One is sharp and sassy, the other brusque and blunt – yet for all their differences on screen, Miriam “Midge” Maisel and her misanthropic manager Susie Myerson are the most loyal of friends.
Now it seems that chemistry has spilled over into real life too for actress Rachel Brosnahan, who returns this week in the title role of the much-anticipated second series of The Marvelous Mrs Maisel.
Picking up two Golden Globes and eight Emmys – including best actress for Brosnahan – after it first debuted last year, the punchy Amazon Prime show revolves around an American-Jewish 1950s housewife, who discovers a hidden talent for stand-up comedy.
Speaking about her Jewish co-star Alex Borstein, who is also known for playing gravelly-voiced Lois Griffin on the animated series, Family Guy, Brosnahan admits they are “such unlikely friends, but we just get along so well”.
The talented 27-year-old actress, who is the niece of late fashion designer Kate Spade, adds: “Alex is just incredible. She’s so talented, generous, hilarious and thoughtful. She’s such a mixed bag of all kinds of things.”
Having never performed a comedy role – or indeed a Jewish one – Brosnahan credits Borstein and show creator Amy Sherman-Palladino, who both come from Jewish backgrounds, in helping shape her character.
But as for where the rest of her sense of shtick comes from, that she claims was largely informed by a childhood spent growing up in Highland Park, Illinois – where by coincidence Borstein was also raised.
“I grew up in a predominantly Jewish community and most of my friends and their families growing up were Jewish,” says Brosnahan with a broad smile. “I suppose I was surrounded by a sense of humour! Midge is inspired by a few different women in my life that I have known and loved, a few of whom happen to be Jewish.”
In the first series of The Marvelous Mrs Maisel, which burst on to Amazon Prime last March, viewers were treated to the sumptuous story of an upper-middle-class New Yorker who seemingly had it all – a beautiful lifestyle on the Upper West Side, an executive husband, a baby daughter to coo over.
Even the rabbi, after many years of asking, had finally accepted her invitation to break the Yom Kippur fast with a freshly-cooked brisket, one of Midge’s culinary specialties.
But that all unravelled in the most clichéd way after her husband, Joel (Michael Zegen), admitted he had been having an affair with his secretary.
Embarking on a drunken rampage, fuelled by a bottle of Palwin No. 10, Midge heads for Greenwich Village and storms the stage at a comedy club, where Joel, a failed comedian, had once held aspirations to become the next big thing. As it turns out, it’s his wife who had the talent all along.
The long-awaited new series promises just as much pizzazz and punchlines as the first and while the details are still very much under wraps, the trailer reveals some tantalising details, including a trip to Paris and the emergence of a handsome Manhattan doctor in Midge’s life.
Susie and Midge are also set to “hit the road” with gigs lined up in clubs, motels and even the Catskills.
Brosnahan says she was “fascinated” by her research into the famed “Borsht Belt”, which was popular with American-Jewish families in the early part of the 20th Century.
She tells me: “I watched a documentary to help put the whole period into context, The Jewish Americans, which I really loved. There was a whole section focused on the Borsht Belt, how that came to be the place that Jewish families visited.
“I started off intending just to see the bit about the ‘50s, but found myself watching the entire five hours – it was really wonderful.”
The new series is also set to explore the relationships between Midge and her parents in greater detail, with Brosnahan explaining that much of her character’s rebellious streak surprisingly comes from her straight-laced father.
She tells me: “I think probably much to Abe’s [Tony Shalhoub] chagrin, he has raised a daughter who is exactly the same as him – and in ways that neither of them really expect. But as they grow closer together, it’s something they both come to realise.”
On the massive success of the show, which has already been renewed for a third series before the second has even aired, Brosnahan admits the cast have all been “continually blown away and overwhelmed”.
Even Steven Spielberg is a self-confessed fan of The Marvelous Mrs Maisel.
“The fact that he and his wife love the show, that they even watch it, is huge. We always knew this was a special show, but it’s been a continually evolving surprise that people love it as much as we do.”
- The Marvelous Mrs Maisel is available on Amazon Prime from 5 December