SAM SANDERS, HOST:
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(SOUNDBITE OF FLEVANS' "FLICKER")
SANDERS: Hey, y'all. This is IT'S BEEN A MINUTE from NPR. I'm Sam Sanders, and as we come up on the holiday weekend, today - a nice conversation that gets you through your travels. We're talking with Golden Globe-nominated actress Rachel Brosnahan. So you might know Rachel from "House Of Cards." On that show, she played an escort who got in a little too deep with a political staffer. That role was a supporting role.
But in her new show, Rachel is the star. The show is on Amazon. It's called "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel." Rachel plays Midge Maisel, who is a 1950s housewife who, through a series of events, falls into a career doing stand-up comedy in New York City. And the show isn't only about women. It was created by a woman. It's the brainchild of Amy Sherman-Palladino. She made "Gilmore Girls."
I was talking to Rachel last week after she had just gotten some great news that she is up for a Golden Globe for best actress in a TV comedy for her work on "Mrs. Maisel." We talked about that. We talked about what the show says about women. We talked about how this show fits into the #MeToo movement and how Rachel got her part in this show despite trying out for the role with the flu. There's a lot more in this conversation. I really enjoyed it. I hope you do, too. Let's get to it - me and Rachel Brosnahan. I was in D.C. Rachel was in New York. Enjoy.
(SOUNDBITE OF FLEVANS' "FLICKER")
SANDERS: I think you're owed a happy early birthday.
RACHEL BROSNAHAN: Oh, thanks.
SANDERS: Yeah, when's your birthday?
BROSNAHAN: Well, not December. My birthday is not when the Internet says it is.
SANDERS: Stop it. Are you serious?
BROSNAHAN: It's a mystery, yeah. It's...
SANDERS: Why would you do that?
BROSNAHAN: Well, I didn't do it. It - someone, like...
SANDERS: Who did it then?
BROSNAHAN: I literally do not know, is the thing. Somebody...
BROSNAHAN: ...Fully made up my birthday.
SANDERS: Stop it.
BROSNAHAN: Like, I - and the craziest thing is it became truer than the truth so quickly. It was, like - somebody had put that my birthday was April 2. And I didn't know that until more than one person kept kind of wishing me happy birthday. And I was like, oh. And I thought people were making a joke or something. I didn't understand.
BROSNAHAN: And then people kept referring to my astrological sign, and I was like, what, that's - and then I'll let you in on a little secret of mine.
SANDERS: Yeah, do it. Do it.
BROSNAHAN: So I was like, this is insane. Like, and I went in and tried to change it, and it wouldn't let me change it. It kept changing it back.
SANDERS: On Wikipedia or what?
BROSNAHAN: On Wikipedia or something.
SANDERS: It wouldn't let you change it.
BROSNAHAN: No. And so then I went on Twitter and made up a new birthday for myself just to see if it would take. And I literally said - I went, who wants to change my Internet birthday? December 15.
SANDERS: (Laughter) No way.
SANDERS: No way.
BROSNAHAN: They did it. And now I have two Internet birthdays.
SANDERS: You're actually two people.
BROSNAHAN: I know. It's kind of exciting.
SANDERS: That is so cool.
BROSNAHAN: I'm enjoying this little mystery. I have a secret nobody knows.
SANDERS: So this is a pretty good week for you, I'm guessing. You just got a Golden Globes nomination. Congrats.
BROSNAHAN: Thank you.
SANDERS: Yeah. So where were you when you found out? I know everyone always asks that question.
SANDERS: But it is interesting to know.
BROSNAHAN: I was asleep.
SANDERS: You were asleep, OK.
BROSNAHAN: Yeah, yeah.
SANDERS: Did you wake up to, like, a ton of texts and stuff?
BROSNAHAN: Yeah. I mean, I was so disoriented, though, you know? Like, my dog woke me up because he made a noise, and then I took the dog for a walk, and I was like - my shoe came untied. I was walking the dog, and tying my shoe and giving an interview to the LA Times.
SANDERS: That's funny.
BROSNAHAN: And it was very weird but cool that people are finding and liking this show so quickly. I've been saying, I'm always the last person to the party.
BROSNAHAN: And so it's always amazing to me when, 24 hours after a show is aired, people are like, I saw the whole thing.
SANDERS: What is your - for the Golden Globes, like, my question always is like, does everyone that's up for an award prepare a speech or do you not prepare a speech and just wing it? Like...
