Emmy Nominees Rachel Brosnahan & Brian Tyree Henry It's Friday: Sam's taking a break from the news and revisiting two conversations from this year. First up, Brian Tyree Henry, who plays Afred "Paperboi" Miles on the hit FX show 'Atlanta.' He's up for outstanding guest actor in a comedy series at next month's 2018 Emmy Awards. Also nominated — for her starring role in 'The Marvelous Mrs Maisel' — is Rachel Brosnahan, up for outstanding lead actress in a comedy series. Back to our regular schedule next week. Tweet @NPRItsBeenaMin with feels or email samsanders@npr.org. Tickets to our October 2 live show in LA are at kp.cc/IBAM.
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Emmy Nominees Rachel Brosnahan & Brian Tyree Henry

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Emmy Nominees Rachel Brosnahan & Brian Tyree Henry

Emmy Nominees Rachel Brosnahan & Brian Tyree Henry

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Hey, y'all. From NPR, I'm Sam Sanders. IT'S BEEN A MINUTE. Most Fridays on the show, I look back on the week of news with a few friends. But this week, I'm going to mix it up. I'm taking some time off from the news. Feels good. Going to bring you not one but two conversations from the last year of the show, with two actors who are both up for awards at the 2018 Emmys next month. Later on in this episode, you'll hear my chat with Rachel Brosnahan. She's up for outstanding lead actress in a comedy series for her work in Amazon's "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel."

But first, my chat with Brian Tyree Henry. You know him from the hit FX show "Atlanta." That show is up for best comedy series. And Brian is up for outstanding supporting actor for his work playing Alfred Paper Boi Miles - perhaps my favorite character on the show. Paper Boi is this up-and-coming rapper who is managed by his cousin Earn. Earn is played by the show's creator and star - you may have heard of him - Donald Glover. Now, just a warning - when you hear Brian and I talking first, you'll hear the N-word. We did not bleep it. After Brian, I'll come back to introduce Rachel. And we'll be back to our regular schedule next week. All right. Enjoy.


SANDERS: All right. "Atlanta."


SANDERS: I'm not sure that I can recall a better first season of a show.


SANDERS: Y'all got all the acclaim, all the awards.

HENRY: Yeah.

SANDERS: I can't even count the number of critics who said this is the best comedy of the year.

HENRY: Yeah.

SANDERS: Did you expect any of that going into the project?

HENRY: I didn't expect to ever work. Like...


HENRY: I didn't expect to ever be, like, on a show on FX, like, with Donald Glover doing a comedy where I could say nigga on, like, cable.

SANDERS: And all the time. Y'all say it...

HENRY: Like...

SANDERS: ...All the time. I love it.

HENRY: ...All the time. Like, I didn't expect that there would be a show about, like, the town that I've always loved. Like, I went to college in Atlanta.

SANDERS: You went to Morehouse, yeah.

HENRY: Yeah. It was like - Atlanta was the best - and still is to me one of the best cities. Like, you know, second to New York. I'm not going to go crazy.

SANDERS: You like New York.

HENRY: I love it here.

SANDERS: Are you living here mostly now?

HENRY: Yeah, I'm a resident...


HENRY: ...Of Harlem, man. I live here.

SANDERS: Oh, I didn't know that.

HENRY: Yeah, I've been living here for 11 years.

SANDERS: I was in Tryon Park this morning, running.

HENRY: Ah. Oh, wait. So you were, like, close to the hood. Yeah, man.


HENRY: Like, this is home.

SANDERS: What I love about Paper Boi in the show - he's quiet a lot, but you can see that the wheels are always turning.

HENRY: All the time.

SANDERS: And then when he does talk, he says so much with, like, a line. Like, there's this line in the premiere of the new season where Donald Glover's character is trying to negotiate this beef. And you call him, and he wants to put you on speakerphone. And you say, as Paper Boi, so deadpan, you can take me off speakerphone.


SANDERS: And it's one line...

HENRY: (Laughter).

SANDERS: ...But it contains multitudes.

HENRY: I mean, I think that's the...

SANDERS: It contains multitudes.

HENRY: ...Gift of what we do, right? Like, I think that that's - and, you know, I learned a lot of that from my family.

SANDERS: How so?

HENRY: You know, like, because - you know, you got - you - like, being - both of us are black men. And, you know, we were raised by black women.


HENRY: And, you know, there's the thing of, like, public and private things...

SANDERS: Oh, yeah.

HENRY: ...That you do. And some of the things that our mothers neglected to tell us is, like, when is it OK to do the private things in public?


HENRY: You know what I mean?


HENRY: Like, and I'll never forget my mother, when we would go to movies - because I'm the youngest, so, like...

SANDERS: At least you got to go to movies. We were so Pentecostal growing up, we couldn't go to the movies, dude.

HENRY: We - now, let me tell you something. We didn't go to movies when they came out. We went to the dollar movie, right?

SANDERS: (Laughter).

HENRY: To the dollar movie.


HENRY: So this [expletive] had already been out for, like, six months.

SANDERS: (Laughter).

HENRY: And, like, you're going to the dollar movie.

SANDERS: All your friends had told you the whole plot.

HENRY: Yeah, and then you're already like, well - like, I mean, like, the way I learned Disney was, like, book on tape and then, like...

SANDERS: (Laughter).

HENRY: ...The dollar movie. So (laughter) I mean, we go to a dollar movie. And I remember, like, even at the dollar movie, you had a child discount. Now, and usually, it would be like you had to be, like, 8 and under to get the child discount. And my mother was going up there flossing. She was, like, yeah, you know, we've got two adults and, like, four kids. And...

SANDERS: How old were y'all though?

HENRY: I was 11.

SANDERS: And you were the youngest.

HENRY: And I'm the baby.

SANDERS: (Laughter).

HENRY: So my sisters knew the drill to just shut up, but I was like, but, Ma, I'm 10. And I just remember her looking at me...


HENRY: ...Like, this look...

SANDERS: ...Abort, abort.

HENRY: ...Looking at me, and she was like, OK, yup, I guess that's what it is now. We got to - and when I go in this theater, she was like, you know what to do next time, right?

SANDERS: You know.

HENRY: And I was like, I don't even want to see the movie now.


HENRY: I was like...


HENRY: ...Are we that broke that you are so upset that you didn't get 50 cents off this? Like, man - and it was just, like, the look - like, you just know the look.

SANDERS: So Paper Boi is channeling your mom.

HENRY: Yeah, man, honestly.

SANDERS: I love that.

HENRY: Like, honestly, like...

SANDERS: I love that.

HENRY: ...There's a - because in a way, he's everybody's mom and everybody's father, too, you know what I mean? Like, he really is. Like, I'm the one that has the connection with Earn's parents, not Earn, you know what I mean? Like, I'm not - I mean, like, I'm the one that's there kind of like with your daughter that you haven't, like, been with. And, like, I have to be everybody's mom and everybody's dad. And that's...


HENRY: ...The thing about this season is...

SANDERS: I never thought about it that way.

HENRY: Yeah, like...

SANDERS: But you are spot on.

HENRY: Yeah. And I was like - and in this season, you see it a lot - that it's like - it's wearing on him a little bit.

SANDERS: He does, in a way, carry so much of the emotional weight.

HENRY: Yeah.

SANDERS: I love that.

HENRY: Well, the thing is is like, he - I don't know. Like, Alfred - like - and someone said - they were like, every time we talk about Alfred, like, you light up. There's something about - because I'm very protective of him. Like, he - there's something. That's why I never refer to him as Paper Boi. Like, I'm like, that's what y'all...


HENRY: ...Get to talk to him - or talk about him as, like...

SANDERS: But he's Alfred.

HENRY: The - he's Alfred, man.

SANDERS: I apologize now for disrespecting him.

HENRY: No, it's all good. But, I mean...

SANDERS: Alfred.

HENRY: ...Like, it's just what you - because you only are able to call him Al or Alfred unless you are within his circle - you know that phrase no squares in my circle. So like, he's...

SANDERS: (Laughter).

HENRY: ...Very much like - he's very much like, you got to earn it, you know?

SANDERS: Who writes Alfred's lyrics? I love that song. Play it, Brent.

HENRY: Wait, which song?

