The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel star Rachel Brosnahan on Midge's ending: 'It leaves just enough questions'
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Warning: This story contains spoilers about the series finale of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, "Four Minutes."
"This is it. This is the break."
Susie (Alex Borstein) told Midge (Rachel Brosnahan) those words in the premiere of the final season of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel — and in the series finale, those words finally came true. After five seasons of taking wild swings and clawing her way to recognition in the world of stand-up comedy, Midge got her moment in the sun.
Finally getting a spot on The Gordon Ford Show, only to learn that it's only as a writer, not as a comic, Midge decides to take matters into her own hands. She steps up to the mic and delivers a tight four-minute set that makes her career. Gordon (Reid Scott) invites her to the couch, dubs her "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel", and the rest is history.
A history that we've seen glimpses of in flash-forwards throughout the season, but get a last picture of in the series' final scene. In 2005, Midge is still working every day, now living alone in her massive New York City apartment. Susie remains her best friend, even thousands of miles away, and they spend their evenings on the phone watching VHS tape recordings of Jeopardy!
To get the skinny on Midge's final set and these last moments in her company, we grabbed Brosnahan for a rooftop chat ahead of the cast's Maisel FYC event in Los Angeles earlier this week. Brosnahan has spent six years with Midge, and she walked us through prepping that stand-up performance (which was the final week of shooting for the entire series) and what she thought of Midge's ultimate fate.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: We finally get to see the moment Midge makes it. What was it like preparing for that final set? Was it tough?
RACHEL BROSNAHAN: Well, in true Maisel fashion, I had about 36 hours. In all honesty, I think that [Creator] Amy [Sherman-Palladino] had a hard time writing it. Not because she couldn't write something f--ing brilliant, but because it meant that this was the end. She kept promising that I would get the pages and promising that I would get the pages, and I was really starting to panic. Finally, she sent me the pages and figured out how to give me an extra day to learn it. I guess it was about 48 hours. Not a whole lot of time. Lots of words, lots of fast talking, but I had a ton of support from Amy and [executive producer] Dan [Palladino], from our entire Maisel family who was on set that entire week, from all of our crew. It was a pretty special way to go out.
How emotional was that final "Tits Up" between you and Alex? Because it's emotional to even watch.
Oh, we were both sobbing. We couldn't look each other in the eyes during rehearsal. I had to look at her forehead and she was looking at my chin. We were half-dressed and literally couldn't look each other in the eyes. Alex has never been the crier, but she's been real weepy since that last day.
Midge puts a lot of her mission statement forth in that set, with wanting to be so famous that everyone who knows who she is and wanting to have a big life. We've seen in snippets this season that she got those things. Do you think she thinks it was worth it?
She's proud that she did exactly what she set out to do after doing exactly what she set out to do the first time and having the rug ripped out from under her. She's proud that she rebuilds, that she headed in a completely different direction that she didn't know was possible, that she found a partner and the love of her life in a lot of ways in both Susie and stand-up. She's proud and she's fulfilled. Is she happy? I don't know.
In the 2005 scene, she looks very fondly at this wedding picture of Joel (Michael Zegen). Michael thinks Joel's dead. What do you think?
Well, I know Joel's dead because I asked Amy. [Laughs] I think everyone's dead at that point, except for Midge and Susie. Those two broads are like cockroaches. They're never gonna die. They get stepped on over and over and over again, and they got a thick exo-skeleton.
That final scene where she's alone in these palatial beautiful rooms and talking to Susie halfway around the world, should we celebrate that? Or take it as a cautionary tale?
I think it just is. What it is is Midge's journey and Midge's life. It's been full of contradictions and big dreams and high highs and low lows. Amy said to me during the first season, and it's something that I've held near, because I find it both really beautiful and also deeply sad — I asked Amy during our first season what was going to happen to Midge and Joel, and if they would ever get back together again. She told me that they would never get back together again forever, because they would never be able to be on the same page at the same time again. But that Midge, when she lived in her Park Avenue penthouse with 20 poodles, the poodles were mysteriously absent from the finale, but that Midge would always look back on the day before Joel left her as the happiest day of her life.
I saw you fiddle with something on that table. Is that Lenny's (Luke Kirby) fortune?
I don't remember.
Do you think she kept it that long?
Definitely. Because our production designers are geniuses, if you look in the background of that scene of Midge when she's on the phone with Susie, it's that tiny cozy room in her house filled with all of her memories. There's a big bulletin board behind her on the couch that has napkins from the Gaslight and flyers from Carnegie Hall and newspaper clippings. I think Midge kept everything.
What was experiencing that old age make-up like?
Sobering. Brutal. Amy will be paying for my therapy for the rest of my life. Nobody deserves to have to glimpse their own mortality like that. But also, we all need Midge's plastic surgeon's number if she looks like that at 85 or 75 or whatnot.
Were you surprised by the final shot or last couple of shots?
Yeah, I did not see that coming. I was surprised that we got to flashback to Lenny because if Susie and comedy are the loves of Midge's life, Lenny is her fairy godfather and one of the few people who's ever seen her exactly as she is. I love that he's one of the people who lays out her fate, and that he'll always be there, out there somewhere encouraging her.
Do you think Midge is an EGOT winner?
She won a Grammy, right? And I know she has two Emmys because they're in one of the scenes. What would she have won an Oscar for? I think the Oscar has alluded her and she's come for the Academy with everything she has. But she's a terrible actress.
Were you personally happy with her ending?
Yeah. I didn't have a doubt that Amy and Dan would figure out how to land the plane. I love that final set so much. Even though I had all of 48 hours to memorize it, it was actually easy to memorize because it was exactly the kind of storytelling that Midge was building to throughout these five seasons. It ends with her being unapologetic for her ambition and encouraging other people to find the courage to make their own lives that she's found and to find the people who have made that possible. It leaves just enough questions hanging in the air.
This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.
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Rachel Brosnahan stars as Miriam "Midge" Maisel, a 1950s housewife in New York City who discovers she has a knack for stand-up comedy after her husband leaves her.
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