Mrs Maisel actress Caroline Aaron on her new role, civil rights and BLM
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Mrs Maisel actress Caroline Aaron on her new role, civil rights and BLM

Performer and activist talks to Brigit Grant about her life of fighting racism and a new film role for which she portrays two people!

Brigit Grant is the Jewish News Supplements Editor

Caroline as Shirley Maisel with screen husband Moishe (Kevin Pollak)
Caroline as Shirley Maisel with screen husband Moishe (Kevin Pollak)

The memory of Ku Klux Klan crosses burning on her front lawn hasn’t disappeared in the embers for actress Caroline Aaron.

She was just five in 1956, but as the daughter of prominent Jewish civil rights activist Nina Friedman, growing up in southern Richmond, Virginia, exposed her to the racist abuse endured by black families. The hatred of her late mother, who walked with Martin Luther King Jr at Selma, was visceral and the recent Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests brought the past into sharp relief for The Marvellous Mrs Maisel star.

 “Someone who knew my mother emailed me and said ‘your mother would be so sad’ and she would, because we are going backwards,” she says. 

Caroline, who shines as comedian Midge’s balaboosta mother-in-law Shirley Maisel, lost her father when she was 13 and her mother, a professor of sociology, was the only white member of staff at Virginia Union University.

“A lot of the big BLM protests happened in Richmond on Monument Avenue, which had enormous statues of Confederate heroes, but they’re all down now,” says Caroline. 

“There’s no learning curve as one tragic murder follows another days later. It’s like the kids’ game Candyland, which sends you back down the mountain if you draw the wrong card. America drew the card, which sent us down and now we have to climb our way back up.”

Caroline Aaron

Closeted with husband James in New York transitioning from lockdown, Caroline appears movie-set groomed on Zoom – a striking contrast to one of the two characters she portrays in Amazon’s Call Waiting, which was a play by the late Dori Fram, a first-generation Holocaust survivor.

Caroline starred in the play and is now a tour de force in Jodi Binstock’s movie within a movie as she switches from unkempt, struggling writer Judy Baxter to Carol Lane, the actress portraying her.

Each woman has her own demons, but the story leads with Judy’s struggle with her sister and writing her parents’ Holocaust history.  

“I learnt a lot about the children of survivors through Dori’s sister, who did not have the same father, as her real one died in Auschwitz,” says Caroline. “She felt so betrayed by them withholding this truth she never forgave her family. 

Call Waiting

“War brings a lot of collateral damage – as the last line of the play says: ‘I lost my sister in World War II and she lives two blocks away.’”

Caroline is never off screen in the film and juggles incessant phones calls with the same ease as she controls her mishpacha as Mrs Maisel snr. The actress confirms Maisel season four is burgeoning, while wondering how creator Amy Sherman-Palladino will  pick up after the season three finale saw Midge (Rachel Brosnahan) bumped from the Shy Baldwin (LeRoy McClain) tour for besmirching the black gay singer. 

“Amy and Dan are brilliant because they start with a blank page, but they must also be psychic,” says Caroline. 

“Midge Maisel was on a steady ascent, but has failed because of something she said, and that’s really happening. I believe there’s a fine line between getting people to treat others with respect and censorship.” 

Caroline has no idea what happens to Shirley, only that Amy won’t let set safety impinge on her plans. 

Another call taken by Judy Baxter, one of Caroline’s two roles

“The show is about a young woman who led a sheltered life making her way in the big wide world. You can’t take away the world.” 

There had been hints Maisel was coming to London – “Yes, I thought we were going to meet,” sighs Caroline, who also cancelled  her first trip to Israel to stay with a bestie, but is ready to start shooting in New York. 

“They are taking every precaution to make it safe, but it won’t be fun, I can tell you that, as we’re not allowed to eat together or learn lines or talk in the trailer as that could be a form of transmission.” 

For an actress with activism in her veins, being locked down has not stopped her vocalising her disdain for Trump and she has a podcast – Angst and Daisies – to educate the misinformed. 

“If he gets re-elected, I would leave if I could,” she says, but as season four films after Thanksgiving, she will find purpose in staying.

“As high-minded as it sounds, entertainment  – whether it’s on stage, film, or television – is there to show us our common humanity. It is a way to bring us all together.” Her mother would be so proud.

Call Waiting is on Amazon Prime Video  

 

 

  • @callwaitingmovie – IG 
  • @therealcarolineaaron – IG
  • @danbucatinsky – IG
  • @jodibinstock – IG
  • @CallWaitingMov – Twitter

 

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