SANDERS: Paper Boi, Paper Boi.

HENRY: Oh, "Paper Boi."


STEVE G. LOVER III: (Rapping) Paper Boi, Paper Boi, always 'bout that paper, boy. If you ain't on your grind and you flexing, you's a hater, boy.

SANDERS: Did you write that?

HENRY: No, I definitely didn't write that. That - all that goes to Donald Glover's (unintelligible).

SANDERS: I can hear this on the radio now.

HENRY: Yeah, that's the thing.


STEVE G. LOVER III: (Rapping) Paper clips, paper clips, yeah, I need a paper clip.

HENRY: And this season, there's supposed to be a new single for Alfred - Paper Boi.

SANDERS: Are y'all going to, like, "Glee" this stuff up and, like, put the songs from the show on the radio?

HENRY: Well, you know what? If you go to FXNOW - the app - you can actually go...

SANDERS: Nice plug.

HENRY: Yeah. I mean...

SANDERS: (Laughter).

HENRY: ...I'm good at this...

SANDERS: (Laughter).

HENRY: ...All right, guys?

SANDERS: Yeah. You're a...

HENRY: I'm good at this.

SANDERS: ...How do you say? - a radio professional.

HENRY: (Unintelligible). But if you go to the FXNOW app, which - I discovered they will show you each song that's in each episode...


HENRY: ...From season one. Like, and it's real - really brilliantly done. Like, it will show you the artwork of the album and what - like, it will tell you play by play, episode by episode what song was used.

SANDERS: And you guys were using a bunch of music, like, from the culture right now...

HENRY: Yeah, man.

SANDERS: ...In the show...

HENRY: Like, that's Donald...

SANDERS: ...To open and close the show.

HENRY: That's Donald and Stephen, man.

SANDERS: So Donald was doing the...

HENRY: Yeah.

SANDERS: ...Music stuff.

HENRY: Let's talk about how slick Donald is - like, the fact that...


HENRY: ...Donald just won a Grammy for an album that he was doing while we were filming the first season, and nobody knew. Like, I was like, dude, when did you have time...

SANDERS: But he was doing his latest album while also...

HENRY: Yeah.

SANDERS: ...Doing "Atlanta"?

HENRY: Yes. If you look in episode nine, in the back, like, when he's in the study of the white dude for Juneteenth...


HENRY: ...You will see the album cover of...

SANDERS: Of - oh...

HENRY: ..."Awaken, My Love!"

SANDERS: ..."Awaken, My Love!" Yeah.

HENRY: Yeah, right there. It's sitting right there. And I was like, what?

SANDERS: Mind blown.

HENRY: I was like, so that means that this dude was literally - and I was - because I would have done - I was like, we were together every day.

SANDERS: And he was...

HENRY: Like (laughter)...

SANDERS: ...Making the album behind your back.

HENRY: Like, I was like, what weird, like, black hole do you jump into in another universe and create this masterpiece? But that's - he was doing it while we were there, man.

SANDERS: How does he get the energy for it? That's...

HENRY: He doesn't sleep. I don't think he - some little part of me thinks he's, like, a cyborg...


HENRY: ...You know? But, I mean, like, he - I can do all things through Donald Glover. You know what I mean? Like...

SANDERS: (Laughter).

HENRY: ...There's something - you know...

SANDERS: I love it.

HENRY: ...He's brilliant, man.

SANDERS: I love it.

HENRY: He's a brilliant, brilliant man.

SANDERS: So he wrote the lyrics.

HENRY: Yeah, I think him and his brother both, and that's his brother rapping. That's not me. That's his brother's voice.

SANDERS: I love it.

HENRY: That's Stephen Glover's voice.

SANDERS: Stephen Glover.

HENRY: Yeah, man.

SANDERS: What do you want - so much of the show is this wonderful social critique and satire. And y'all are saying some interesting things about the state of things. I'm thinking about the episode where you're dealing with - from the first season - what's it called - "Montague"?

HENRY: Oh, Jesus Christ, yeah.

SANDERS: Where you basically are on a fake talk show...

HENRY: Talk show within a fake network...

SANDERS: ...Within a fake network.

HENRY: ...With fake commercials.


HENRY: Yeah.

SANDERS: But the big thing - and, like, the overarching theme is the way in which our society now can police speech.

HENRY: Yeah.

SANDERS: And there was, like, a bigger thing in there.

HENRY: Yeah.

SANDERS: Looking at the show that is doing such great social critique and satire, what do you want watchers and viewers to learn from Alfred? What is Alfred's lesson to us?

HENRY: That he's not thinking about you - I mean...

SANDERS: (Laughter).

HENRY: ...That he's really not thinking about you because what he has to do is he has to go day by day...


HENRY: ...Figuring out exactly where he's going to be, especially now that he is Paper Boi...


HENRY: ...To people.

SANDERS: I like that.

HENRY: So I think that that's where Alfred is getting...


HENRY: ...And is going, especially this season.

SANDERS: Hearing you say that Alfred is not worried about y'all, like, there is - in so many ways in the culture right now, it is almost criminal to say that you don't care.

HENRY: Yeah, I know.

SANDERS: You know?

HENRY: I know.

SANDERS: And, like, it is refreshing to see so many parts of the show and of Alfred's character kind of say, OK.

HENRY: I'm just not here for it, bruh.

SANDERS: I'm just like - I'm trying to do me.

HENRY: What I...


HENRY: ...Will say about Alfred this season is, you know, he's come in to his own sense of, like, appearance. Like, you know, he takes pride in the way he looks. He takes pride in the people he's with. But I don't think he knows the Dow yet. You know what I mean? Like...


HENRY: ...I don't think he still has Google Alerts of himself yet. Like, I don't think he's ever going to be the kind of person to do his own publicity of like, yo, that's me. Yo, that's (vocalizing). Because as soon as he celebrates himself, as - you even - if you look back at the first episode of the first season, he tries to holler at a girl and is like, that's me on the radio. And she's like, so what, [expletive]? And, all of a sudden, he's...

SANDERS: Kind of (unintelligible).

HENRY: ...(Vocalizing) Back again.


HENRY: And I feel like those things constantly keep happening with him, and he has to constantly - not reinvent...


HENRY: ...I guess reset, yeah...


HENRY: ...Or reinvent the way he sees himself in a way. Like, not so much reinvent the whole machine but, like...


HENRY: Because, like, the world will constantly keep him in a place of, like...


HENRY: ...No, son, like, no.

SANDERS: Have you had to reset?

HENRY: Every day. I...


HENRY: ...Ain't even got to finish it.

SANDERS: All right. In what ways?

HENRY: Ain't even got to finish it.

SANDERS: I want to know. Tell me.

HENRY: I mean, that's the thing about humility. You know what I mean? Like, and, like, being completely humble to what's around you. Like, I'm so glad to be - there is nothing greater to me than literally getting up again, being back in New York, even if it's slushy-mushy (ph) or whatever the hell it is.

SANDERS: Yeah. Well, it literally was everything.

HENRY: Yeah, all - it was all that.

SANDERS: It was snow.

HENRY: It was...

SANDERS: It was rain. It was sleet...

HENRY: It was...

SANDERS: ...Today.

HENRY: ...Literally, like, all that.

SANDERS: I hated it.

HENRY: And going to rehearsal to be in this box with - for eight hours or six hours, what have you, with three other actors and the director and a writer is literally one of the best things of my life.

SANDERS: So are you saying that you're rehearsing the play right now?

HENRY: Yes, right now, as we speak.

SANDERS: Can you talk about it?

HENRY: Yeah. It's called "Lobby Hero," written by Kenneth - Academy Award-winning Kenneth Lonergan, stars this amazing actress, who I adore, named Bel Powley, who I did a movie with last year with Matthew McConaughey called "White Boy Rick." And it stars Michael Cera, of course, of "Superbad," "Scott Pilgrim" fame - Michael Cera.

SANDERS: He seems cool.

HENRY: He's amazing. He's the most amazing Canadian I've ever met.

SANDERS: (Laughter) Which is a high bar because...

HENRY: I mean...

SANDERS: ...Canadians are pretty amazing.

HENRY: I love Canada.

SANDERS: I really do.

HENRY: You know, I don't know what people's...

SANDERS: It's my jam.

