Amazon’s comedy series The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel took home two Golden Globes on Sunday, one for best musical or comedy television series and another for best actress in a musical or comedy series. The show's leading lady, and first-time Globe winner, Rachel Brosnahan nailed her acceptance speech, calling for more unique female stories on the small and big screens.
“This is a story about a bold and brilliant and complicated woman, and I am endlessly proud to be a part of it,” Brosnahan announced to an audience dressed in almost-monochrome black in support of the women's rights initiative Time's Up. “But there are so many women’s stories out there that still need and deserve to be told.”
Female representation on screen is a topic Brosnahan has felt passionately about for some time and was advocating when we caught up with the actress last year, ahead of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel release. Here, she sheds light on her powerhouse character—the fiercely independent 1950s stand-up comedian Midge—and what Joan Rivers had to do with making her come to life.
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What do those who haven't yet seen The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel have to look forward to? Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is about a woman named Mariam but her nickname is Midge Maisel in the 1950s, and her husband unexpectedly leaves her. Over time, you’ll see her go on to become one of the first female stand-up comedians. It’s a stretch for me, but in the most exciting way possible.
Most of this period is told though a male perspective. So it’s exciting to be on this show, which is about a woman, written and directed by a woman [Amy Sherman-Palladino of Gilmore Girls fame]. There’s women all over the crew—it’s a very female-driven project.
Where did you draw inspiration from for this character? I’ve been watching a lot of Joan Rivers. They’re very different, but something about their drive is similar, I think. Also, 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. I’ve been researching a lot about actors and actresses during this time. She’s a young Jewish woman, so I’ve been brushing up on my Jewish history all the way leading up to the ‘50s and ‘60s. I’ve done a lot of research, but I love to research so it’s been great.
What would you like to do with this character? What type of legacy would you like to leave? I’m certainly not the first person or hopefully the last to say that we need to see more women leading TV shows and film—women who are different from the ones that we’ve already seen and constantly see. And I think this falls into that category in little ways. For example, I shot a scene early on where I had to take off all my makeup. And I’ve shot scenes like that before where they cover up your zits, cover up the red, scenes where you’re “not wearing any makeup.” But I got to take all of my makeup off while on camera. And that sounds like a small thing but it’s huge. It’s a part of stripping down. I’m hoping I’m part of many, many more little things like that moving forward. It was very exciting for me.
What have you learned from Midge? She is so brave. She is so much braver than I am. I’m hoping that rubs off.