The minds behind ‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’

Dan Palladino and Amy Sherman-Palladino are the husband and wife team behind “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.”
Steve Zak Photography/Getty Images/Amazon Prime

By Emily Burack

NEW YORK — “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” didn’t add to its large collection of awards at the Golden Globes this year. But the third season of the celebrated series, now streaming on Amazon Prime, is keeping audiences hooked as it expands the world of Midge Maisel.

It also comes at a time of increasing awareness and discussion about how minorities — especially Jews, during this period of rising anti-Semitism across the United States — are portrayed on screen. As one of the most Jewish series on television, “Mrs. Maisel” is involved in a lot of these discussions.

“I think what ‘Mrs. Maisel’ does is to draw on the stereotypes while constantly undermining them [by] showing you the complexity of her character,” a professor said to the Los Angeles Times recently.

Amy Sherman-Palladino and Dan Palladino, the married couple behind the show, spoke on the topic recently.

How do you go about making sure the Jewish community feels represented authentically on “Maisel”?

Sherman-Palladino: I’ve always viewed comedy, especially at this time, as a Jewish creation — like the rhythm, the cadence. As a kid, I had the “2,000-year-old man” and Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner on a loop. That’s my rhythms and my father’s rhythms. And so, it didn’t even occur to me to make [Midge] anything other than a Jewish girl from the Upper West Side. It didn’t even occur to me to make her anything other than that.

[The Maisels and the Weissmans] are two Jewish success stories in New York, at a time when the world was wide open for them… We just leaned right into it.

It’s such a fundamentally New York Jewish story, but in season three, her world really expands.

Sherman-Palladino: We always have a foot in New York. We will never be a show that will be gone from New York. It’s a New York show, first and foremost. Wherever she goes and travels, her home is New York. It’s just something that now, hopefully, is ingrained in the show; you can’t separate [New York] from what the show is.

When you started, when you pitched the show, did you know it was going to end up where it is now? Did you have a plan that she’s going to go on tour, and all that?

Sherman-Palladino: We had the touchstones for the first three seasons.

Dan Palladino: She’s following a certain path. While she’s had a setback or two of different sizes, she still is going forward — even when she goes backwards. She’s going to brush herself off and figure out a way to move forward again. So it’s a little bit two steps forward, a step back.

Sherman-Palladino: Like any career in show business.

Palladino: We try not to set things in stone too much because we have to be open to how the actors are working together and what the dynamics are. When we first started, I don’t know if we really knew how much we were going to spend with Susie and Midge, just the two of them. But, from the very beginning, these two actresses [Alex Borstein and Rachel Brosnahan] — with their very different backgrounds and acting styles — came together and just really gelled together. So, you pick up that we should write more scenes for them.

Some of the discussion around the show now centers on the depiction of Jewish stereotypes. How do you deal with that issue in our hyper-aware culture?

Palladino: We knew that if we show a Jewish family at temple — if we show them and talk about Yom Kippur and all those kinds of things — there are going to be people who are going to nitpick at specifics that maybe we didn’t get exactly right. But we do it all lovingly. A lot of television shows will say “here’s aJewish family” and you’ll never see them doing anythingspecifically Jewish.

Sherman-Palladino: They talk about Chanukah once in a while.

Palladino: Yeah, every once in a while, there will be a mention of Chanukah, or a Yiddish word spoken. And other than that, they’re Episcopalian! So we’re trying to lean heavily into Jewish practices. We just want to show it, celebrate it, and sometimes laugh about it.

I’m not Jewish, but I married a Jewish woman and I’ve been working with — and have been friends with — Jews all my adult life. I have learned to love the laughter and the joy surrounding the traditions.

Sherman-Palladino: Like I said, a lot of this is based on my family, or people that I know. I think that anytime you lean into anything, somebody is going to say, “Oh, you’re leaning into the Jewish stereotype.” Again, it’s a comedy. Jews own this cadence. They made it… Listen to Lenny Bruce, what he talks about.

In between all this other stuff, he talks about his mother; he has a whole bit about his mother and he had a tattoo and she says “you can’t be buried in a Jewish cemetery.” And you could say, well, that’s all stereotypical Jews, but no, that’s Jews. Those are Jewish mothers. That’s how they are. You can’t please everybody. You just can’t. We try to please most of the people, if possible.

—JTA News and Features

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