HENRY: ...Problem is. I was like, I love Canada.



HENRY: Like, I've got great friends from Canada, so...


HENRY: And, of course, Chris Evans. I mean, like...


HENRY: ...You know - you know, I don't want to just call him out for "Captain America." He does other great movies...


HENRY: ...Like "Gifted" and stuff like that. But it's just the four of us, and it's all about this - you know, I'm a security guard. Michael's a security guard. And Chris and Bel are police officers. And something - like, situations happen.


HENRY: You know, and this was written 17 years ago. And the things that are addressed in this play are still...

SANDERS: Really?

HENRY: ...Happening. So you know, there's still sexism on the police force.


HENRY: There's still, you know, racism when it comes to, like, how the NYPD handles crimes and when it comes to race and stuff...


HENRY: ...Like that. And, like, it's all there.


HENRY: It's all there. And it is literally just four people in this lobby.

SANDERS: When is it going to be able to be consumed by the public?

HENRY: Well, the previews start March 1 which is the same day that "Atlanta: Robbin' Season" premieres, as well.


HENRY: So if you don't want to see me on TV, and you want to see me on the stage, you can come to the first preview. I...

SANDERS: Or just do both and divide...

HENRY: Or do both.

SANDERS: Do both.

HENRY: You know, like, what am I saying? Like...

SANDERS: (Laughter)

HENRY: ...Or do both.

SANDERS: So you got the play, but you're - also, from what I've read, you're working on six movies this year.

HENRY: Eight.

SANDERS: Look at you.

HENRY: I try.

SANDERS: Look at you.

HENRY: I'm trying to catch up to Han - or, you know, to Lando Calrissian up in here, man.

SANDERS: (Laughter).

HENRY: You know what I mean? Like, I'm trying to get with Domino, you know.

SANDERS: Yeah. What are the - can you talk about those...

HENRY: Yeah.

SANDERS: ...Briefly?

HENRY: So...

SANDERS: Run through the list.

HENRY: ...Coming soon - this month, there's going to be a romantic comedy called "Irreplaceable You" coming out, starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Michiel Huisman and Christopher Walken. And it's going on Netflix February the 16.

SANDERS: I love how you just drop, and Christopher Walken.

HENRY: Yeah.

SANDERS: (Laughter).

HENRY: Well, I mean, like, because he's a staple in New York. Like, you don't really have to - like, you know what I mean? Like, it's Christopher Walken.

SANDERS: (Laughter) Yeah.

HENRY: Like, how - you know?

SANDERS: Yeah. So that's one.

HENRY: That's one. Then I did a movie with Viola Davis. And...

SANDERS: Really?

HENRY: ...It's directed by Steve McQueen. It's got Colin Farrell, as well, and...


HENRY: ...Daniel Kaluuya from "Get Out" - a...


HENRY: ...Academy Award nominee.

SANDERS: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

HENRY: Daniel, who's one of my great friends. I'm so proud of him.

SANDERS: Look at you - friends with everybody.

HENRY: I mean...

SANDERS: I love it.

HENRY: You got to be friends...

SANDERS: I love it.

HENRY: ...Because no squares in my circle. So...

SANDERS: (Laughter). So that.

HENRY: ...That's "Widows." That comes out in the fall.


HENRY: I also did a movie with Taylor Schilling called "Family," which should be coming to South by Southwest soon.


HENRY: Then I'm doing "White Boy Rick" with Matthew McConaughey...

SANDERS: Got it.

HENRY: ...You know, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Bel Powley, who's in the play.


HENRY: Oh, God, something else - oh, "Hotel Artemis," which I did with my best friend, Sterling K. Brown...

SANDERS: I wanted to get into that screening, but...

HENRY: Four-time Emmy...


HENRY: ...Winner...


HENRY: ...You know, and...

SANDERS: Who you...

HENRY: ...Golden Globe winner.

SANDERS: Who - y'all, like, called each other the day when y'all both got nominated, right?

HENRY: Yeah, we did. We did. We, like - I mean, he's my best friend. Like, I love him.

SANDERS: I love that.

HENRY: Like, and then, you know, I was on his show and got an Emmy nomination because I...


HENRY: ...Decided to swagger jacket.

SANDERS: And you sang.

HENRY: I did sing. Yeah, I did an original song. Yeah.



HENRY: (As Ricky, singing). Standing at the station.

SANDERS: Oh, it's queued up.



HENRY: (As Ricky, singing). We don't know what to say.

SANDERS: I'm just continually - the more you talk about these things you're in and looking at this work on "This Is Us" compared to "Atlanta," you are such a versatile actor.

HENRY: Thank you, man.

SANDERS: Like, not a lot of people can do all of these different things. Is there one lesson or truth you've come to find out when it comes to being able to be that versatile of an actor? Like, what is the secret?

HENRY: The only thing that has helped me, man, is, like, literally taking in the life that's going on around you and having the time of your damn life. Like, it's just - it's been a pleasure. You know, like, I was reading this quote from Shonda Rhimes where she's like, I'm not lucky. Just say I'm a badass. You know, and, like, she has this quote about, like, not being lucky, how she works really hard and...


HENRY: ...(Vocalizing). Because people will always constantly tell me all the time, well, lucky you. You're lucky. Like, that's like...

SANDERS: What do you say when they tell you that?

HENRY: I don't say. I act. You know what I mean? Like...


HENRY: ...I'm not a person of words. I'd rather show you rather than tell you because, like, no matter how often that I'm always underestimated or overlooked, I can hear you, and I'm like, that's great that you can tell me that, but I'm not thinking about you. So what I'm going to...

SANDERS: Soon as you go.

HENRY: ...Do is I'm going to go over here and do this. so...


HENRY: ...Therefore, you can sit down and watch this and be like, oh, well, he wasn't thinking about me. So, you know - I don't know, man. Like, I just love what I do. And I love it because of the people that I'm around and the art that's being made and the things that are being said. I mean, like, if I just sit back and just wait a second, like, I really believe that the universe will put me where I'm supposed to be. I'm not a religious person. I'm very, you know, spiritual.


HENRY: And, you know, I've been through all kind of gamuts...


HENRY: ...Or whatever that is. But...


HENRY: ...It's just - to me, it's just - it's something - like, I do work hard. I work very, very hard, just not in the ways that people may expect.

SANDERS: This is - listen. We are - my, like, mantra every day is, like, the universe provides.

HENRY: Yeah.

SANDERS: And if - and sometimes you got to just, like, sit there long enough to see what it's saying.

HENRY: Or then you dig your heels in and get yourself to action and figure...


HENRY: ...That out, too, you know?


HENRY: But it's...

SANDERS: And my - and, like - but, like, there's this idea, I think, that, like, being able to just kind of work hard, be ready, be prepared but be open to, like, where life takes you.

HENRY: And - look. And be honest. Because...


HENRY: ...Like, let me tell you something - like, nothing in the world told me that I would be doing this show called "Atlanta" that would then be this huge thing that it became and that my mother would leave me on the day that we wrapped. Like, nothing said that that would happen. Like...


HENRY: ...Nothing said...

SANDERS: Yeah. And the backstory, for those hearing this - your mother died the day...

HENRY: The day that we wrapped "Atlanta" in a very bad...

SANDERS: Oh, man.

HENRY: ...Freak car accident. You know what I mean? And so for me, it was like, OK, well, you banked on her being here. You know what I mean? You banked on the fact - like, I was going to take her on a road trip.

SANDERS: Where were you going...

HENRY: Like, I had everything...

SANDERS: ...On a road trip?

HENRY: Man, I was going to take her everywhere. I was like, oh, you've never heard of Martha's Vineyard? Let's go. Or you've never been to, like, The Cloisters? Let's go. Or...


HENRY: ...You've never been to The Hamptons? Let's go. You know...


HENRY: ...Like, let me just at least show you that, you know, your son is - I'm ready to get you - I think I was, like, going to take her, like, on a white-man-finding cruise. I was like, you ain't ever slept with a white dude?

SANDERS: (Laughter).

HENRY: Like, let's get you a white dude, ma. Like, let's go. I'm not joking.


HENRY: Like, that was what I wanted. And, you know, like, I just remember we were at the wrap party. And I was having the time of my life. And I remember it doing a torrential downpour.