BROSNAHAN: I don't know. This is new to me.
BROSNAHAN: A couple years ago, I was fortunate enough to be nominated for an Emmy. And I didn't know what to do then, and so I didn't write anything because I was so sure I wasn't going to win. And I didn't. But I knew I wasn't going to and so...
SANDERS: And this is for "House Of Cards," right?
BROSNAHAN: Yeah. And so - and that was a total shock, too. And so I didn't. And then suddenly, I thought maybe I should have. I don't know. I don't know. Do you know?
SANDERS: I have never been up for a Golden Globe.
BROSNAHAN: Clearly, I'm panicking.
SANDERS: I would say write a speech - never hurts.
BROSNAHAN: I know. Does that jinx it? Is that is a weird thing to do? I mean, no because you're so - I don't know.
SANDERS: Oh. Maybe there's, like - well, I guess, like, whenever in doubt, I always just say, what would, like, Beyonce do? And...
BROSNAHAN: What would Beyonce do?
SANDERS: I bet she always has a speech.
BROSNAHAN: But what would Sasha Fierce do?
SANDERS: Oh, way to bring it back. I like that.
BROSNAHAN: That's a better question.
SANDERS: I had forgotten about Sasha Fierce for a while. She would just dance.
BROSNAHAN: That's what I was saying.
SANDERS: If you win, you just dance.
BROSNAHAN: That's it.
SANDERS: That's it.
BROSNAHAN: We did it. We solved it.
SANDERS: We figured it out. Solved it (laughter).
SANDERS: I predict, either way, you'll have a great time.
BROSNAHAN: Yeah, it'll be very cool. I just kind of - I want to, like, breathe the same air as Issa Rae, is all.
SANDERS: Don't we all? Don't you love her?
BROSNAHAN: It's - I love her.
SANDERS: Just sidebar - I love her. I love that show. And I love that that show, "Insecure," is such an homage to LA. It's so beautifully shot.
BROSNAHAN: Yes. You know, that's so true. It is. It's a little bit of a love letter to LA.
SANDERS: Yeah, yeah. So a good...
BROSNAHAN: I love that show. It's my favorite show on television.
SANDERS: It's a really good show. Yeah. And, I mean, like, that show is doing, I think, a lot of the things that your show is doing - kind of portraying women not as heroes, not as villains, but, like, as real people doing real things and, like, facing the challenges that we all face. You know, like, the - like, I am so glad that we're in this era of TV about women, about black people, that doesn't make them magical negroes or housewives that do it all with a smile or, you know, people who are these stereotypes and caricatures. Like, so much of your character in your show feels so fully formed and layered.
BROSNAHAN: Thank you. That's the goal, so thank you very much.
SANDERS: This show - for those listening that have not watched the show yet, how would we describe this show for listeners without giving all of the stuff away?
BROSNAHAN: Right. So this is a show about a young mother and a 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. And one day, her perfect husband up and leaves her for his awful secretary, and...
SANDERS: And I can't stand him. I'm sorry. Just - I cannot stand his character. Ugh.
BROSNAHAN: Oh, I know. But I feel for him.
SANDERS: He's the worst.
BROSNAHAN: Michael takes it so personally.
BROSNAHAN: Well, wouldn't you?
SANDERS: True, true.
BROSNAHAN: Everyone's like, God, Joel can [expletive] a [expletive], you know? And Michael's like, ugh. Yeah, so he up and leaves her. 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. Like, he literally is the worst.
BROSNAHAN: He's - yeah, fully the worst.
SANDERS: 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.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE MARVELOUS MRS. MAISEL")
BROSNAHAN: (As Miriam "Midge" Maisel) 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 to leave, right? I loved him. And I showed him I loved him.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Oh, yeah.
BROSNAHAN: All that shit they say about Jewish girls in the bedroom - not true. There are French whores standing around the Marais district saying, 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 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. They're the creators, writers, directors - they wear 12,000 hats - 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 - 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. 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. It's not yet a stand-up. And coupled with Amy's brilliant and hilarious writing, that's what you get. 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. It is a lot of fast monologuing and just, like, a lot of dialogue, period. And you've spoken about how much dialogue y'all have in this show. How hard was doing that?
BROSNAHAN: So, so hard.
BROSNAHAN: There's just - there's never enough time to bring up - there's never enough time. There's never enough coffee. It truly involved actual mouth warmups pre-every-one-one-of-those-speeches.
