‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ showrunners talk about writing high-caliber material – The Hollywood Reporter

If it hadn’t been for the global pandemic, the fourth season of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel likely would have arrived in a radically different form: As in previous seasons, Midge and Maisel’s intimates would have ventured across the country, could have delved into ever-widening showbiz platforms. As always, the sky was the limit. But as COVID-19 made its presence known, married co-creators/showrunners Amy Sherman-Palladino and Dan Palladino found themselves reconfiguring their plans to cope with the moment. The resulting season — thanks in large part to their longstanding practice of letting the strengths of the story, characters, and actors drive them — garnered 12 Emmy nominations.

The season saw Midge’s successes and struggles further her acting career. The supporting players – father Abe, manager Susie and ex-husband Joel – found their own lives mirroring Midge’s moment of transition after predictable paths were upended by her decision to pursue her unconventional ambitions. The showrunner pair joined THR to delve into the daunting challenges of presenting a lavishly appointed mid-century period during a global pandemic and the unforeseen rewards of the Amazon Prime comedy’s fourth season.

What was central to the direction of the season as a whole? And what were some fun plan changes that happened along the way?

(LR) Writer-producer Daniel Palladino, writer-producer Amy Sherman-Palladino

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

AMY SHERMAN-PALLADINO Changes and deviations weren’t really fun, because we actually had a whole other season planned, and then COVID killed us, so we had to regroup quickly and figure out how to do this show and not feel like: “Oh, it’s a COVID show. They’re all in separate elevators, on boxes talking on cell phones. We were going to travel, and that forced us to refocus the show on New York. The benefit of this turned out to be that our family wasn’t as far apart. It was really a lot more of them facing each other. Also, being able to be on the streets of New York. We have to go to Carnegie Hall, for God’s sake, which would never have happened if we weren’t in this remarkable situation. In the end, that turned out to be a good thing because our people were forced to be together more. It caused a lot of good fights, stories, tears, laughter, seltzer in your pants, all your bases.

Was there anything particularly rewarding about creating this season that you couldn’t get enough of because you were having so much fun making it?

DAN PALLADINO The TV world is sort of shrinking [how] everyone expects things to run over three seasons now, and that’s a race – or even two seasons, and that’s a race. We’re really proud of the fact that we got the show into season four and still got quite a few Emmy nominations. Our staff and crew, who have been with us almost to one person since the pilot, are still really, really motivated. Lucky finds, like the Ferris wheel: We didn’t write about the Coney Island Ferris wheel thing, we actually broke the whole story, and we were a bit bullish about the location in which Midge returns and tells the family what happened with Shy Baudouin. We just thought, “How can we really beef this up to make it hugely entertaining and also, at the same time, hugely empowering?” And that was the Coney Island Ferris wheel sequence, and then everything in that story just happened in quick succession. This kind of happy accident is what really keeps us going and keeps us motivated.

SHERMAN-PALLADINO It’s sort of our wasted year in New York, I would say, where we actually showed a lot more of that city which is actually very important to this show.

The show’s selection of music and needle drops has always been sublime. Tell me about the experience of creating your Emmy-nominated song, “Maybe Monica.”

SHERMAN-PALLADINO Music has always been huge for us, and every year we’ve gone deeper and deeper into it. Dan and I have always thought of music as a character and we don’t use it unless it means or says something to the plot. We’re not big on, like, “Take a song and just put it in the background”, because it doesn’t mean anything, because it doesn’t add energy or feeling or vibe . Because we were lucky in this amazing musical group, Tom [Mizer] and Curtis [Moore], who write our original songs for us, we know that whenever we want to go, whatever we want to do, we can do. Having access to this beautiful theater – our production designer built us our Wolford theatre. It was COVID and we couldn’t go to many places so we built our own theatre. You have to put music in the theatre, and you have to understand what that mood is and what that sound is. It’s fun to find the needle drop. One of our favorite times is when we sit down to edit, when we do our final pass, and for any song that we haven’t already written in the script, we just sit there with, yeah, iPods – sorry, people; kids, ask your parents – and we go through the music as we go up. It’s actually a very important part of the process. One of the most entertaining parts of the process is sitting in that editing room, finding those songs.

Alex Borstein

Courtesy of Christopher Saunders/Amazon Studios

Is there anything about what you accomplished in season four that has emboldened you for what lies ahead?

SHERMAN-PALLADINO We’re right into season five right now. We introduced our A-game in season five. We have a cast that we know is the kind of gift you don’t get much of and will probably never happen again in this setup. Stories and scripts should honor the people who show up and give their 100% every day. Dan and I always bring this emotional nausea, deep stress and mental turbulence to every season, because we don’t want to send something to our table that’s not good enough for Rachel Brosnahan, or good enough for Tony. [Shalhoub]Alex [Borstein]Marine [Hinkle] or Michael [Zegen]. I don’t know if it’s ambition or just neurosis or lack of time for therapy, but that’s the kind of thing that we automatically bring to every season. We feel real good about how [season four] proved. It was heartbreaking in the moment, but in hindsight it did everything we wanted it to do and more.

Interview edited for length and clarity.

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