The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel: 22 Facts About The Award-Winning Series

"The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel," which premiered on Amazon Prime in November 2017, quickly rose to popularity as a shining example of "peak TV." Set in the late 1950s against a colorful New York City backdrop, the comedy follows Miriam "Midge" Maisel — a young Jewish American housewife and mother who, upon learning her husband is leaving her for his secretary, stumbles into the world of stand-up comedy. Spoiler alert: She's a natural. 

From the mind of "Gilmore Girls" creator Amy Sherman-Palladino and "Gilmore Girls" writer Daniel Palladino, "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" is filled with witty characters who are as lovable as they are flawed. With Rachel Brosnahan in the titular role, the Amazon series' all-star cast boasts some of Hollywood's most recognizable names, including Alex Borstein, Tony Shaloub, Zachary Levi, and Jane Lynch.

While watching Midge take the stand-up comedy world by storm is undeniably entertaining, these behind-the-scenes facts make the Emmy-winning comedy that much more interesting.

The father of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel's creator was a stand-up comedian

While you might not consider yourself a stand-up comedy aficionado, watching "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" will leave you feeling like an expert on the ins and outs of the comedy scene in 1950s New York City. A California girl, the show's co-creator, Amy Sherman-Palladino, wasn't born until the mid-'60s — but her stand-up comedian father, Don Sherman, would often regale his daughter with tales of the New York City stand-up circuit. 

Speaking with Variety, Sherman-Palladino recalled how her father's stand-up comedian friends would often visit her family's home. "It was like Broadway Danny Rose a lot of the time at my house," she joked.

In a 2018 interview with Creative Screenwriting Magazine, Sherman-Palladino revealed how her father's stories influenced her own artistic work. "I grew up hearing stories about the comic world in Greenwich Village," the writer told the publication. She continued, "All of New York City was in awe to me at that time. It was a visual, colorful, vibrant, and energetic place and time to set a TV show."

Ironically, Rachel Brosnahan lost jobs for not being funny enough

If you fancy yourself a "House of Cards" fan, you likely know that Rachel Brosnahan is no stranger to playing the role of a troubled, ill-fated woman. In fact, the star's previous work is the reason why Amy Sherman-Palladino initially had reservations about casting Brosnahan to play Midge Maisel. "You look at her [work], and it's either drama or half the time she's being tied to a post or thrown in a box or shoved in the back of a van," Sherman-Palladino told Glamour. "[It's] all very dramatic."

As Brosnahan explained to Glamour, she'd almost given up on being anything other than a dramatic actress before landing the starring role in "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel." "I've lost many jobs because people would say, 'We really liked her, but she's just not funny,'" the actor revealed. She continued, saying, "I thought, 'Maybe I should listen to [the criticism].' Now I've realized you can continue to learn things, even when you've formed a really solid sense of self."

The series was born out of Amy Sherman-Palladino's disdain for technology

Before creating Amazon's mega-hit "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel," Amy Sherman-Palladino was perhaps best known as the creative force behind another wildly popular television show about two hilarious, whip-smart, no-nonsense ladies — "Gilmore Girls."

Starring Lauren Graham as Lorelai Gilmore and Alexis Bledel as her daughter, Rory Gilmore, "Gilmore Girls" followed the lives of the mother-daughter duo as they navigated life, love, and loss in the whimsical, fictional town of Stars Hollow, Connecticut. While laden with plenty of pop culture references from which you'll undoubtedly still get a giggle today, "Gilmore Girls" aired from 2000 to 2007 — long before social media became a cultural staple. According to Sherman-Palladino, she saw "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" as a chance to take refuge in another fictional world untouched by the burden of being constantly plugged in.

"[Of] course, the opportunity to do any sort of show where I don't have to think about Snapchat — I'm thrilled, delighted, because I don't understand technology," Sherman-Palladino told Vanity Fair. She continued, "I just want to go back to a time where there wasn't any."