SANDERS: I saw that. You said that you do, like, Shakespearean mouth warmups. Do one for me.
BROSNAHAN: Well, they're - Shakespearean is a little bit of an overstatement.
SANDERS: OK. OK.
BROSNAHAN: (Laughter). I was just going to say, like, all that weird stuff that - is 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.
BROSNAHAN: It's - yeah, go.
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: 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...
BROSNAHAN: I promise.
SANDERS: ...Do it. 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 because 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).
BROSNAHAN: That was pretty good.
SANDERS: Thank you.
BROSNAHAN: See, you can be it, too.
SANDERS: That's right.
BROSNAHAN: You could be a stand-up, too.
BROSNAHAN: A TV stand-up.
BROSNAHAN: 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 stand-up 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...
BROSNAHAN: Yeah, I think...
SANDERS: ...Sick were you?
BROSNAHAN: ...Maybe me making some bad jokes has gotten slightly exaggerated through the course of...
BROSNAHAN: ...All this press. I was not knocking on death's door, but I felt...
SANDERS: 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, 10 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 they were going to just move on.
BROSNAHAN: Because, you know, like, 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 I couldn't walk in them.
BROSNAHAN: It was gross. It was - 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.
BROSNAHAN: Yeah (laughter).
SANDERS: Because, like, when she's on stage sometimes, it is like a little kind of breakdowny (ph).
BROSNAHAN: Exactly (laughter).
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.
BROSNAHAN: Me too.
SANDERS: Like, it's so beautiful. Like, one, did you get to keep the wardrobe?
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. We actually shot in a - in two real apartments for the pilot on 113th and Riverside.
BROSNAHAN: 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 wanted...
SANDERS: They need to let you keep the costume.
BROSNAHAN: Well, we have a season two.
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 needing...
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. So 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. That's...
BROSNAHAN: ...Something 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, I - 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...
BROSNAHAN: ...I loved reading because I loved imagining worlds that were different from or bigger than mine. 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 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...
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."
SANDERS: Like, is everyone just running around singing and dancing and flash mobbing?
BROSNAHAN: No - well, maybe some of the studios. My - I...
SANDERS: Just say yes. Please tell me that it's like that...
SANDERS: ...Because I want to believe that.
BROSNAHAN: It's exactly like that.
BROSNAHAN: Wow, how did you know?
BROSNAHAN: I mean, I studied at Strasberg, which I don't know how much you know about Strasberg, but we were known for crying.
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 as 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. I don't know what that says about me.
BROSNAHAN: But they turn you inside out. They look at all your guts, and then they try to piece you back together again.
BROSNAHAN: Or they leave you on your own to piece yourself back together again. 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?
BROSNAHAN: Absolutely not. I don't think anybody really...
SANDERS: Were you scared to do it?
BROSNAHAN: ...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? Because you look...
SANDERS: ...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. And I...
BROSNAHAN: 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 - me...
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: And 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.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE MARVELOUS MRS. MAISEL")
ALEX BORSTEIN: (As Susie Meyerson) Just drop this doe-eyed Bambi thing right now. OK, 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 fucking weak. And if you want to be a comic, you are going to have to grow the [expletive] up right now.
BROSNAHAN: (As Miriam "Midge" Maisel, crying) I'm sorry, but I don't know what to do lately. I'm trying to be strong and independent, but I saw Joe 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 stand-up. 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 not...
SANDERS: I love how you deliver that line - and this is personal - all of this. I'm like, that's my motto for life.
SANDERS: It's all personal.
BROSNAHAN: Especially when there's tears streaming down your face.
SANDERS: Yeah, yes.
BROSNAHAN: Yeah (laughter).
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE MARVELOUS MRS. MAISEL")
BROSNAHAN: (As Miriam "Midge" Maisel) 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.
SANDERS: It's good.
BROSNAHAN: That was 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...
BROSNAHAN: ...Not literally but, you know.
SANDERS: (Laughter) 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 "MADtv."
SANDERS: ...Way back in the day. And this is a totally - a big departure from that show for her. But what I like...
BROSNAHAN: I know.
SANDERS: ...About this show is that the love story at the heart of at least season one is between your character and her character. And it is...
SANDERS: ...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...
SANDERS: ...Friendship 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.
BROSNAHAN: I was going to say...
BROSNAHAN: ...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...
