HFPA in Conversation: Rachel Brosnahan on Fame and Comedy

by Kirpi Uimonen Ballesteros November 28, 2018
Actress Rachel Brosnahan

anke hoffman/hfpa

The Amazon Studios' series The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel has made Rachel Brosnahan famous. The Golden Globe winner sat down with the HFPA’s Katherine Tulich and told what is going on with her busy life. “It's been a little bit challenging.  It's a little bit nerve-wracking.  I don't think I ever realized how private I was, or how shy I can sometimes feel until everything naturally became a lot more public.  I think I'd always considered myself a fairly open book.  I love people, I love to talk to people, but that has been a challenge that I'm learning to absorb, learning how to deal with in my own individual way.  But I live in New York and I think that helps.  I live very quietly in New York when I'm not working and I spend a lot of time with family and friends who aren't in the industry, and I think that's grounding and allows me a little bit of an escape.  And I am a lot of time with my dogs.”

Before she started to film the first season, she went to comedy clubs with her friend and coworker Michael Zegen. “I was mostly interested in emerging comics, in beginning comics, comedians who are figuring out their unique voices and the ways in which they dealt with both success and failure.  So I went to a lot of smaller, lower level, more amateur comedy clubs rather than some of the bigger venues.  But I also watched a lot of Netflix, standup specials, Ali Wong’s Baby Cobra, and a lot of documentaries about comedians from the time.”

She got influences from her grandmother to get into the mindset of a woman in the 1950s.I pulled different things from quite a few different women in my life and also women that I studied to compile Midge.  But someone who was certainly an influence was my grandmother June, who's my dad's mother and she was a fabulous woman and around the same time.  She had an incredible sense of style.  She was very self-assured and at least appeared to move through the world with a sense of ease, and I don't know that that's always the way she felt on the inside.”

Brosnahan was often inspiring and sort of shocking to women around her.  “She was a debutante.  But my dad's told stories about how some of her friends would always say things to her like, gosh, I could never say something like that or I don't know how you do things like that.  So I think in her own way she was boundary-pushing, but she also similarly to Midge, embraced the performance and the performative elements of being a woman in that time.  She felt it was important the way that she presented herself to the world.  And rather than feeling like a burden, all of the work that goes into that, it made her feel powerful, it made her feel purposeful, and that was something that was at the core of early Midge.

Listen to the podcast and learn where her inspiration for standup comedy comes from; when she realizes that she didn’t know much about comedy; how is she different from Midge; why she understands her character well; when she feltthe need to wear makeup all the time; what is her favorite scene from the first season and how it resonates in today’s world; what she learned from her parents; why she loved wrestling in high school; what were her dream professions and how  she ended up being an actor; how she drinks her tea; how English she is; how growing up in the Jewish part of North Shore Chicago helped her to understand Midge; how the production reacted when her aunt, Kate Spade, passed away; how she feels being in front of the camera and winning awards; where she keeps her awards; why she gave up planning things; how her friends feel when she disappears to work for six months at a time; what she's doing in her free time and what will happen to Midge in season two.

Listen to the conversation here or, for immediate access to all of our podcasts, subscribe to HFPA in Conversation on iTunes.