HENRY: And I was just happy because...


HENRY: ...There were some people who were like, you feel it when it happens or...


HENRY: I didn't feel anything.

SANDERS: Really?

HENRY: All I felt was that I was happy. I had talked to her before I went to this party, (vocalizing). And then the next morning, like, just like that, she's gone. So it's like, you don't really know. That was the one thing in my 34 years that I hadn't accounted for - was that I would have to go through this without my mom.


HENRY: So it's like, now I have no choice in this world but to completely do all the things that she saw in me beyond...


HENRY: Like, I am not thinking about y'all. You know what I mean?


HENRY: Like, I'm really not...

SANDERS: You're thinking about her.

HENRY: I thinking about what I have to do...


HENRY: ...For her, for me. And if these are the gifts that are put inside of me that she wants me to go out there and do, then I'm going to do them, damn it. But I don't have to share that with everybody...


HENRY: ...About that process.


HENRY: And I think that all of us need to figure that out about ourselves. You know what I mean? I think all of us need to understand that it's OK to keep some [expletive] to yourself. Like, you don't have to share. Ain't nobody asking you to make no Barnes & Noble best-seller...

SANDERS: (Laughter).

HENRY: ...Because you want to give everybody life advice. Like, no.

SANDERS: Just do you.

HENRY: It's really OK...


HENRY: ...To keep some [expletive] to yourself and move through that...


HENRY: ...Because at the end of the day, we all are individuals. And we are all nothing but stories anyway. So what's your story...


HENRY: ...You know?

SANDERS: I think your mother would like "Atlanta."

HENRY: I'm sure she would. She pops up in it quite a bit. She pops...

SANDERS: What do you mean?

HENRY: ...Up in it quite a bit. Like, you'll see - because you know that Alfred doesn't have his mother in...


HENRY: You know, so I was like, well, that's interesting. My mother was alive before that happened. Like, I remember saying that line. I was like, yeah. He doesn't have his mom. And then all of a sudden, you know...


HENRY: And I was like, oh, boy. Well, now what is that? So that's why I'm very close to Alfred and very protective of Alfred because, like, we are kind of, like, one of the same cloth. You know what I mean?


HENRY: I'm not one of those actors. You know, I'm no Daniel Day-Lewis. But, you know, I'm not a big...

SANDERS: Daniel, get at us.

HENRY: I'm not a big - well, this is his last movie. He ain't doing nothing after this...

SANDERS: Allegedly.

HENRY: ...I heard.

SANDERS: He's going to retire...

HENRY: I'm like, he's...

SANDERS: ...Like Jay-Z did.

HENRY: Right. Right. Right.

SANDERS: Remember Jay-Z retired, like, three times?

HENRY: Right. Right. Right.


HENRY: So I don't know. I just try to be open to what life is going to...

SANDERS: I love that.

HENRY: ...Show me, man. And...

SANDERS: You got to be open.

HENRY: ...Like, you just never know what's going to go. But, you know...

SANDERS: The universe provides.

HENRY: The universe will provide.


SANDERS: OK. Time for a quick break. When we come back, Brian talks about his friendship with actor Sterling K. Brown from a little show called "This Is Us." And later, I talk to Brian's fellow Emmy nominee, Rachel Brosnahan. All right, BRB.


SANDERS: Before we go, can we talk a bit more about your good friend Sterling K. Brown?

HENRY: Yeah.


HENRY: That dude.

SANDERS: Yeah, go ahead. That dude - he seems awesome.

HENRY: He's one of the most amazing - and, like, I honestly don't think I would be as able to talk about what I'm talking about when it comes to my enjoyment and excitement of acting and performing if it weren't for him for him, you Know? Like...

SANDERS: Why's that?

HENRY: Because we're both geeks when it comes to that. You know what I mean? Like, we met at Sundance years ago. There was a Sundance Theatre Lab where I met - excuse me - a lot of great people...


HENRY: ...You know? And, you know, Tarell Alvin McCraney, who wrote...

SANDERS: "Moonlight."

HENRY: ..."Moonlight." You know, we went to...

SANDERS: Ya'll were in some plays that he wrote, right?

HENRY: Well, yeah. We did - you know, I went to Yale with Tarell. And like, you know, I got my first start on theater here doing a play that he wrote called "The Brothers Size" at the Public. And then he did the trilogy of those plays, and Sterling was in them.


HENRY: And the thing that, you know, me and Sterling, like just - when I talk about that brother kind of thing...

SANDERS: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

HENRY: ...Like, that fraternal kind of thing - excuse me. It was immediate. So...

SANDERS: Look at you - know how to hit the cough button.

HENRY: Yeah, I know the cough button.

SANDERS: He knows how to hit the cough button (laughter).

HENRY: Holler.

SANDERS: (Laughter) He's getting applause from the engineering booth (clapping).

HENRY: I'm about this life.

SANDERS: (Laughter) Yes.


HENRY: But yeah, so, like, there was nothing greater than to get up every day and go to this theater and do this work and this art with this person...


HENRY: ...Because, like, the excitement of watching him talk about, like, movies that he's watched or actors that he reveres and things like that, like, we had the same kind of thing. And, you know, and - but, like, the theater - the world in itself just kept making it impossible for us to act with each other. Like, we would be acting adjacent.

SANDERS: Huh. Really?

HENRY: You know what I mean? Like, there was never any time that we had scenes that we were, like, together. Like, we would be adjacent from each other (laughter). But I just always admired him. Like, I'd - like, to know that you had the love of this person that, like, you know wants to see you shine. Like, you winning is him winning.


HENRY: And - you know, and I learned from him, you know, because he is my elder. He's older than me. I don't know if you guys knew that. But he's older.

SANDERS: How older?

HENRY: He's older. Anyway...

SANDERS: But I read somewhere that you guys bonded because he helped you shave.

HENRY: Oh, [bleep].

SANDERS: I read all of the things before I...

HENRY: This is true. OK.

SANDERS: I prepare.

HENRY: So at Sundance, I had to play a drag queen. And, like, he was, like, the house father because you know, like, in the drag - especially in the black drag ballroom scene, like, there's families and houses. So, like, he was the father.

SANDERS: Yeah. What would your house be called...

HENRY: My house...

SANDERS: ...If you had to make a house?

HENRY: Gooey Butter Cake, I think...

SANDERS: (Laughter).

HENRY: ...Because I'm really obsessed with gooey butter cake. And I was like, that's a great name for...

SANDERS: I would buy a house for that.

HENRY: And plus, I think Balenciaga and, like, all that other stuff is taken. But I was like, mine would be really abstract.

SANDERS: And I'd be like House of I'm Tired.

HENRY: And he's (laughter).

SANDERS: Just House of I'm tired.

HENRY: I'm tired. Like, oh, I'm tired.

SANDERS: I'm tired. Anyways, I took you off this topic.

HENRY: Anyway, like, I had not shaved my face in a long time. I don't think I'd ever shaved my face because I was, like, keeping my facial hair in form of protest for some reason.

SANDERS: How long was it?

HENRY: It was - that's the thing - it never - like, I call my facial hair taco meat because...

SANDERS: I call my chest hair taco meat.

HENRY: It looks like taco meat.

SANDERS: I'm telling you everything today. Sorry.

HENRY: 'Cause we're family.

SANDERS: We're family.

HENRY: But I was like, it's like taco meat. And so I was like, well, I can't possibly play this drag queen with all this on my face. But I didn't bring any clippers because we were in Park City, Utah.

SANDERS: And you weren't going to find a black barber shop in Park City, Utah.

HENRY: At all. And anyway, he was like, man, I'll shave your face. I got you, man. I was like, that's love.

SANDERS: That's love.

HENRY: Like, for another man to do that for another dude - like, that's love. And then he, like, made sure I kept this little triangle underneath my lip.

SANDERS: Oh, you kept your soul patch.

HENRY: Well, we call it soul patch. But he told me that his grandmother told him that it's called the flavor saver.

SANDERS: (Laughter) Why is it called the flavor...

HENRY: You think about it.

SANDERS: Oh, because the food...

HENRY: No, that - it could also be for something else.

SANDERS: (Laughter).

HENRY: And that's when I was like, we're friends now.

