and Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series.
Yes, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is poised to become an Emmys darling, and for good reason.
THE HERO WE NEED
Midge Maisel may be a fictional character from the 1950s, but she feels very real. It was love at first read for Brosnahan.
"This pilot script is one of the best scripts I've ever read: It's sharp, it's tight, it's funny. And also, this is a woman who is so unapologetically confident and that's not something I read very often at all, and certainly never something that I played," Brosnahan told E! News. "That felt important to me."
Midge Maisel is a fully fleshed out character, from quirks to flaws.
"She's imperfect, and I like that about her. She's somebody who holds her convictions very tightly. She's a product of her time. She was raised to believe that the goal was to be a perfect mother and housewife, to present a certain way to the world, and that wasn't a burden for her. It was something that made her feel great, that made her feel empowered. And then she learns there are other things out there for her, and that's both earth-shattering and world-crumbling, and also empowering in a whole new way," Brosnahan told us.
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is a timely story about a woman finding her voice and striking out on her own to forge her own path. Yes, she was content to be the doting wife, but when she found out her husband wasn't content with that aspect, she found her own path to happiness.
"The parts of Midge that make her a role model is she's somebody who fights for what she believes in no matter what," Brosnahan said. "She's somebody who doesn't know how to do anything halfway, she's ambitious, unapologetic in her ambition, but also she's very privileged. She's a little bit naïve sometimes, she doesn't realize the world around her is much bigger than the world that she exists in, and she's growing and learning, and I think eager to grow and learn, which is one of the things I love the most about her."
Midge Maisel has a zeal for life, whether it's crafting the perfect dinner party or landing the zinger on stage.
"I like that every adventure is attacked—as someone who attacks everything from cynicism and negativity because that's how my life runs—I like the fact that she attacks in just sort of a blinding positivity," Sherman-Palladino told us.
"You can't knock her down," executive producer Daniel Palladino added.
There's a reason the show was nominated for an Emmy for costuming. The series routinely shoots outdoors around New York City, which has changed drastically since the 1950s, so the clothes are an important part in making the comedy feel like a period piece.
"I'll never forget doing our camera test for the first time and putting on the hair and the makeup and the wardrobe all together and just feeling like we time traveled and that feeling has never gone away," Brosnahan told E! News. "Every time we step on a new set or put on a new costume, we're having a blast."
In an interview with EW, Mrs. Maisel costume designer Donna Zakowska explained how they make Midge Maisel pop. Zakowska said clothing from vintage shops and costume houses are used for the extras and actors with more minor roles, so Midge stands out more.
"In terms of the extras and other people, trying to make it look as real as possible and then heightening Midge a bit," Zakowska said. "Some of the colors from the ‘50s, a lot of the palette things—I looked at French Vogue from the period — are really very interesting color combinations. I worked a lot with combining, taking more heightened Vogue from the period and then bringing it down to a little bit more accessible level for the character."
FUNNY FEMALE FRIENDS
While Midge Maisel's journey is at the center of the show, she's not going on it alone. Borstein, who viewers know from HBO's acclaimed Getting On, a comedy about the medical professionals in a geriatric extended care facility, and Family Guy, plays Susie Myerson, Midge's manager. The two start out as business associates and couldn't be any different from one another, but things quickly change. They start to develop a friendship where they're both rooting for each other, and the audience is in each of their corners.
"I always say it's like [The Mary Tyler Moore Show's] Mary and Rhoda. They're very, very different. You can't imagine they'd be friends, and yet they need each other. It's similar to Getting On," Borstein told E! News. "It's really cool, these women that absolutely have to lean on each other are better people because of their relationship together."
Sherman-Palladino said "you can't cast chemistry," and for Borstein and Brosnahan it was a surprise spark that was just there.
"These are two women who, under normal circumstances, may never have met, let alone become friends and let alone become the kind of friends who need each other, who kind of complete each other in some way," Brosnahan said. "This really deep female friendship is something that I love and don't see enough of on screen, and I'm really excited to see where it goes. I love working with Alex so much."
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel came along at just the right time as Hollywood's power structure begins to shift. Its timeliness, coupled with the facts that it's well-written and superbly acted, make for a winning combo. Mrs. Maisel captured the zeitgeist perfectly with its fun, fearless stories.
Season one of Mrs. Maisel is now streaming on Amazon, season two already has a fantastic trailer and will arrive…soon.