“This is the big leagues, kid,” says Susie Myerson (Alex Borstein) to her comedian client Midge Maisel (Rachel Brosnahan) in the Dec. 6 premiere of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. And season 3 of the Emmy-winning Amazon Prime Video comedy is all about going big. As Midge embarks on her first national tour, opening for mega-famous singer Shy Baldwin (Leroy McClain), she’ll meet a host of new characters and discover, says Brosnahan, that “she’s not the center of everyone’s universe.” Susie will decide whether to take on a major — and majorly demanding — new client, Sophie Lennon (Jane Lynch), while Midge’s parents, Abe (Tony Shalhoub) and Rose (Marin Hinkle), must face some serious life changes now that Abe has quit both of his jobs. “That’s what season 3 is about, undiscovered territory for almost all of us,” says Shalhoub. “For good or for ill, everybody’s moving on.”
But moving where? EW talked to Maisel showrunners Amy Sherman-Palladino and Dan Palladino about what’s next for Midge, Susie, and everyone in their orbit as they hit the big time for the first time.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Season 1 was all about Midge discovering and honing her comedic talent, and season 2 chronicled her life as she tried to break into the business. How would you describe the arc of season 3, as Midge gets a taste of success?
AMY SHERMAN-PALLADINO: It’s just working as a working comic for the first time. That’s what her life is this year. And Susie too. Both the girls, now officially they’re in it, they’re working, they’re making a little money, so it’s sort of looking at what all of that does [to their lives].
DAN PALLADINO: At one point we have them in a hotel, and it’s the first time Susie’s ever been in a hotel that has a hallway. So it’s a brand new experience for her.
Midge is a white woman who will be opening for a black star in 1959. How will race factor into the story?
DAN PALLADINO: It’s an interesting world, because Amy’s dad, [comedian Don Sherman], back in the day opened for people like Johnny Mathis and Dinah Washington. There was a crossover there, what was really tied together back then was the jazz world and the comedy world. So if you were a racist comic you’re going to have a hard time fitting in that world, because those worlds really connected. Jazz guys like to laugh, and comedy guys…
AMY SHERMAN-PALLADINO: …like to smoke pot with Jazz guys.
DAN PALLADINO: They sometimes enjoyed listening to music, so there was a big crossover there. We definitely do deal with that world, you know.
AMY SHERMAN-PALLADINO: [Race] is gonna come into play because they’re together, but we can’t tell you a lot more because then we’re giving away story.
Why do you think it was important for Susie to branch out this year?
AMY SHERMAN-PALLADINO: The whole point of the whole series is that Midge blew up everybody’s world when she chose to go down this road. So every year it’s our responsibility to show how everybody’s life has sort of pushed out into a different direction. Especially Susie, since she’s with Midge.
What can you tease for Abe this season?
AMY SHERMAN-PALLADINO: The thing about Abe is, Abe has come to a point in his life where he’s searching for himself. And he actually has quite a few ups and downs this year, and winds up completely not where anybody would expect him to wind up. It’s his search for getting back to who he thought he was as a young person, and it actually led him in a different direction. And it’s a very delightful ride.
Abe’s always going to want to be in control, and no matter where he is he’s gonna try to grab that control, but he’s going to find out that you can’t always be in control.
And Rose wasn’t thrilled about Abe deciding to leave Bell Labs and Columbia.
AMY SHERMAN-PALLADINO: When we left her, her whole life had been destroyed — she lost everything. So she’s going to figure out what that means to her.
An Amazon press release says “Rose learns she has talents of her own.” Care to elaborate?
AMY SHERMAN-PALLADINO: She juggles with her feet. [Laughs]
I screamed with glee when I saw Liza Weil in the trailer. What can you tell us about her character?
AMY SHERMAN-PALLADINO: We’ve always wanted Liza on the show. She’s a perfect comedian, she doesn’t hit a false note, she’s a very real actress, and I just love her personally too. We’ve always been looking for ways to pull Liza back into our evil web… I made her go to some sort of lessons to get ready for [the role]… She has a sensational look. She really falls into the period perfectly.
The biggest casting news this season was the addition of This is Us favorite Sterling K. Brown. Did he approach you about joining the show?