SANDERS: (Laughter) And the rest is history.

HENRY: And the rest is history.

SANDERS: And he's the guy you're calling the day you both get Emmy nominations.

HENRY: Man, I mean, like, I...

SANDERS: That's the beautiful thing.

HENRY: I don't know, man. He is truly an inspiration. I'm also the godfather to his firstborn son...

SANDERS: Really?

HENRY: ...Which I still am in shock about. Like, and I love this...


HENRY: ...Little man so much.

SANDERS: How old is he?

HENRY: Oh, my God. Andrew's (ph) got to be almost 7 now.

SANDERS: Oh, wow.

HENRY: So, like - but he's just growing so fast.

SANDERS: My godson is 8.

HENRY: So you are a godfather.

SANDERS: I'm a godfather.

HENRY: So you know the feeling of being a godfather.

SANDERS: It is so great...

HENRY: Is the - it's...

SANDERS: ...Because, like, you just get to - you get to be there and inspire the good stuff.

HENRY: Which is not what I do. I try to make sure that he undermines his parents all the time when I'm not there.

SANDERS: Oh, see - OK.

HENRY: So I'm like, yeah, oh they told you that? Well, you should do this.

SANDERS: My new thing is now when I bring him gifts, I try to bring him gifts and his sister gifts that will be, like, the most annoying to the parents.

HENRY: Oh, yeah. That's what godparents are supposed to do.


HENRY: Yeah.

SANDERS: Love you, Erin (ph) and Moose (ph).

HENRY: Oh, my God.

SANDERS: Those are his parents.

HENRY: Andrew, you're my favorite. So are you, Amari (ph). I love you, as well.

SANDERS: This is crazy. So, I mean, you got to go. I would talk - we would...

HENRY: Hey, man. Look.

SANDERS: Listen. This is - I really...

HENRY: I'm here. I'm literally here for months. So...

SANDERS: You're literally here. I'm actually - funny story. I'm here all week. I'm based in D.C. I'm moving back to LA.

HENRY: Wait. Wait. Wait. You ain't say anything about that as I sat here and talked to you about D.C. You didn't say anything about D.C. You're based...

SANDERS: Oh, yeah.

HENRY: Where in D.C. are you at?

SANDERS: I live in NoMa, which wasn't a neighborhood five years ago.

HENRY: I know it definitely wasn't. That's north of Massachusetts, right?

SANDERS: How do you - yeah, dude.

HENRY: 'Cause I was - I grew up in D.C. for a big part of my life.

SANDERS: Wait. Where did you grow up?

HENRY: I grew up in northeast, southeast D.C., Alabama Ave, Minnesota Ave.


HENRY: I went to Benning Elementary.

SANDERS: Oh, my goodness.

HENRY: My mom taught at, like, Davis Elementary.

SANDERS: Really?

HENRY: My father - and my sisters are still there. They're like, it's the DMV.

SANDERS: It's the DMV. Do you go back still?

HENRY: Yes, I try to go back.

SANDERS: It's so different now.

HENRY: First of all, U Street. I was like...

SANDERS: First of all, H Street.

HENRY: Yeah, I was like, wait. There's a Bonobos?

SANDERS: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.

HENRY: We've got a Warby Parker here?

SANDERS: And now Ivy City is happening.

HENRY: Yeah.

SANDERS: And I'm like, no one used to be over there.

HENRY: Anacostia Park used to be where you go and roller skate. And you get your [bleep] out before 8 p.m.


HENRY: And now they're building condos.

SANDERS: Oh, dude. Have you been to The Wharf yet?

HENRY: Yeah, my family works at The Wharf. Yeah.

SANDERS: Really?

HENRY: My brother-in-law works at The Wharf, yeah.

SANDERS: I would've - I first got to D.C. in '09. I would've never imagined a thing like that there.

HENRY: Yeah. And here's the thing - that art installation they have of the man coming out of the sand.


HENRY: Have you seen that?

SANDERS: Uh-huh.

HENRY: So I grew up being terrified of that thing because it you used to be in the mall, like, where the, like, the monument was and everything.

SANDERS: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah.

HENRY: And my mother was like, (whispering) that's Jesus. You see, that's Jesus.


HENRY: And I would scream. It was so...

SANDERS: Your mom sounds like my mom (laughter).

HENRY: It was terrifying. And so now they moved the art installation to The Wharf.


HENRY: And I was like - and I went down there. I was like, I'm not going down those stairs to see that. I don't need to see...


HENRY: And, like, my friends were sitting on it. And everyone's like [bleep], man.

SANDERS: Yeah, yeah.

HENRY: Like - yeah. That's home, man.

SANDERS: I lived in D.C. first from '09 to 2012.


SANDERS: Then I was in LA at our West Coast ops for a while.


SANDERS: And I came back to D.C. because I covered the election.


SANDERS: But at the end of this month, I'm moving back to LA.

HENRY: Oh, damn.


HENRY: So will you ever come back to D.C.?

SANDERS: Of course.


SANDERS: I mean, because our headquarters are in D.C.

HENRY: And plus, that's the only place you can chicken wings and mumbo sauce, homie. Like, that's the best, like...


HENRY: Where are you looking at me like you're crazy?

SANDERS: I - like, being in California, it turned me into, like, a California foodie. And I'm, like, this farm...

HENRY: So sushi.

SANDERS: Sushi. There's all this farm-to-table. But avocados are better.

HENRY: But if you - you just talked about Ivy City. You don't think D.C. is about to become just like that? Chesapeake Bay's right there.


HENRY: Don't do this to me. Don't do this to us, what we just created.

SANDERS: Us. Listen.

HENRY: Why would you do this?

SANDERS: This friendship will last the ages.

HENRY: (Laughter).

SANDERS: I'm going to - I'm not going to - I'm going to be in your circle, and I'm not going to be a square. I promise.

HENRY: No, don't be a square. You'll probably be the only square peg that could be in the circle. We just got to make the circle bigger.

SANDERS: That's right. I've really enjoyed this. I am so excited for this renaissance in black prestige...

HENRY: Yeah, man. Let's go.

SANDERS: ...Film and TV.

HENRY: Let's do it.

SANDERS: I'm so happy to see your part in that whole landscape.

HENRY: Thank you, dude.

SANDERS: Thank you.

HENRY: It was an absolute delight, man, to meet you.


SANDERS: Many, many thanks again to Brian Tyree Henry. He is up for outstanding supporting actor in a comedy at next month's 2018 Emmy Awards. Those are on September 17. Also up for an Emmy for outstanding actress in a comedy, my next guest, Rachel Brosnahan. She is the star of "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" from Amazon. On the show, she plays Midge Maisel, this 1950s housewife from New York City. She kind of stumbles into a career in stand-up comedy.

The show is the brainchild of Amy Sherman-Palladino. She is the creator of "Gilmore Girls." Rachel and I talked late last year just before she won a Golden Globe Award for her work on the show. I kind of think our chat was something of a good luck charm. All right. Here's me talking with Rachel Brosnahan, star of "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel."


SANDERS: This show, for those listening that have not watched the show yet - how do we describe the show for listeners without giving all the stuff away?

RACHEL BROSNAHAN: Right. So this is a show about a young mother and housewife in the 1950s. She lives in New York on the Upper West Side. She has a perfect life. She'll be the very first person to tell you it's by her own design.

SANDERS: (Laughter).

BROSNAHAN: And one day, her perfect husband up and leaves her for his awful secretary. And through a series of both fortunate and unfortunate events, she ends up pursuing a new career in stand-up comedy.

SANDERS: Yeah. And, like, this comes about - her pursuing stand-up - after her husband, who leaves her, has tried to make it himself. And he's not that funny. And he's also stealing jokes.

BROSNAHAN: Yes, exactly.

SANDERS: Like, he literally is the worst.

BROSNAHAN: He's - yeah, fully the worst.

SANDERS: (Laughter) I want to play a clip of the show where you are doing that stand-up routine...

BROSNAHAN: Oh, gosh.

SANDERS: ...In your, like, nightclothes, drunk and out of it. And it's the first time everyone realizes that, like, damn. You have the range. You have the gift.