Rachel Brosnahan thought she bombed her audition for The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Rachel Brosnahan was rejected for comedic roles in the past, but she's definitely having the last laugh now. In an interview with Harper's Bazaar, Brosnahan shared that snagging the starring role in "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" was the result of a disastrous audition process. "I went in for the preliminary audition and promptly felt like I had bombed it, big time," the actor told the publication. 

Still, series co-creators Amy Sherman-Palladino and Dan Palladino wanted Brosnahan to travel to Los Angeles for an informal test — one that almost didn't happen. Brosnahan explained to Harper's Bazaar that she got "sicker than [she's] ever been in her life" ahead of meeting the husband-and-wife creative team. "I rallied, but I honestly was so sick during the camera test," Brosnahan revealed. She continued, saying, "[At] best, that test was a beautiful disaster! But Midge is kind of a disaster sometimes." Fortunately, it all worked out in the end.

Rachel Brosnahan doesn't consider Midge a feminist

Midge Maisel, the titular character of Amazon's hit show "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel," is a woman ahead of her time. When audiences first meet Midge, she's a mother and housewife with a penchant for making brisket, never wavering in her support for her husband's stand-up comedy dreams. However, by the end of the first season, Midge has transformed into a single mother with stand-up comedy aspirations of her own (as well as an arrest record).

Despite the hurdles along the way, Midge carved out a place for herself in a world dominated by men, which is why many people consider the character a feminist. According to Rachel Brosnahan, however, Midge isn't quite that far ahead of her time.

"What I love about Midge is that she is so not a feminist. She's a creature of her time," Brosnahan told The New York Times. Still, the actress applauded her character for always reaching for more. "[She's] curious. She's insatiable. If she doesn't know things, she wants to know them. And she doesn't know any other way than forward," Brosnahan told the publication.

The cast and crew have seen each other through some tough times

"The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" might be a feel-good show, but for the Amazon hit's cast and crew, shooting the second season was anything but all fun and games.

"We've had deaths of loved ones happen while we were shooting — for us and for some of the cast," Amy Sherman-Palladino revealed to The Hollywood Reporter when asked to describe the worst day on set. She continued, saying, "Those are the worst because everyone has this feeling of 'the show must go on,' and it's usually someone else saying, 'Hey, the show doesn't necessarily have to go on exactly like this. Take some time.'"

One of said deaths was that of Rachel Brosnahan's beloved aunt, designer Kate Spade, who passed away in June 2018. "Every single person from top to bottom involved with ['The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel'], they were a family," Brosnahan told People. She added, "They absolutely rallied behind me [and] gave me all of the support and love and space and time that was needed to be with my family." 

The creators never intended for the show to make a statement

The first season of "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" was released on Nov. 29, 2017 — a date that, as many people likely realize, came only a month after the resurgence of the #MeToo movement.

Considering "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" centers around a woman succeeding in a male-dominated world despite the powers that be trying to keep her down, it wouldn't be a stretch for viewers to assume the show's creators were trying to draw parallels between Midge Maisel's world and the #MeToo era. However, Amy Sherman-Palladino and Dan Palladino revealed to Rolling Stone that the timing of their show was completely incidental. 

"Once the series came out, everybody was reading into it," Dan Palladino told the publication. He continued, telling Rolling Stone, "We still get the 'MeToo' things, and we deny that we intended to do it, but we don't deny that those issues are dealt with ... I think if you pay attention to the characters and their motivations and their psychology and all that stuff, people are going to read into it these universal things."

Joel Maisel was always meant to be a big part of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

One of the most divisive characters in "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" is the one and only Joel Maisel (Michael Zegen), Midge's college sweetheart and husband who, in the very first episode of the Amazon series, leaves his wife for his secretary, Penny Pan. However, Joel is far from a flat character or one used as a tool to merely further along Midge's story.

As series co-creator Amy Sherman-Palladino confirmed to Rolling Stone, Joel is flawed and yet, she said, "That's what I like about him." Joel was also one of the first people to recognize and support Midge's comedic talent. "I think that there's something really interesting about that," she explained. Sherman-Palladino continued, saying, "He's with us for life. There was never five seconds where we thought, 'We could just get rid of Joel and bring in more men.'"

