A marvelous evening it was, spent with Emmy, Golden Globe, and Critic’s Choice Award winner, Rachel Brosnahan, at The Highland Park Community House in Highland Park, IL.
“A Marvelous Evening with Mrs. Maisel,” a fundraiser on October 19th, 2018, honored the Actors Training Center (ATC) of Wilmette, IL where Brosnahan trained throughout her childhood. The founder, Carole Dibo, became Brosnahan’s mentor early on and helped her book auditions throughout her acting career.
The cocktail hour, silent auction, and performances by local actors and singers, all brought excitement, although, the mood in the room was heightened by the presence of Highland Park native, Brosnahan.
Each guest had the opportunity to take a photo with Brosnahan, and as they stepped up to the backdrop, Brosnahan welcomed each person with colossal warmth and poise.
While watching Brosnahan interact with her fans, I began chatting with a woman standing to my right. During our exchange, I learned that she was Brosnahan’s mother, Carol Brosnahan.
“She really landed the role of a lifetime,” Carol Brosnahan said.
She exuded immense pride for her daughter’s accomplishments and still seemed in shock of where her daughter has gotten in her career. She reminisced on dropping Brosnahan off at parties at the exact building we were standing in and seemed in disbelief that people were now lining up to meet her.
The night continued flawlessly and ended with a Q&A session between Dibo and Brosnahan. The Q&A gave insight into her auditions and inspired many, especially the children from ATC who were present.
“There is no one way [to accomplish your goal], and everyone who is giving you advice is genuinely trying to help you,” Brosnahan concluded. “But they are not always the author of your story.”
But before any excitement of the night began, I had the chance to sit down and chat with the articulate and passionate star of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.
Sarah’s Backstage Pass: I grew up in Northbrook, so we’re neighbors. How have you used the Northshore stereotype a Jewish girl to impact your role as Midge?
Rachel Brosnahan: I’m not sure that has crossed my mind yet, but I do think there are few different women who I have known and loved at various parts in my life, like my grandmother on my dad’s side who is from Kansas City, and actually one of my corporate agents in New York, who does not know that Midge is partially inspired by her [laughs]. I’ve borrowed pieces from so many different women that I’ve known and loved in my life.
SBP: Who is your inspiration while playing a Jewish woman in the 1950’s?
RB: Well I watched a lot of stand-up comedy from the time. I studied women like Joan Rivers and Phyllis Diller, Jean Caroll, Totie Fields, and Moms Mabley. And also Bob Newhart and Don Rickles. Although, Midge’s comedy is more stream of consciousness which hadn’t yet become quite popular in the 1950’s. It’s more in the style of Lenny Bruce’s stream of consciousness observational humor. Which I think is making her [Midge] break out. It’s not so Vaudevillian like some of the early comedians.
We then went on a tangent about how we both had met Joan Rivers on different occasions and how lovely, kind and genuine we found her to be.
SBP: Your banter with Alex Borstein is so well done. Is that natural or did that take a lot of practice?
RB: We chemistry read together very early on in the process of doing the show, and we had chemistry right away. We’re not completely unlike our characters in our interactions with each other. Alex is so dry and so funny, and I can hardly keep up… but I’m learning. We just have totally different energies, and it shouldn’t make sense, but it does.
SBP: In what ways are you like your character?
RB: I think we are both curious and resilient and ambitious. But I think that I get frustrated with Midge when she is somewhat blinded by her own privilege and doesn’t quite learn as fast as I’d like.
SBP: Will we see that change in season 2?
RB: She’s definitely confronted with it further in season 2. Particularly from Susie [Alex Borstein]. Susie comes from a completely different place, and the stakes for her in Midge’s success are very different than Midge’s.
SBP: What do you hope women take away from your role and the show in general, especially in this time of the Me Too movement?
RB: I think Midge is someone who doesn’t know how to do anything less than 150%, who is insanely curious, who is unapologetically confident and ambitious and I think that that’s empowering. I also love that Midge’s story shows that it’s never too late to find your voice in a new way. It’s not that she didn’t have a voice, she absolutely did. But she’s discovered a new way to use it, and I hope that women of all different ages realize that it’s never too late to do that.
SBP: That message is coming through loud and clear. What is something your fans don’t know about you?
RB: I think it’s all out there now [laughs]. I am a terrible, terrible cook. That is the way that Midge and I differ. My cooking could poison people, don’t come to my house for a dinner party. I tried to make a brisket before shooting this show. I told Amy [Sherman-Palladino] that I’d make one and bring it to set. It didn’t go well.
SBP: How is Amy Sherman-Palladino?
RB: Amy is fantastic, she is so bold and smart and sharp and self-empowered. She is a character, and she is one of the most brilliant people I’ve worked with.
SBP: Have you ever experienced a time where your creative differences conflicted?
RB: No, very early on it became apparent that this is Amy and her husband Dan’s [Palladino] vision from top to bottom and they know exactly what they want and exactly how to execute it. So, I trust them implicitly. It’s been a really fulfilling creative partnership, and I feel so lucky to be a partner with them in this.
SBP: It must be an incredible partnership because the work you produce is so incredible. So, you’re a Golden Globe, Emmy, and Critic’s Choice Award winner. What would your childhood-self think of that?
RB: [Laughs and smiles largely] Um… probably the same thing my adult-self thinks of it. We can’t fully believe that this is happening. It’s motivating me to keep doing more work and to keep getting better because now my name is among people I admire, whose work I aspire to get to. It’s motivating.
Alexi Rabin ©October 19, 2018