A version of this story about Rachel Brosnahan first appeared in the Emmy Hot List issue of TheWrap’s Emmy magazine.
Rachel Brosnahan’s performance in Season 3 of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” earned her her third Emmy nomination in a row for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series. It’s one of 20 nominations for the Amazon Prime series, which puts it tops among all comedy series and second only to Watchmen for the most nominations for any show.
After two years as a formidable Emmy contender — with wins for herself and for the show in 2018 — Brosnahan has likely mastered the emotional challenge of waiting for the presenter to read the name in that envelope. But this past season, playing Midge Maisel provided her with a much deeper and more consequential set of emotional challenges.
The actress unpacked the events of that shocking season finale, revealing that the scenes that required the heaviest emotional hurdles were a confrontation in the StageDeli with Benjamin (Zachary Levi), a doctor to whom she was engaged before breaking it off in a letter, and a scene in which Midge and her manager, Susie (Alex Borstein), are booted off their opening slot on a nationwide concert tour by Reggie (Sterling K. Brown), the manager of singer Shy Baldwin.
“That was a rough episode for ol’ Midge,” she said with a laugh.
Because of the lighthearted nature of comedies, Brosnahan added that serious scenes such as those are a rare pleasure to perform. “We’re a comedy, we don’t often get to do scenes like that,” she said. “So to get to do that with Zach Levi and Sterling K. Brown was a real treat. They’re both instances where Midge has really f—ed up, even if she thought she was doing the right thing.”
With Midge’s ex-fiancé, she said, “I think she knows she’s never confronted the Benjamin of it all. She wrote a letter and quickly moved on, and that was her way of coping. It’s not until he’s right there that she can’t run away from it and he completely calls her on how terrible a way that was to break up with someone that you thought you were going to marry.”
For Brosnahan, the third season offered a winning combination of comedy and drama. But the real showstopper was the shocking final scene on the tarmac when Midge and Susie get the news from Reggie that Shy Baldwin has fired them from the tour as a result of some indiscreet jokes Midge made at the Apollo Theater that risked revealing his sexuality.
“Midge really does believe that Reggie told her to do her set like that, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t cause potentially irreparable harm,” Brosnahan said. “I think that’s Midge’s Achilles heel. Her world view has been so narrow for so long, and in a situation like that, your intentions don’t mean a whole lot in the end.”
But Brosnahan hasn’t given up on Midge just yet. “While she may learn a lesson, we often see her take a less-than-straight path towards progress,” she said. “A couple steps forward, a couple steps back along the way. She’s still got a lot to learn, but I hope that this is a step forward.”