Rachel Brosnahan got advice from actual stand-up comedians

Midge Maisel, the housewife-turned-comedian, is so effortlessly played to perfection by actress Rachel Brosnahan that you may walk away from watching "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" convinced that Brosnahan had stand-up comedy experience under her belt before scoring the role. However, according to Brosnahan herself, that couldn't be farther from the truth. "I had never really done comedy, let alone standup," Brosnahan revealed to Variety. She continued, "It's one of the bravest things I can possibly imagine. I will never be that brave."

In a 2018 interview with Elle, Brosnahan revealed that she consulted some of her more comically inclined stand-up friends for advice on getting into character. "My friend, Jasmine Pierce, who is a writer on The Tonight Show and does stand-up — the best advice she gave me probably was to not try to be funny, but to work to find my own comedy," Brosnahan told the publication. She continued, revealing that her friend also advised her "to not try to mimic anyone else's style of humor."

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is a 'tragically expensive show'

It's easy to get caught up in the aesthetics of "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel." From New York City to the Catskills to Paris — the Amazon series serves up an abundance of awe-inspiring backdrops. However, while fans of "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" are busy admiring the intricately detailed set pieces, the creative team behind the show is busy working them into the series budget. 

"It's always been an important thing for us to remember to, like, have [Midge] out in the world," Dan Palladino revealed to Gold Derby, discussing Midge Maisel's adventures throughout New York City and across the globe. Added Amy Sherman-Palladino, "It's a tragically expensive show. We're kind of surprised [Amazon] let us into the building."

As Sherman-Palladino explained to Deadline, it's not just the extravagant sets that cost a pretty penny. "[Amazon will say], 'OK, it's really expensive. There are so many skirts, and cars, and the wigs — it's fake hair, is it really supposed to be that expensive?'" 

Rachel Brosnahan gets frustrated by the flack the show receives for Midge's parenting style

In the very first episode of "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel," viewers learn that Midge Maisel has two children with her husband, Joel — a toddler named Ethan and a baby girl named Esther. However, the Maisel kids were only shown a handful of times throughout the first two seasons, with their appearances dwindling in number as Midge's stand-up comedy career slowly begins to play a larger role in her life. Mrs. Maisel's perceived lack of concern for her children caused some critics of the show to call her a "terrible mom" — something actress Rachel Brosnahan neither agrees with nor appreciates. 

"I find some of that criticism valid at times but also frustrating," Brosnahan revealed to Script. She continued, saying, "In a show like this, I appreciate the idea of what a good mother could be — someone who is out to provide for her children, looking to make herself satisfied, and to grow. I don't know what part of that makes Midge a bad person."

The real Lenny Bruce's daughter is a fan of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Aside from Midge Maisel's husband, Joel, and her manager, Susie, the character that plays one of the largest parts in helping the main character get her comedy career off the ground is a guy by the name of Lenny Bruce. If you don't fancy yourself a stand-up comedy fan, you might have assumed that Lenny Bruce was simply a character invented by the creative forces behind the show. However, Lenny Bruce was very much a real person. In fact, Bruce is considered by many to be one of the most influential stand-up comedians of all time. 

While Bruce tragically passed away in 1966, his daughter, Kitty Bruce, is alive and well. And, according to the New York Post, the legendary comedian's daughter is thrilled with actor Luke Kirby's portrayal of her father on "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel."

"It's obvious that Luke has taken this role very seriously. He has worked very hard to capture Lenny Bruce in nuance and comedic timing," Kitty Bruce told the publication. She continued, revealing her excitement for "a whole generation" to be introduced to her father's comedy through Amazon's hit series.  

