Why Amazon's 'Marvelous Mrs. Maisel' Is a "Solution" to Hollywood's Problem

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Still 1 - Publicity - H 2017
Courtesy of Amazon

When Amy Sherman-Palladino took the microphone to introduce her new Amazon series The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, the co-creator did not hesitate to address the elephant in the room.

"I know there has been some turmoil in the world, lately — I’ve heard, anyhow, I was in London," joked the Gilmore Girls creator while joined by her husband and producing partner, Dan Palladino. "But I want to say that we have some people at Amazon who have been supremely generous and supportive, all things I’m suspicious of and not used to."

She went on to say how her experience working with Amazon Studios for the unprecedented two-season pickup of their hourlong period dramedy Mrs. Maisel has been a "weird experience." What she asked for, she received. "It’s never happened before in my life, ever. I’m not used to 'OK.' I’m used to fighting for everything — 'It’s Connecticut we need snow!' ... 'Eh, you don’t get snow, fuck you.' That’s what I’m used to, that’s my life," she said to laughs. "And this was a very different experience."

Amazon Studios has undergone an executive exodus since content chief Roy Price departed in October following allegations of sexual harassment. But Sherman-Palladino was nearly brought to tears thanking the team that brought Mrs. Maisel to the screen when officially premiering the series inside New York City's Village East Cinema theater ahead of its Nov. 29 launch.

The series, written, directed and exec produced by Sherman-Palladino with Palladino, stars Rachel Brosnahan in a very different role than her memorable stint on Netflix's House of Cards. As summed up by Palladino, 1958 housewife Miriam “Midge” Maisel is, in a word, "joyful."

"Amy designed the character and the character is joyful," Palladino told The Hollywood Reporter at the premiere. Acknowledging that there isn't much "joy" on TV these days, the executive producer continued, "When Midge gets knocked down, she gets right back up again. She’s like the cop from Terminator 2. She is just going to morph back into someone who is going to take control of the room. That was the intention, and I think there’s not a lot of that out there, especially in roles for women."

The pilot of Mrs. Maisel — which debuted on Amazon Prime in March and resulted in the streamer's first-ever multiseason series pickup — introduces Midge (Brosnahan) as a 1958 woman who has everything she's ever wanted: the perfect husband, two kids and an elegant Upper West Side apartment. But all that comes crashing down when her husband, Joel (Michael Zegen), leaves her for his secretary. Midge, as Palladino described, finds a way to land on her feet after discovering her own secret skill at stand-up comedy, and the first season charts her transformation from Uptown housewife to Greenwich Village comedian. 

"This is one of the most, if not the most, unabashedly confident female characters that I have read, and certainly that I have ever played," Brosnahan told THR of the titular role. "That felt important to me and feels radical in a way that it shouldn’t anymore. But this is the place and Amy and Dan are the people to help bring this woman and a show like this to life."

Musing over their "tight, sharp, and funny as shit" scripts, Brosnahan has no doubt that Gilmore Girls fans will flock to Mrs. Maisel, and she says what they will discover is some of the husband-and-wife duo's best work. "This is the first time that they’ve had complete creative control. They’ve been told 'yes,'" she says, echoing Sherman-Palladino. "This is their vision executed to its full extent. They’re brilliant, but I’m not sure that anyone has really seen how brilliant they can be."

Amid a climate where Hollywood, and other industries alike, are seeing more and more women finding their voice to speak out about allegations of sexual harassment and assault, the timing for introducing Midge Maisel to the world is not lost on its creator.

"Part of the reason Mrs. Maisel doesn’t feel like a precious little vintage show is because these are still things women struggle with today," Sherman-Palladino told THR of the parallels to their 1950s world. "Different levels, different variations. But the need to be noticed and heard and have a platform to express is something that unfortunately is still a fight, so it does tap into that."

She continued, "I don’t love that it’s tapping into it quite in this way — where it’s kind of the worst of the worst — but I feel like Midge is a character who has supreme confidence in herself and sort of powers through no matter what, which I think has been women’s M.O. from day one: Confidence, power through, don’t look back. Things like that."

Brosnahan, whose former show House of Cards is currently in production limbo over allegations against its former star Kevin Spacey, also recognizes the need for a Mrs. Maisel in today's climate.

"We are on a show that is a part of the solution to this giant problem that we have in Hollywood," she of Mrs. Maisel, which wrapped filming in September right before the Harvey Weinstein scandal opened the Hollywood floodgates. "This is a show that is created, written, produced, directed by an extraordinary woman and an extraordinary man who loves extraordinary women about an extraordinary woman at a time when that wasn’t expected or encouraged. I have loved being a part of every single minute of this, and I hope that more shows like this are available. We need more diversity all around — women, people of color — in positions of power and influence. It’s long overdue. I hope that we can continue to hold each other accountable to that."

Alex Borstein, who plays Midge's comedy booker and mentor Susie Myerson, seconded her co-star's call, crediting female content creators like Sherman-Palladino and Shonda Rhimes for enacting change.

"It’s awesome that people are speaking up, and supporting those women is so important," the Family Guy star told THR. "But the systemic change is going to come from dollars being spent on content created by women: Wonder Woman, Bridesmaids, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel — anything by Shonda Rhimes. They can write article after article and so many men can lose their jobs, but really all that matters is that money is made by female-generated content. That’s how it’s going to change."

And Borstein hints that two seasons of Mrs. Maisel is just the beginning: "Amy says, 'This is going to be on for six to 10 years' — but she’ll never divulge all her secrets."

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, which also stars Tony Shalhoub and Marin Hinkle, launches its first season Nov. 29 on Amazon Prime Video.