BROSNAHAN: (As Midge) I was a great wife. I was fun. I planned theme nights. I dressed in costumes. I gave him kids - a boy and a girl. And yes, our little girl is looking more and more like Winston Churchill every day. You know, with the big Yalta head. But that's not a reason...


BROSNAHAN: ...To leave, right? I loved him. And I showed him I loved him. All that [expletive] they say about Jewish girls in the bedroom? Not true. There are French whores standing around the Marais district saying (imitating French accent), did you hear what Midge did to Joel's [expletive] the other night?


SANDERS: There is so much in there. Like, what I love about it - like, you're not just delivering the lines perfectly. You are doing the best physical presentation that the best stand-up comics do because, like, so much of comedy, I feel like, is performing with your body as well as, like, your voice. How hard was it for you to become that? Like, you aren't a trained stand-up comic.


SANDERS: This is unlike roles you've done before.


SANDERS: How - what was the prep like?

BROSNAHAN: Well, thankfully, we had a lot of prep before we shot the pilot, more than...

SANDERS: Got you.

BROSNAHAN: ...More than you normally get, I think. We had a couple weeks. And so Amy and Dan and I sat down a lot. And...

SANDERS: We should say who they are.

BROSNAHAN: Yes, the creators, writers, directors - they wear 12,000 hats...

SANDERS: (Laughter).

BROSNAHAN: ...Of our show. And...

SANDERS: And they're a married couple, right?

BROSNAHAN: Yes, they are. And we had a lot of time to sit down. And I asked them 12 gazillion questions. And they would give me 12 gazillion and a half answers. And then - and so by the time we performed that first one in the first episode, I was ready to put it out there. You know, we'd been working on it for such a long time. It felt ready. But also, I think Midge isn't really doing stand-up at all until much, much later in the season.


BROSNAHAN: This is a woman who's fully having a breakdown. Her entire life has crumbled. And everything she thought she knew is a lie. And that is just a person.


BROSNAHAN: It's not yet a stand-up. And coupled with Amy's brilliant and hilarious writing, that's what you get.


BROSNAHAN: I feel like I had a way in as an actor and a person who comes from a more dramatic background. And I was fortunate enough to be able to take this parallel journey with Midge.


BROSNAHAN: We got to learn the more technical sides of comedy together. And it was fun and petrifying and exhilarating all at the same time.

SANDERS: And, I mean, so like you mentioned, the writing that they're doing on this show...


SANDERS: ...It is a lot of fast monologuing and just, like, a lot of dialogue period.


SANDERS: And you've spoken about how much dialogue you'll have in this show. How hard was doing that?

BROSNAHAN: So, so hard.

SANDERS: (Laughter).

BROSNAHAN: There's just - there's never enough time to bring up. There's never enough time. There's never enough coffee. Truly involved, actual mouth warmups pre every one of those speeches.

SANDERS: I saw that. You said that you do, like, Shakespearean mouth warmups. Do one for me.

BROSNAHAN: Well, it's - Shakespearean is a little bit of an overstatement.



BROSNAHAN: I was just going to say, like, all that weird stuff that - it's going to sound even weirder over the radio than it would look in person. And it looks pretty weird in person.

SANDERS: I like weird.

BROSNAHAN: But, you know, you go, bababa bebebe bi bo boo, cacaca cecece ci co coo, dadada dedede di do doo, fafafa fefefe fi fo foo (ph) you know, that kind of thing.

SANDERS: I can't do that. Wait. Let me try it.


SANDERS: OK. Tell me again.

BROSNAHAN: So it's the letters of the alphabet - B, C, D, F.

SANDERS: B, C, D. B, B, B be doo (ph) - what?

BROSNAHAN: Bababa bebebe bi bo boo.

SANDERS: Babada bippity boppity boo (ph). Nope, I can't.


BROSNAHAN: Hello, Mary Poppins.

SANDERS: (Laughter) That's hard.

BROSNAHAN: It's hard. But it helps.


BROSNAHAN: If you practice every day, you're going to be...


BROSNAHAN: ...Even better than you already are at this time.

SANDERS: I'm going to do it.

BROSNAHAN: I promise.

SANDERS: I'm going to practice.

BROSNAHAN: I can't wait.

SANDERS: I'm going to practice.

BROSNAHAN: Wait. Try one more time just for me 'cause it's fun.

SANDERS: Bibbity bobbity - wait, not bibbity.

BROSNAHAN: Buh-buh-buh-baby (ph).

SANDERS: Buh-buh-buh (ph), buh-buh-buh, buh-buh-buh-baby.


SANDERS: (Unintelligible) Yeah, OK.

BROSNAHAN: Try da - da-da-da-day-diddy-die-doe-do (ph).

SANDERS: Da-da-da-day-diddy-die-doe-do.

BROSNAHAN: That was pretty good.

SANDERS: Thank you.


BROSNAHAN: See. You could be it, too.

SANDERS: That's right.

BROSNAHAN: You could be a standup, too.

SANDERS: (Laughter).

BROSNAHAN: A TV standup - it's not the same thing.

SANDERS: I was reading that when you auditioned for the show, you had to basically deliver - like, deliver the standup comedy monologue in front of an empty room, which is hard enough. But on top of that, you were, like, almost deathly ill during the audition. Like, how sick were you?

BROSNAHAN: Yeah. I think maybe me making some bad jokes has gotten slightly exaggerated...


BROSNAHAN: ...Through this course of all this press. I was not knocking on death's door. But I felt terrible (laughter).

SANDERS: OK. Was it, like, the flu or what?

BROSNAHAN: I don't know. I mean, I've been calling it the plague because that's what it felt like.


BROSNAHAN: You know how normally you have a flu or something and three or four days in, you begin to see the light, you know? Ten days later, I still could not get out of bed.

SANDERS: Oh, that's not good.

BROSNAHAN: I mean, so, so sick - I was just a sweaty, gross, snotty mess. And I actually had to cancel my first appointment because I was so sick...

SANDERS: Oh, wow.

BROSNAHAN: ...And reschedule. But I was so scared that that they were going to just move on.


BROSNAHAN: Because, you know, I don't come from comedy. So nobody had any reason really to believe that I could do this without seeing me do it. And so I rallied way too soon. And, oh, man, you know, like, I had to take my shoes off at some point during this audition...


BROSNAHAN: ...Because my feet were so sweaty.


BROSNAHAN: I couldn't walk in them.

SANDERS: That's nasty.

BROSNAHAN: It was gross. It was so - I've never been grosser.

SANDERS: Oh, my goodness. And if I recall correctly, the show's creators said that they couldn't tell.

BROSNAHAN: That's - they're being very kind.


BROSNAHAN: I mean, Amy did once or twice have to stop me to tell me to powder my face.


BROSNAHAN: There was a lot of sweating happening. But some part of it was convincing and, you know, not all that dissimilar from...

SANDERS: From that...

BROSNAHAN: ...Some of Midge's stuff.

SANDERS: Yeah, from other scenes.


SANDERS: Because, like, when she's on stage sometimes it is like a little kind of breakdown-y.


SANDERS: Yeah. You know, the show is set in 1958, if I recall correctly. And...


SANDERS: ...Y'all get the period piece nature of this down to, gosh, a science. The wardrobes are on point. Like, those Upper West Side apartments, like, had me shook. I was like, I want to live there. I want to live to there.


SANDERS: It's so beautiful. One, did you get to keep the wardrobe?

BROSNAHAN: (Laughter).

SANDERS: And two, like, how - what was the level of specificity and detail about making sure this thing totally looked and felt 1958?

BROSNAHAN: Oh, man. Well, I'm sure that I was insulated from a lot of it. But I know that we had all the different departments working together to make sure that this both felt exactly true to 1958 - and there's also a certain level of fantasy to this show. There's a little bit more color. There's a musicality to our world that is slightly heightened. But, man, those apartments are incredible.

SANDERS: That's so nice.

BROSNAHAN: We actually shot in a - in two real apartments for the pilot...


BROSNAHAN: ...On 113th and Riverside. And they replicated them exactly...


BROSNAHAN: ...On our stage for the rest of the show.


BROSNAHAN: Yeah. The costumes are extraordinary. I haven't gotten to keep any of them yet. I want...

SANDERS: They need to let you keep the costume.

BROSNAHAN: Well, we have a Season 2.