Rachel Brosnahan studied Joan Rivers and another surprising female figure to prepare for her role

According to Vanity Fair, Rachel Brosnahan prepared for her role as a housewife-turned-comedian by attending stand-up comedy open mics and watching aspiring comedians in their natural habitats. The actor told the publication, "Having even had a taste of what [stand-up comedy is] like, I am the one laughing the loudest at everybody's jokes in the back, because I want them to feel seen and heard and encouraged."

However, Brosnahan also delved into the works of some of the world's most influential female comedians, including the legendary Joan Rivers. In January 2018, "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" actor revealed to InStyle, "I've been watching a lot of Joan Rivers." Brosnahan continued, "[Rivers and Midge are] very different, but something about their drive is similar, I think." 

Brosnahan also revealed that she drew inspiration from her own grandmother to fully embody Midge Maisel. The actress told InStyle, "My grandmother and Midge shared a lot of traits. My grandmother is a fabulous, fabulous woman. And I think her and Midge would have shared a fashion sense, for sure."

Rachel Brosnahan's casting caused controversy

In "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel," Midge Maisel and her entire family are loudly, proudly Jewish; however, actor Rachel Brosnahan is not. Nevertheless, as Brosnahan told the Chicago Tribune, "[The role] felt very familiar to me. I grew up happily immersed in Jewish culture and community." In fact, she told Vanity Fair that she'd attended "hundreds of Bar Mitzvahs, Bat Mitzvahs."

Despite her familiarity with Judaism, Brosnahan's casting dredged up some controversy about the appropriateness of Jewish characters being played by non-Jewish actors (Tony Shalhoub, who plays Midge's father, is also not Jewish). Jewish comedian and actor Sarah Silverman is among those to call out this trend. "Is it the biggest injustice in the world?" she told interviewer Howard Stern. "No, but I'm noticing it." As NPR's Neda Ulaby pointed out in a "Morning Edition" segment about the issue, the phenomenon is hardly new. Some of the most iconic Jewish characters in Hollywood history have been portrayed by gentiles, ranging from Charlton Heston as Moses in "The Ten Commandments" to Millie Perkins as Anne Frank in "The Diary of Anne Frank." 

Columnist Tanya Gold, writing for The Jewish Chronicle, asserted her belief that casting a non-Jewish actor as Midge was "deliberate" and explained the underlying problem with Jewish roles going to non-Jewish actors. "It is taking our culture as landscape, glibly and with charm, and de-Judaising it for profit," Gold wrote. "At best it is meaningless, at worst it is offensive."

The show's creator sent Barbra Streisand a letter 'pleading' to use her songs

Barbra Streisand has long been protective of licensing her music for use in film and television. She made a rare exception, however, for "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel," allowing two songs to appear in the first season: "Come to the Supermarket (In Old Peking)," in the series premiere, and the more-familiar "Happy Days Are Here Again," with the entire song serving as the musical backdrop for a powerful sequence in which Midge moves back into her parents' apartment after her marriage ends.

Series creator Amy Sherman-Palladino had always envisioned using Streisand's poignant song to add emotion to that key scene. However, she told The Hollywood Reporter, a crisis loomed when it came time to do final post-production work on the episode and she was informed that Streisand hadn't yet given her permission. "I was like, 'It's that song or nothing,'" Sherman-Palladino said, revealing she then wrote a letter to Streisand "pleading" for her to allow the use of those tracks. "That piece of music had been in my brain from before the scene was completed," she said in a separate interview with The Hollywood Reporter. "To me, there was no second choice."

After watching how her music was used in those scenes, Streisand agreed. "I don't license my songs very often, but I was impressed with how the show digs deep into the song catalogs of the era and doesn't just go with the obvious hits," Streisand told the publication.

Tony Shalhoub felt strongly about his romper costume

One of the more memorable scenes in "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" came within an episode featuring Midge and her family vacationing at a Catskills resort. In the scene, Abe Weissman (Tony Shalhoub) wakes up at dawn for some early-morning calisthenics, attired in a one-piece romper not unlike that worn by a prominent TV fitness instructor from that era. "When I first put on what we now call 'The Romper,' it catapulted me back to when I was a kid and watching 'The Jack LaLanne Show,' which was on every TV in every household in America," Shalhoub told Parade.