BROSNAHAN: ...All of its all of it (laughter).
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 come - 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.
BROSNAHAN: 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 to a bromance. And...
BROSNAHAN: ...This is a fully...
SANDERS: It's a womance.
BROSNAHAN: ...Realized womance.
SANDERS: I love that.
BROSNAHAN: I do, too.
SANDERS: (Laughter) That's - and so 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.
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 - the world is on fire, you know. 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.
All right, time for a break. I'm talking with Golden Globe-nominated star of Amazon's "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel," Rachel Brosnahan. Before this, Rachel had a supporting role on "House Of Cards." That got her an Emmy nomination. But "House Of Cards" has been back in the news because its lead star, Kevin Spacey, has just left the show, and Rachel has thoughts about that. BRB.
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SANDERS: This show - 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 this 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 this 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. But...
BROSNAHAN: ...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 is an extraordinary man, who loves extraordinary women...
BROSNAHAN: ...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. And I also appreciate, about this particular story, that it's a slightly different look at a woman reinventing herself in a period piece.
BROSNAHAN: This is a woman 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, you know. And...
SANDERS: (Laughter) Yeah.
BROSNAHAN: ...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 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 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 Me Too movement. And so many people - men and women - are noticing things that were always happening but just never talked about, and 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 Me Too 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. 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.
SANDERS: Now, Susie is her almost-manager, quasi-manager?
BROSNAHAN: Yes, becoming 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 scene. Yeah.
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, 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. But progress isn't linear sometimes. It's almost never linear. 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.
BROSNAHAN: ...Traditional views that 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 seems that way on the Internet.
BROSNAHAN: And it's hard because it is frustrating when - and even - 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 share these views that we find repugnant, you know? And so how do you move through that? I don't know. I don't have the answer. But we've got to listen more. We just have to listen better.
BROSNAHAN: We're doing a lot of talking and not enough listening.
SANDERS: That's what we all want, you know? That's what we all want. So you are - you know, thinking back about the Golden Globes, you're going to be at this awards show that will also honor movies at a time when the movie industry is reeling - like many other industries - over Harvey Weinstein and the Me Too movement, and you were on "House Of Cards."
SANDERS: And we all know what happened to Kevin Spacey.
SANDERS: He's gone. And now they're going to finish the show out with Robin Wright, who was the female lead of the show. How do you feel about that? Do you like that? Is that the right way to approach these kind of things in light of men behaving badly and being removed?
BROSNAHAN: Absolutely. I was so happy to hear that they did that because one person who turns out to be terrible should not be able to bring down something that has lifted so many people up. Robin Wright is incredible on "House Of Cards."
SANDERS: Yes, she is.
BROSNAHAN: It shouldn't - you know, I've been asked a lot in the press - which has really bothered me - people have asked me how I feel now that the show's reputation is tarnished.
SANDERS: It shouldn't be tarnished.
BROSNAHAN: It shouldn't be tarnished. There are so many talented, brilliant people involved with that show who have made it what it is. And I think they absolutely did the right thing by removing Kevin, and I'm so glad that they chose in that moment to lift up an extraordinary woman. That to me feels like a part of the solution.
SANDERS: Yeah. Yeah.
BROSNAHAN: You know, something that's been interesting doing press for "Maisel" has been that obviously "House Of Cards" is what most people knew me from, and I get asked in almost every interview to comment on the show, the Kevin situation. And what happens is every time I talk about it, it either becomes the headline of the article or it becomes the only thing (laughter) that is mentioned. And "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" is either a sub headline or not mentioned at all. That's happened more than once. And it feels like, you know...
SANDERS: It's not fair.
BROSNAHAN: Well, it's not even that it's not fair. Just at what point do we stop letting [expletive] men dominate the conversation about extraordinary women?
SANDERS: Snaps. Snaps for that.
SANDERS: You're preaching.
BROSNAHAN: It's been one of the things that has been the most frustrating about this. I'm on a show that is also a part, one part of a very multifaceted solution. As I said to you earlier, this is a show that is created, written, directed and produced by an extraordinary woman and an extraordinary man about an extraordinary woman. This is a show that lifts women up, that highlights their battles, that employs them in front of and behind the camera. And so let's stop talking about these terrible men and start talking about women who are creating exciting content, the courage of the women who have come forward, the fact that Robin is taking over this show and she deserves that.
SANDERS: Yeah, she does.
