During the show’s FYC panel in New York City’s Steiner Studios on Thursday, moderator Danny Strong revealed that he remembered having a conversation with creators Amy Sherman-Palladino and Daniel Palladino before filming began about how they hadn’t found their star yet. The Palladinos told Strong that if they didn’t find the right person for the role of Mariam “Midge” Maisel, they wouldn’t do the show.
They eventually found the right person in Rachel Brosnahan.
“The thing about Rachel is she’s one of the most gifted, if maybe the most gifted, actress, I’ve ever had the chance to really work with this closely, and she can inhabit anything,” Sherman-Palladino said during the panel. “There’s nothing she can’t do. That’s just the bottom line.”
One of the things about Brosnahan’s audition that most stood out to the series creators was that she was the only person who knew that as a stand-up comic, you have to lean into the microphone.
“If you don’t have the balls to do that, you gotta get off the stage,” Sherman-Palladino continued. “The minute she did that, we were kind of like, ‘We’re sold’ ’cause it didn’t matter what happened after that. All we knew is she was the one who had the balls. She had the toughness. She understood the basic thing about comedy, which is you’re up there alone. It’s fucking awful. If the audience turns on you as a stand-up, they’re turning on you.”
During the panel, the Palladinos also revealed that Gilmore Girls fan-favorite Milo Ventimiglia, who made a brief but important appearance in season four, may come back for more in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel‘s fifth and final season, which is in production now. Ventimiglia played a man Midge met in Central Park, whom she chatted with on several occasions before finally going back to his place and having sex, only to find out that he’s married.
“He might be back,” Palladino teased. “And that’s going to be another kind of big crazy sequence for him and one of the people here,” joking, “Tony Shaloub.”
Palladino added that Ventimiglia’s role in the season needed to matter to some degree, it couldn’t just be a tip of the hat, and that’s how they settled on Ventimiglia’s “Handsome Man.”
Sherman-Palladino touched on another important man in Midge’s life, her ex-husband, Joel (Michael Zegen), explaining that the way she sees it, Zegen has the hardest role in the series.
“When you are the person that shot Bambi’s mother in the pilot, and then you have four years of having to win an audience over when you start from that position, it is extraordinarily hard to do and only an incredibly skilled actor is going to be able to do that, and that is just the God’s honest truth,” she said. “Michael Zegen is my fucking secret weapon.”
She went on to say that Zegen has taken the character of Joel from an immature man to a person who is constantly working to improve himself and prove himself to those around him. As much as people may argue that a good actor is a result of a good script, Sherman-Palladino argues otherwise.
“You can say it’s good writing or whatever,” she said, “but you can put any word on the page, and if someone doesn’t show up and humanize that and make that something deep and rich, it’s just fucking words.”
Over the course of the panel, there was a running joke between the cast and the show’s creators about how the Palladinos never give the stars the scripts way in advance, so they don’t know their characters’ overall arcs or what’s coming next for them.
Brosnahan called not knowing her character’s future a “trust fall,” explaining that she and the cast feel it’s helped them grow a lot as actors.
“I’ve had the opportunity to grow up on this show and with this person and to get to do something that I never in 1,000 years could have seen coming,” Brosnahan said. “This is a dream I didn’t know I had.”
Being cast as Midge in Marvelous Mrs. Maisel was a big deal for Brosnahan, as well as for the Palladinos. She had been trying to break into comedy for a while and was continuously told she wasn’t funny and should consider auditioning for more serious roles.
“Literally the day I found out I was going to be their Midge, [I] lost a role that morning because I wasn’t funny enough,” she said. “It’s been perpetually terrifying in the most incredible way that I wish on everyone in this room. I wish you all the experience of being scared because of something you love every day.”
Ahead of the panel, guests were treated to a burlesque show at The Wolford, the club where Midge spends most of her time in season four as an emcee, and a screening of the first episode of the season. The FYC event took place inside the soundstage where the series films, complete with sets of Susie’s (Alex Bornstein) office, The Wolford’s dressing rooms and more. Small buckets of popcorn, bowls of sour candies and funnel cakes on an umbrella were handed out over the course of the event.
On the red carpet before the screening, the cast all agreed on one thing: They’re going to miss each other dearly when the show finally wraps.
Marin Hinkle, who plays Midge’s mother Rose, said the cast and crew have become her family.
“I am madly in love with this cast,” she told The Hollywood Reporter. “I have one child in my life, wanted to have a brood, and now I have a family that’s larger. It’s everything I dreamed about. I have a daughter and Will [Brill] plays my son, so I actually have extra children.”
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel hasn’t just been a personal journey for Hinkle; Bornstein said there was a scene in season four that especially resonated with her: the funeral of her dear friend, where she gives an impassioned, emotional speech about the role he played in her life.
“We’d lost a cast member, but I also had lost a very dear friend,” Bornstein said. “When Amy wrote that piece, she knew that I had lost this friend, and really she weaves a lot of Brian [Tarantina] and a lot of this friend that I lost.” She choked up a bit, then continued, “it was very difficult, but I felt stronger after having had to try doing this.”
As for Stephanie Hsu, who plays Joel’s girlfriend Mei, Maisel showed her that she could be a part of a period piece, which is something she never thought was possible.
“This has made me break out of my own fears that other people stereotype me a certain way,” Hsu told THR. “It’s given me an opportunity to break a mold that I didn’t even know was there, so much so that anytime another project comes to me and I’m like, ‘Oh, well, they would never have someone who looks like me play that role,’ I immediately stopped myself, and I just say, ‘That’s not true.’” I know that now, that it’s not true, and I’m a part of creating that space for other people who look like me.”
Monica has a BA in Journalism and English from the University of Massachusetts and an MS in Journalism and Communications from Quinnipiac University. Monica has worked as a journalist for over 20 years covering all things entertainment. She has covered everything from San Diego Comic-Con, The SAG Awards, Academy Awards, and more. Monica has been published in Variety, Swagger Magazine, Emmy Magazine, CNN, AP, Hidden Remote, and more. For the past 10 years, she has added PR and marketing to her list of talents as the president of Prime Entertainment Publicity, LLC. Monica is ready for anything and is proudly obsessed with pop culture.