Shalhoub's getup for that scene was the brainchild of "Mrs. Maisel" costume director Donna Zakowska, who confirmed it was indeed inspired by LaLanne. "The minute I read [about Abe's romper] in the script, I thought, 'Oh, it's this Jack LaLanne look,'" she recalled in an interview with Town & Country, "'It was really fun to put Tony [Shaloub] in that, I have to say."

For Shalhoub, the romper revealed a lot about his character — and not just because, as Moishe Maisel (Kevin Pollak) quipped in the scene, it's so "formfitting" that "every cut of the mohel's knife is on vivid display." "I'm not just the guy in the suit in the classroom," Shalhoub told Vulture. "I'm not just the guy sitting in my den reading in my cardigan sweater. I'm also the guy who exercises in a onesie at sunup on the dock."

Rachel Brosnahan and Marin Hinkle wear wigs while filming

Female characters on "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" sport the carefully coiffed hairstyles that characterized that era. For stars Rachel Brosnahan and Marin Hinkle, who plays Midge's mom, Rose Weissman, there's a secret behind how they maintain those 'dos: they're wigs.

In fact, sharp-eyed viewers may have noticed that Midge's hair changed early in the first season. "We shortened the wig from the first couple of episodes of the show to make it more perky," said Jerry DeCarlo, the series' hair department head, in an interview with Refinery29. "She has a perky quality as a character, so we wanted the wig to match." According to DeCarlo, the show attempts to recreate the hairstyles from the time — back when women would typically have their hair washed and styled in a salon to maintain the same look. "Back then, you'd keep the same style for basically 10 years or beyond," DeCarlo added. "Women in that time didn't change their hair on a daily basis."

That, explained the series' key hairstylist, Kimberly Spiteri, is why the wig that Brosnahan wears for the role isn't just crucial for the character's signature look but is also illustrative of Midge's personality. "Part of her character is that she always has the same style that she's had since she was 12 years old," Spiteri told Allure. "She's evolved a little bit, but we haven't changed her too much."

Sophie Lennon is based on a few different comedians

Among the standout characters in "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" is fictional comedian Sophie Lennon, portrayed by "Glee" alum Jane Lynch. When performing, Sophie is a loud, crude, wisecracking Queens hausfrau wearing a padded suit beneath unflattering shmatas — completely at odds with the actual Sophie, a picture of Park Avenue elegance and sophistication.

"Sophie is a mishmash of Phyllis Diller, Totie Fields and Minnie Pearl, because women back then couldn't just be a woman onstage; they had to dress as a 'character,'" series co-creator Sherman-Palladino told Parade. "A lot of these female comics were well educated and into the arts, not those crazy, strange caricatures." In approaching the character, Lynch said during a BUILD Series Q&A, she based her performance on those trailblazing female comics while comparing Sophie's offstage persona to Baroness Elsa von Schraeder in "The Sound of Music." 

As Lynch told Metro in a 2019 interview, the vast divide between Sophie's on- and offstage personas was a big part of what attracted her to the role in the first place. "The dichotomy of the character intrigued me — I basically get to play two different people," she said. "But what did draw me in was the comic side, that was the first portion of the script that I read. I just fell in love with that, because I knew exactly what I was going to do and I could not wait to put on that fat suit."

It takes a lot of coffee for Rachel Brosnahan to become Midge Maisel

In "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel," characters deliver whipsmart dialogue at a lightning-fast pace. That's become something of a hallmark for series co-creator Amy Sherman-Palladino, whose earlier TV hit, "Gilmore Girls," likewise featured quick-talking characters firing out an endless supply of witty retorts. In fact, Sherman-Palladino once told The Wall Street Journal that a typical TV show goes through a page of dialogue in one minute of screen time, while the "Gilmore Girls" cast would burn through a page in less than half that.

