The fact that “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” earned 20 Emmy nominations this year has somehow gone under the radar. Maybe its because last year its sister Amazon series “Fleabag” surprisingly stole much of its major category thunder. Maybe its because while it’s three seasons in and won the Outstanding Comedy Series Emmy in 2018 there are other shiny contenders to distract voters at such as “Dead to Me” and “Schitt’s Creek.” But when looking at Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series contenders we suggest you don’t ignore the candidacy of last year’s winner, Tony Shalhoub.
Now an eleven-time nominee and four-time winner over an absolutely remarkable career, Shalhoub has discovered that “Maisel” is the gift that keeps giving. Creator and showrunner Amy Sherman-Palladino has transformed Shalhoub’s character, Abe Weissman, the father of the Mrs. Maisel in question (Midge, played by Rachel Brosnahan), from a cantankerous math professor to a radical independent news editor to a theater critic for the Village Voice over just 27 episodes of hour-long television. Granted, most of “Maisel’s” major characters have been gifted such riches, but Shalhoub seems to absolutely thrive in it.
The 2018 Tony Award winner took some time to discuss Abe, his latest Emmy nomination and when production on the fourth season of “Maisel” might begin in the interview below.
The Playlist: What was your reaction to getting another Emmy nomination, especially after winning last year?
Boy, yeah, it was thrilling. I mean, I’m mostly thrilled because the show got so much love this year, I think 20 nominations. A nomination for me, I feel like is a nomination for all of us. It feels like that kind of an ensemble piece. I feel like, not to sound greedy, but I feel like every one of our cast members should be nominated. There’s so much great work being done. These roles are tricky and complicated and they’re just handled so deftly. But I was really pleased that we hit season three and it isn’t flagging and people are still coming to it.
After three seasons, how would you compare your experience with working on “Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” compared to other projects in your career?
Well, I mean, I’ve been lucky in that I’ve had mostly really great experiences, but the difference in this one is that it’s, I’m sure other cast members have talked about this too, but it’s the closest to doing theater that I’ve ever experienced in a series. It has that kind of energy. They write a lot of long scenes and we do a lot of long takes and it has that super collaborative vibe every day. And so that’s for me what sets it apart.
As a viewer, every season it seems like there’s another standout one or two long takes, scenes that you remember even months later. And the one that popped into my head, and it’s because I watched it just a couple of days ago again, was in the final episode when Abe and Rose are leaving the Maisel’s house.
Is that the one where [Midge] is packing up to go on tour and they’re loading the cab and everyone’s running?
It’s in the foyer, I believe, of Shirley and Moishe’s house. And yeah, that’s an extraordinary scene. I think it’s all mostly in one shot.
I guess my question is how much time do you guys actually have to rehearse and get the timing down?
Well, we get a good, healthy amount of rehearsal time on those kinds of scenes. We have to because, as you well know, if one thing goes wrong then it’s an unusable take. And we sort of earn that time because we’re a very cohesive group. Starting with Rachel, Rachel raises the bar for everybody. What I guess I’m saying is we can afford to take the time because we make it up by not doing tons of coverage and tons of turnaround and lighting changes, changes of lighting and different camera set-ups. I mean, I can’t say we rehearse it for days, but a matter of hours really locks it in. And it’s so energizing and exhilarating that it just feels like everyone’s sharp as a tack and on their game.
What’s somewhat remarkable about the show is how much growth everyone’s characters have gone through over three seasons. I think Abe has actually had some of the biggest arcs. By the end of season three, he’s basically gone from being an established college professor to a theater critic for the Village Voice. Are you constantly surprised by what the show delivers for you and what Abe will be doing?
I am and I’m thrilled about it too. And I think they serve all of these, the writers serve all these characters really well because everyone’s transitioning, I think. But for me, yeah, it’s daunting on the one hand, but it’s thrilling too, because very often when you’re in a series, at least in my experience, each character is there to serve a function and you sometimes don’t get the opportunity to change and expand. You play that one thing, you build that certain role, and sometimes if the series goes for many seasons and is successful, well that’s kind of a double-edged sword because you have the job security on the one hand, but you can sometimes feel that you’re limited to playing say two or three colors over and over. And that’s just not how these writers, how these creators work. I mean, look at the arc that Marin [Hinke] goes through with the character of Rose in season two. She gets disenchanted, runs away to Paris, comes back, then in season three goes to her family in Oklahoma. Who knew she was from Oklahoma? And then finds herself in a situation where their life, because of all of the repercussions of Midge’s choices, our lives are completely upended. So, I think it’s a tribute to the skill and the respect and trust they have for their cast, that they’re pretty sure that whatever curves that they’re going to throw us, we’re going to be able to handle.
One of my favorite scenes of Abe’s of the season is when he goes back to his former college classroom and the term I would use is “reads his students to filth” as he makes peace with leaving his career in higher education. I want to just ask what you thought about that scene, but also in the notes for it, did it say that lyrics from “So Long Farewell,” from “The Sound of Music” would be heard?
I was not aware of that. I wasn’t tracking that in the script. So if it was there, it went past me. I love the fact that they got it in, but no, I did not. It was one of my favorite scenes of the season and I had a lot of great meaty stuff to do this year, but that for sure was just like a little one-act play in a way, I felt. The thing about Abe is that he’s got a lot of heart to him, but he just can’t restrain himself from speaking his truth. He just lacks that bit of tact that most people have. And I don’t know, I just love that. First of all, I love working in that classroom. That’s a real room at Columbia.
Didn’t even realize.
Yeah. It’s one of the really old buildings and it’s dripping with atmosphere and history. That for me was the best material that I got on the season.
Before I let you go, had you guys started shooting season four at all before the coronavirus shutdown? Do you know when you’ll go back?
No, we have not started. I believe the writers are working. I don’t know if they’re working like a Zoom writing room, but I know that stories are starting to be worked on, but we don’t have a start date. It just keeps getting pushed. So, they’re trying to work out the logistics of it. We’re a location heavy show and we use a lot of background typically. Those things are going to probably have to be rethought and I’m just not sure if all of those details have been worked out.
“Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” season three is available on Amazon Prime Video.