DAN PALLADINO: We met Sterling at one of these sort of sometimes ridiculous [industry] events that we all go to. We’re very close to [former Gilmore Girls star] Milo [Ventimiglia], so we always felt like we had a connection to Milo and that show, and Sterling just came up to us and was like, “Hey, I love what you guys do,” and we’re like, “Hey, how would you like to do it with us?” It was an impossible dream at the beginning, but we somehow worked it out… We got him for as much as we could possibly get him, and wrote the role for him and wrote the amount to his schedule. We would have loved him to do more… But he’s always running around.
Is he in Shy Baldwin’s world? We see him talking to Susie in the trailer.
AMY SHERMAN-PALLADINO: Yeah, he’s in the Shy world, an intricate part of Shy’s life.
Rachel told me that Sterling’s character will give Susie and Midge a “run for their money.”
AMY SHERMAN-PALLADINO: Well Sterling is a formidable person just when he’s happy and saying hi to you while he’s wearing a tux. He’s a really good person to throw into scenes with these two girls because these two girls are so at the top of their game, and then you put someone else who’s at the top of their game in with them, it elevates everything. It’s fun to watch.
Rachel also mentioned to me that she’s getting “abused on Instagram” by fans who are upset about Midge ending things with Zachary Levi’s character, Benjamin.
AMY SHERMAN-PALLADINO: The fans need to take up bowling or start knitting a sweater or something, because Benjamin’s not real, and they weren’t really getting married. They’re actors.
What can you say about whether that chapter is closed or not?
DAN PALLADINO: I mean, no chapter in any TV show is completely closed. You never know. I can tell you that what we did in Gilmore Girls and what we do in everything we do is that we always keep in mind what’s happened in the past, and we always have to try to have an idea of where we’re going in the future, sometimes long in the future… Whether you see the guest star again or not, the ripple effect is always there in a person’s life, and we always pay attention to that.
What we were playing last year with her and Benjamin, and people who are especially performers in the arts, they sometimes realize at a certain point that there are real trade-offs, and sometimes you don’t get it all and sometimes you have to make choices. Sometimes those choices, they can be selfish, they can be kind of lonely choices, and that’s what we were showing before, that whatever Midge is doing, there’s going to be costs and there’s gonna be trade-offs.
AMY SHERMAN-PALLADINO: When you go into the life of being a road comic, something’s gonna fall apart. Something’s gonna be given up.
DAN PALLADINO: Usually it’s sobriety.
Michael Zegen’s Joel seems to be stepping up this season, helping Midge with the kids while she’s on tour — what can you preview for him?
AMY SHERMAN-PALLADINO: Joel is actually one of my favorite characters, I love him, and this is the year where we really wanted him to start putting his life together. He spent last season sort of flagellating himself, and we always said that because of their breakup, Joel was going to become the man that Midge always thought he was. Once he lost her, it’s something that he’s going to be living with for the rest of his life. So this year, we thought, like let’s start Joel down a path to having his own thing, his own life, his own dream. It was time for him to have a turn. He made a massive mistake, he’ll never be able to take that mistake back, it’s spiraled everybody’s life in a different direction, but he’s a young guy, a lot of time ahead of him to do good things, and especially to figure out what he wants.
Part of what split Midge and Joel up is that they were two really young people who got married with fairy tales in their heads of what marriage was. They weren’t quite mature enough to take on the roles that they took, both of them, and that bit ‘em in the ass. So now they’re both growing up and going after something.
A lot of people hope that they’ll get back together.
AMY SHERMAN-PALLADINO: When you have children, you’re never truly apart. And I think anybody who’s ever gotten divorced can tell you that — there’s never a separate road once you’ve gotta talk about that Timmy fell down a well. They are bonded in a way that they will never be able to be unbonded. We’ve always said that they’re Desi and Lucy, like when they’re 80 they’ll be sitting at the pool at some friend’s house and they’ll find each other more fascinating and more fun than anybody else in the room.
Their love is never really gonna shake, but their moment may or may not have passed. These are tricky times.
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel season 3 premieres Friday, Dec. 6 on Amazon Prime Video.