BROSNAHAN: It's been - we need to start having this conversation differently.
SANDERS: Totally. I mean, like, in the same way. You know, like, not everyone that has come forward in the Me Too movement has put their name out there, but, in my mind, the conversation is only right when the women that have named themselves are as known as the names of these awful men. We should know them, too. We should value them, too. You know? And we have this conversation where we're constantly asking ourselves, well, when has someone like Kevin Spacey suffered enough? And, like, for me, the bigger, better question is, when have these women have been made whole?
SANDERS: When have they gotten back the lost wages, the lost time, the lost self-respect? That is the bigger question that we're not asking right now.
BROSNAHAN: Well, conversations like this move that conversation forward, I think. So thank you for having it with me.
SANDERS: Oh, my God, I'm happy to do it. You know, I have asked all the questions on my list, but I have one more that I thought of while I was in the studio. Midge is a real, live person yanked out of 1958, and you get to have brunch with her.
BROSNAHAN: Oh, God.
SANDERS: What do you guys talk about? What's the first question you ask her? What are you dying to know from her, if you could actually speak with her?
BROSNAHAN: Where she shops.
BROSNAHAN: Honestly. (Laughter) Like, I probably wouldn't be able to stop looking at her.
BROSNAHAN: That's probably my first question, the most pressing and immediate. I don't know. What do you ask? I would just want to know from her perspective what her world is like. I feel that way about anybody who's pulled from another time.
BROSNAHAN: What does the world look like to you?
SANDERS: Yeah. Well, 'cause it's funny 'cause, like, we - a lot of parts of the culture would look back on a woman like her in 1958 and say, gosh, this woman is in many ways kind of oppressed. Like, she is in a society that seemed more patriarchal than this one, and, you know, she had to run about in a world that was really, really just ruled by men. But I wonder if she would see herself as in any way oppressed. I don't know if she would or not.
BROSNAHAN: Certainly not when we meet her.
BROSNAHAN: Not when we meet her. I think, as I said, her eyes are opening. She's seeing things she hadn't seen before. I'm not sure that she has fully realized all of her thoughts or processed all her thoughts about that and about what that means to her or what the larger-world implications of those thoughts are. But that's part of what her stand-up is. Her stand-up becomes an open forum for her. That's where she says all the things she's not allowed to say and not allowed to think. And so I'm looking forward to seeing how her stand-up evolves.
SANDERS: Yeah. I am, too. I hope that this interview magnifies the show even further 'cause I really think folks should watch it.
BROSNAHAN: Thank you.
SANDERS: And all the best of luck on that Golden Globes red carpet.
BROSNAHAN: Oh, my God.
SANDERS: Don't trip. Break a leg. Whatever they say.
BROSNAHAN: There are no promises there.
BROSNAHAN: I'm kind of klutzy.
SANDERS: It's OK. It's all right.
SANDERS: And I hope that you and Issa Rae get to have a moment there.
BROSNAHAN: Oh, my God. I just - I will try not to be a total creep. (Laughter).
SANDERS: I bet she watches your show. I bet she does.
BROSNAHAN: Oh, my God. I love her so much. (Laughter).
SANDERS: Issa, if you're listening, we both love you so much.
BROSNAHAN: I'm blushing. Good thing you can't see this.
SANDERS: (Laughter). Hey, well, thank you so much. I really appreciate it. It was a fun chat.
BROSNAHAN: Thank you. Thank you for taking the time.
SANDERS: Yeah. Have a good day.
BROSNAHAN: You too. Bye.
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SANDERS: That was Rachel Brosnahan. She's up for a Golden Globe for her work in the Amazon show, "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel." All eight episodes are on Amazon right now, and as someone who just watched the show, I will say you're going to breeze right through it, listeners. Trust me.
All right. That's it for us today. A reminder - if you like what you're hearing and you love public radio - and yes for all of you, on both counts, I'm sure - please give to your local NPR station at this link, donate.npr.org/sam. As you may know, there's a little competition going on between the podcast hosts of NPR over who can convince their listeners to give more. And not even just give more, but more people to give. From what I hear, we have been in first place for a while, but I want to keep it that way. I trust our IT'S BEEN A MINUTE family to help us end this thing on top. I know we can do it. We have till the end of the month to give. Donate.npr.org/sam. With that, we're back in your feeds with the Weekly Wrap on Friday. Till then, be good yourselves. Talk soon.
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