“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” feels right at home in its second season, though much of the plot takes the cast away from its New York City setting.
About halfway into the slowed-down season that initially spends more time on the classic Amy Sherman-Palladino’s quick-chatting banter than it does on the stand-up grind, Midge heads to the Catskills.
Why? Because “the city shuts down in the summer” … if you’re rich.
“Midge doesn’t quite understand the urgency that if she doesn’t hit the mark, this could all go away,” says Emmy winner Rachel Brosnahan. Her housewife/comic Midge needs a strong push to command stages beyond the Gaslight Cafe, especially so when she’s busy with “Simon Says” games and camp dinners.
“I’m like, ‘are you doing this?’ ‘Are you not doing this’?” says Alex Borstein, who also took home an Emmy for her role in the critically acclaimed series. “I can’t afford for it to go away,” she says of Midge’s season one rise in the comedy scene.
Midge’s extended summer vacation — a temporary lapse in career judgment that ends up significantly progressing the plot — took the cast from their city sets for what they refer to as their own “Maisel camp.”
The script spans multiple episodes and drags the Weissmans (Tony Shalhoub and Marin Hinkle) and the Maisels (Michael Zegen, Kevin Pollak and Caroline Aaron) to the upstate enclave.
The nearly two-week stretch of filming this past summer can only be described as “challenging,” says Borstein. “There were a lot of people who got sick and injured,” she says, laughing to her co-star Brosnahan while declaring she “won’t name names.”
“We were weirdly cursed in the Catskills. Apparently, one of the buildings was haunted,” Brosnahan says. “It was wild.”
The cast and crew knew early on that Sherman-Palladino would be uprooting them to the Catskills midseason, though they knew little about why.
“They hadn’t gotten too detailed with it until Dan [Palladino] went on a trip up there and then locked that in,” says production designer Bill Groom. They spent “extensive time” in the area scouting the perfect location to be disguised as the 1959 Jewish summer resort scene.
Groom and the Palladinos settled on Scott’s Family Resort, a privately owned vacation property on Oquaga Lake in upstate Deposit, with a history dating back to 1873.
“The location was just stunning,” says Brosnahan. “It was crazy with background actors all dressed up and putting boats out on the lake like we just time traveled.”
Since much has evolved at the Catskills within the past six decades, Groom says he chose the resort for its virtually untouched layout, which included individual family cottages and a private lake, a specific ask from Sherman-Palladino.
Sherman-Palladino and her husband Dan Palladino wrote in the script specifics after seeing Scott’s Family Resort firsthand.
“Originally there were hotel rooms in the thinking, but there were little cottages around the lake and that just seemed great that Midge and Abe and Rose and Joel would have been in the same cottage together,” he adds.
Speedy cabin fever
Put that many Weissmans under one roof and you’re bound to get a whole lot of speed-talking moments that’ll leave you gasping for air. The vacation vibe gave the Emmy-winning writer plenty to play with, as she turns car rides, breakfasts and nature strolls into opportunities to jam in witty one-liners and swift pop culture references.
A particularly enjoyable scene comes upon the Weissmans’ Catskills arrival, which turns into a full two minutes of banter as Midge, Abe and Rose try to rearrange their cabin to their liking.
“The scene you’re referencing involved eight different people and we shot it in one take. On the page it was intimidating,” says Brosnahan.
She continues: “It’s so difficult and you feel so terrible when you are the person that f—s it all up, but we all take turns being that person. And when it works, it’s magic.”
While an average television writer can fit about a page of written script material in one minute of screen time, Sherman-Palladino’s quick jabs allow her to squeeze in nearly twice as much content. A 60-minute film generally coincides with a 60-page script, Brosnahan says, but “Maisel” fits 90 pages of material into 45-minute episodes.
Brosnahan adds they’re able to pull it all off thanks to the Palladinos’ attention to detail.
“We have a person whose entire job it is to come in and let us know when we’ve missed one single word,” she adds, even if it’s as simple as to differentiate between “that dog” and “the dog.” “We have two script supervisors because it is such an intense job, one whose job it is to keep track of continuity.”
Though it’s undeniable the season ups the cabin-fever banter in new locales, it doesn’t stray too far from its roots.
Instead, it finds a familiar rhythm exploring the dynamic between Midge and her mother, Rose, and furthers its dive into the male-dominated stand-up scene that tries, and fails, to push the rebellious Midge back into the kitchen with a steaming brisket.