It's for that reason that "Gilmore Girls" scripts were longer than those on most TV series, and "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" has continued that tradition. "Our scripts are about 10-15 pages longer than normal, and a lot of those 10 pages typically are taken up by a gigantic standup set of some kind," revealed "Mrs. Maisel" star Rachel Brosnahan in an interview with Harper's Bazaar. "It's a lot of talking."

When tackling all that dialogue, Rachel Brosnahan discovered the secret to delivering her lines so quickly — plenty of coffee. "Midge is a lot!" Brosnahan explained. "It helps when you really love the project and the role; that makes it easy to come to work every day, even when you're falling over tired. But as we went on, it definitely involved digging pretty deep, and a lot of coffee. Lots and lots and lots of coffee."

Susie is based on a legendary Hollywood agent

Alex Borstein has deservedly won two Emmys for her portrayal of Susie Myerson, Midge Maisel's hard-living, gruff-talking manager. Like many of the characters portrayed in "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel," Susie is fictional; however, she is loosely based on an actual person — at least partially. 

"We always saw Susie Myerson as a powerhouse in the waiting, so we had [Hollywood agent] Sue Mengers in mind, because she was the most formidable agent at one time," series co-creator Daniel Palladino explained in an interview with Parade. The trailblazing agent, who died in 2018, represented such A-listers as Steve McQueen, Barbra Streisand, and Burt Reynolds. Nevertheless, Palladino added, the predominant source for the character is actually the actor who plays her. "We wrote this character with Alex Borstein in mind," he explained, "so she's the biggest inspiration for Susie." In addition to channeling Mengers, Borstein also drew from her mother and grandmother, who immigrated from Hungary to New York City, where they developed that characteristic Big Apple toughness.

"She's a pit bull," Borstein told the Los Angeles Times of her character. In fact, when she received the offer for "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel," Borstein had just moved to Barcelona with no intentions of taking on any more acting work for a while. After reading the script, however, she felt she had no choice. "A role for a woman my age and what I look like?" she said. "How could I not do it?"

The series has set records

"The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" is one of television's most acclaimed series, something that's definitely borne out when it comes to industry awards. That's particularly true when it comes to Emmy Awards, of which the series has been nominated for over 60 and won 20, as of March 2023. In terms of other awards, "Mrs. Maisel" has also won multiple Golden Globes, Critics' Choice Television Awards, and Screen Actors Guild Awards, in addition to an American Film Institute Award and a prestigious Peabody Award, among others. Thanks to being showered in all those awards, the show made Emmy history in 2018, winning the highest number of Emmys (eight) of any TV comedy in a single season.

For Rachel Brosnahan — who started working on the show when she was in her mid-20s — winning all those awards at such a relatively young age has been an experience both surreal and overwhelming. "I'll never recover from having my name spoken in the same sentence as the other legendary actresses in this categories who I've admired," she told Variety after her first Emmy win in 2018. "It's just been wild and crazy and incomprehensible. It's a dream I didn't know I had."

Why The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is ending after five seasons

Prior to the arrival of the fourth season of "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel," Amazon Prime Video reported that the upcoming fifth season would be the series' last. While fans of the show were no doubt saddened to learn of its ending, series creators Amy Sherman-Palladino and Dan Palladino received the rare opportunity to bring the show to a conclusion on their own terms. 

Sherman-Palladino, no rookie at crafting television, is well aware that timing can be everything when it comes to a TV series' legacy. "We don't want to overstay our welcome," she told TVLine in 2020, admitting she was still in the midst of figuring out the show's end game. "Midge has a journey she has to take. ... We know emotionally where we want to end her and at what point we want to cut it off, we just don't know how many episodes it's going to take to get there."

Speaking to Glamour, Sherman-Palladino said "a lot of things went into [the] decision" to wrap up "Mrs. Maisel" after five seasons. "The minute that we found out that was the path forward, we really took a lot of time and a lot of care to make sure that we stick the landing because the most important thing to me is to make sure that Midge gets the send-off and the full treatment that she deserves."