SANDERS: Well, there's that.


BROSNAHAN: We - and we knew that before we finished the first, so...

SANDERS: Yeah, yeah, all right.

BROSNAHAN: ...She's going to be repeating...

SANDERS: So in time.

BROSNAHAN: ...Some outfits I think.


BROSNAHAN: But one day I'm stealing every single one of those coats.

SANDERS: As you should.

All right - time for one more break. When we come back, what "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" gets right about female friendships. BRB.


SANDERS: When did you realize that you wanted to be an actress, or did you? Did you fall into it? Did you say, like Midge would have when you were like 6, I'm doing this? Like, how did it happen?

BROSNAHAN: I kind of did.


BROSNAHAN: That's the thing that Midge and I share in common...


BROSNAHAN: We can't not do anything 125 percent.


BROSNAHAN: We're also both a little type A. But...


BROSNAHAN: Yeah. Without necessarily being able to say I wanted to do it all the time, I always wanted to do it. I was very creative. I - and I loved reading because I loved imagining worlds that were different from, were bigger than mine. And I really loved fantasy - "Lord Of The Rings," "Harry Potter." And somehow that translated into wanting to act. I liked doing school plays. And then I think, you know, I could - just like kids say, I want to be a princess or I want to be...

SANDERS: (Laughter).

BROSNAHAN: ...A vet or a doctor, I kind of went, I'm going to be an actress. But it wasn't until I was in high school and people were deciding what they wanted to study in college (laughter)...


BROSNAHAN: ...And I realized that I had no other interests or qualifying skills that I wanted to be an actor.

SANDERS: And you went to Tisch...

BROSNAHAN: I did, yeah.

SANDERS: ...At NYU, which...


SANDERS: ...Sounds like it must be like the set of "Fame."

BROSNAHAN: (Laughter).

SANDERS: Like, is everyone just running around singing and dancing and flash mobbing?

BROSNAHAN: No - well, maybe some of the studios. My...

SANDERS: Just say yes. Please tell me that it's like that...


SANDERS: ...Because I want to believe that (laughter).

BROSNAHAN: It's exactly like that. Wow. How did you know?

SANDERS: (Laughter).

BROSNAHAN: I mean, I studied at Strasberg, which - I don't know how much you know about Strasberg. But we were known for crying (laughter).

SANDERS: OK. What is Strasberg for those who don't know?

BROSNAHAN: You just - you cry all the time. No. It's one of the studios that...


BROSNAHAN: ...NYU - so there's - NYU is the giant umbrella. Tisch is the larger arts umbrella. Then there's the drama program. And within the drama program, there are a bunch of studios. And drama students get split up into the studios. And you get assigned to a studio based on your audition. And I got assigned to the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute.

SANDERS: They assigned you to the crying theater.

BROSNAHAN: They did.

SANDERS: (Laughter).

BROSNAHAN: I don't know what that says about me. But they turn you inside out, they look at all your guts, and then they...

SANDERS: (Laughter).

BROSNAHAN: ...Try to piece you back together again. Or they leave you on your own to piece yourself back together again.

SANDERS: (Laughter).

BROSNAHAN: But I learned a ton. I really did. And I...


BROSNAHAN: I loved my time there.

SANDERS: So coming out of the crying studio at NYU, did you expect to be in this show that is really, really funny?


SANDERS: OK (laughter).

BROSNAHAN: Absolutely not.

SANDERS: Were you scared to do it?

BROSNAHAN: I don't think anybody really expected this.

SANDERS: Yeah. Yeah. So were you scared to do it? Like, was this a big departure from your previous work?

BROSNAHAN: Yes, absolutely petrified every single minute. I'm still petrified (laughter).

SANDERS: Really?


SANDERS: 'Cause you look flawless in the show. You look like you are just made of steel in the show.

BROSNAHAN: Then I'm a brilliant actor.


BROSNAHAN: I have never been so scared. But that's - maybe that's not what everybody wants, but that's what I want. I want - I've always wanted to do things - you hear actors say this all the time - to do things that scare me, to do things I've never done before, to stretch my muscles and see if I can, I guess.


BROSNAHAN: And I loved this part. And I felt like I had a way in. As I said, she doesn't start a comedian. She is a woman who is funnier than Rachel...


BROSNAHAN: ...Thanks to Amy's brilliant writing. But she's a person. And she's a beautifully complex, fully realized woman. And...


BROSNAHAN: And so I was hoping I could find her.

SANDERS: You did. And I mean, to be fair, you aren't - it's not all laughs. Like, there is this one scene where your character, Midge, kind of has this breakdown in front of Susie, who is her, quote, "personal manager/agent."


SANDERS: Susie's being tough on Midge. And Midge has had it.


ALEX BORSTEIN: (As Susie) Just drop this doe-eyed Bambi thing right now. I'm so sick of you acting all innocent. Oh, I don't know how the world works because I'm a housewife and I wear four layers of petticoats. It is tired, and it is weak. And you are not tired, and you are not [expletive] weak. And if you want to be a comic, you are going to have to grow the [expletive] up right now.

BROSNAHAN: (As Midge) I'm sorry. I don't know what to do lately. I'm trying to be strong and independent. But I saw Joel the other night, and he was with her. And every time I think I can breathe again, I can't. And I'm trying to get it right. I'm trying to figure it out. I know the parties aren't gigs. I know I'm not really doing standup. I don't want to be a second-rate Nichols and May. I've never even heard of Nichols and May. And I've got news for you. If you're going to be a personal manager, then sometimes you're going to have to deal with the personal. And this is personal, all of this. And it's...

SANDERS: I love how you deliver that line. And this is personal, all of this. I'm like, that's my motto for life.

BROSNAHAN: (Laughter).

SANDERS: It's all personal.

BROSNAHAN: Especially when there's tears streaming down your face.

SANDERS: Yes. Yes.

BROSNAHAN: (Laughter).


BROSNAHAN: (As Midge) Sometimes you're going to have to buy some Kleenex and let me cry and pat me on the back and say, there, there.

That sort of felt like a sigh of relief in a way for me. There aren't very many moments like that in the show. There really aren't any. That's the only time Midge really breaks down...


BROSNAHAN: ...Including when her husband walks out, you know? I love that scene. That was...

SANDERS: It's good.

BROSNAHAN: ...A rare moment on our show where Alex Borstein, who plays Susie, and I got to just be and just chuck stuff at each other in a room.

SANDERS: That was really good.

BROSNAHAN: Not literally, but - you know.

SANDERS: And Alex Borstein, I mean, like - so I - one, the show starts. And I was like, oh, my God. I used to love her on Mad TV...


SANDERS: ...Way back in the day. And this is totally - a big departure from that show for her. But what I like...


SANDERS: ...About the show is that the love story at the heart of at least Season 1 is between your character and her character.


SANDERS: And it is this story of this friendship between two women and this partnership between two women. And it deals with it in a way that really speaks to the ups and downs of friendship and friendship...


SANDERS: ...Between women. And I really admire that. Like, you guys will cry and yell and scream and then hang out and work together. And like, there are these highs and lows. And your show is doing that. Shows like "Insecure" with Issa Rae have women friendships that are showing all of that. And...

BROSNAHAN: I was going to say that's my favorite part about "Insecure." That's actually the part that spoke to me the most, is the friendship between those two women. And it was watching that show that made me realize how rare that is on TV...


BROSNAHAN: ...To see a female friendship that is as complicated as they are.


BROSNAHAN: We're complicated beings, and it's a beautiful thing. And I - and it - and that nuance I think is something that only female creators, at least at this point in time, can really grasp in...


BROSNAHAN: ...All of its - all of it.

SANDERS: Yeah. And like, I realized watching that scene and then hearing it back now the beauty of displaying these multifaceted friendships between women is that you can access the full range of human emotion in a way that is not tied to someone's sexuality.


SANDERS: And I think that's refreshing.

BROSNAHAN: Well - and I love that it's a budding friendship, too.


BROSNAHAN: These are women who under ordinary circumstances may never have met, let alone become friends. And not only do they become friends, but they need each other. They need each other to survive.


BROSNAHAN: They complete each other. Alex Borstein has coined the term womance (ph).

SANDERS: (Laughter) I like that.

BROSNAHAN: I do, too (laughter). It's exactly right. That's everything. That's it. You know, in a show with two bros becoming friends in a significant way, you call it a bromance.


BROSNAHAN: And this is a fully...

SANDERS: A womance.

BROSNAHAN: ...Realized womance.

SANDERS: I love that.

BROSNAHAN: I do, too.

SANDERS: (Laughter) That's - and speaking of this womance, like, part of why it works so well is because you had someone like Amy Sherman-Palladino...


SANDERS: ...Making this show. People might know her from making the show "Gilmore Girls." Why is that, you think? I mean, like, she has this really great way of writing, which you see in this show. It's really fast conversations, a lot of pop culture references. Like, what makes her shows her shows and makes you fit so well in this one?

BROSNAHAN: Well, everything you said. I mean, it is - it's - she's got a distinct fingerprint. And if you look closely, you can always tell her shows are her shows. But I think what - you know, this show feels so new. Our show feels so new. I don't know where it belongs in the cultural zeitgeist, you know? But I think a show like "Gilmore Girls" - and I think this is present in our show, too - they're just hopeful at the end of the day...

SANDERS: Yeah, that is true.

BROSNAHAN: ...Which is funny because Amy is a self-proclaimed pessimist. But (laughter)...

SANDERS: Really? (Laughter).

BROSNAHAN: Yes. Yes. But she understands something about it because they're real people who are dealing with real stuff in ways that are not always beautiful. But you walk away feeling like everything's going to be OK. And especially right now that the world is on fire, you know, need we need to laugh a little. We need a little bit of hope, a little bit of joy. And I think without getting too cheese, that's something that these shows have in common, which is why they seem to speak to so many people, like you said, who you wouldn't expect necessarily to enjoy them.

SANDERS: Yeah. The show itself is a comedy.


SANDERS: But there are some moments that really are dramatic for me. And I'm thinking of one in particular. There is a scene that your character, Midge, does and her character's mother does. Y'all both are going to bed with your husbands. Midge waits for her husband to fall asleep and then goes to the bathroom and takes off all of her makeup, puts in her curlers, puts on her face mask, then goes to bed. But before she goes to bed after her husband's sleeping, she opens the curtains just enough so that the sunlight will hit her face first in the morning so she can get back up before he wakes up and have her full makeup on in bed so he never sees her unmakeuped (ph).

BROSNAHAN: Yes, sir.

SANDERS: And Midge's mom does the same thing. And it just stopped me in my tracks. And I said, wow, men walk through the world never even really being aware of, like, how much more stuff women have to deal with.

BROSNAHAN: Totally. And we're seeing that right now in a big way.

SANDERS: Yeah. And like, it was true in 1958 where the show was set. And it's really kind of still true today. Like, how does it feel to make a show that is about a different decade but feels very timely in regards to the way that our culture and our society treats women who are trying to be taken seriously?

BROSNAHAN: Yeah, it feels important. It feels especially important right now. It felt important while we were making it, but it's taken on a whole new meaning. This is ultimately one show about one woman.


BROSNAHAN: But one of the coolest things about this show is that it's created, written, directed, produced, edited - like I said, 12 gazillion hats - by this extraordinary woman, Amy Sherman-Palladino, and her husband, Dan Palladino, who's an extraordinary man who loves extraordinary women, about an extraordinary woman at a time when it wasn't OK for women to be extraordinary. And we have women in front of, behind the camera, and we're always looking for more. It feels cool. It feels like it shouldn't be so radical anymore to be telling a story about a woman who is amazing.


BROSNAHAN: Who is like women that I know and love but somehow haven't really seen on TV before.

SANDERS: Mmm hmm.

BROSNAHAN: And I also appreciate about this particular story that it's a slightly different look at a woman reinventing herself in a period piece. This is a woman...


BROSNAHAN: ...Who arguably isn't a feminist when you meet her. And she's the first person to tell you that. I think if you asked Midge if she was a feminist, she'd go, no, I don't burn my bras.

SANDERS: (Laughter).

BROSNAHAN: You know...


BROSNAHAN: ...And she believes that women have a place. And all this stuff that we're talking about - that scene you reference where she gets up in the middle of the night and puts her makeup on - to us, a modern audience, that feels like a burden.


BROSNAHAN: But to her, it's something that makes her feel good. It's something she genuinely enjoys. And this isn't a woman who came out of the womb feeling like she didn't belong and wanted to change things and push against the walls and expectations that were set up for her. This is a woman who thrived in this environment. And to me, it's exciting to see a different kind of story about a woman that arguably is a feminist story but who discovers that the world is not as narrow as she thought it was and that maybe some of the things she thought were true she has questions about and is noticing things that she never noticed before - noticing a double standard between...


BROSNAHAN: ...Men and women in the way that women are treated. And I'm really proud to be a part of this.

SANDERS: Yeah. It's so funny you say that the character is noticing things that were not noticed before. And I immediately thought of this #MeToo movement. And so many people - men and women - are noticing things that were always happening but just never talked about. And...


SANDERS: ...I think being almost aghast at how widespread this stuff is.


SANDERS: You know, like, besides just having this show speak to this moment, at least for me, what do you think your character in the show would make of this moment right now, of the #MeToo movement?

BROSNAHAN: It's interesting. Midge says something in one of the sort of mid-later episodes that has always just, like, gotten me in the gut because it's hard for me to hear and to say as this character that I love, something like this. But Susie tells her that she's been learning things about the apartment building because she's been riding the elevator up and down and listening to people fighting and things. And she says, I think so-and-so grabbed so-and-so's ass. And Midge says...

SANDERS: Now, Susie is her almost...


SANDERS: ...Manager, quasi-manager.

BROSNAHAN: Yes, becoming...


BROSNAHAN: ...Her manager. And Susie says, I think so-and-so pinched so-and-so's ass. And Midge goes, well, I hope she did nothing to deserve that.

SANDERS: I remember that saying.



BROSNAHAN: And so Midge I think is somebody who has a lot of learning to do in that department. And that is frustrating to me. I think it should be frustrating. But it represents a point of view that still exists.

SANDERS: Mmm hmm.

BROSNAHAN: And I hope that throughout the course of our show her perspective - and I assume because she will be faced with it personally - her perspective will be forced to change. Her eyes will be opened more.


BROSNAHAN: But progress isn't linear sometimes.

SANDERS: That's so true.

BROSNAHAN: It's almost never linear.


BROSNAHAN: So I hope that for the women out there who are more like Midge, who maybe share some of those more - I hate to use the word conservative, but I suppose that's still what that is or more...

SANDERS: Yeah, it's OK to use that word, yeah.

BROSNAHAN: ...Traditional views that...


BROSNAHAN: ...Way that may lead them to believe things like that. I hope that they're also listening and that we are able to embrace their learning process, too, and encourage them to learn.

SANDERS: Well, and that is what seems so rare these days. Like, people don't really want to learn from people that don't agree with them. At least it...

BROSNAHAN: Of course.

SANDERS: ...Seems that way on the Internet.

BROSNAHAN: And it's hard because it is frustrating when - and even - and I think this particular time, although so many times have echoed this, I suppose, is so polarizing. We're so polarized. And it does - and we're learning I think that sometimes people we love shared these views that we find...


BROSNAHAN: ...Repugnant, you know?


BROSNAHAN: And so how do you move through that? I don't know. I don't have the answer. But we've got to listen...

SANDERS: We've got to find a way.


SANDERS: Yeah. Yeah.

BROSNAHAN: We just have to listen better.

SANDERS: Totally.

BROSNAHAN: We're doing a lot of talking and not enough listening.


SANDERS: Rachel Brosnahan up for an Emmy for outstanding lead actress in a comedy series for her starring role in "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel." Listeners, have a great Labor Day weekend. Barbecue something. Jump in a pool. Watch a bad movie. We're going to be back on your feed on Tuesday. We're talking politics with two star reporters - Katie Rogers, who is a White House correspondent for The New York Times, and Geoff Bennett, who has the same title over at NBC News. I asked them both a very simple question. What's it like to cover the White House right now? Y'all, they told me everything. You don't want to miss it - behind the scenes of the White House press corps Tuesday. Till then, thanks for listening. I'm Sam Sanders. Talk soon.


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