Amy Sherman-Palladino, Daniel Palladino (‘Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’) on crafting their ‘tragically expensive’ series [Complete Interview Transcript]

Amy Sherman-Palladino and Daniel Palladino just added even more Emmy nominations to their resumes for the second season of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” They are nominated for Best Comedy Series and Comedy Directing together, coming off a major Emmy sweep last year for Season 1.

The Palladinos recently spoke with Gold Derby senior editor Susan Wloszczyna about the origin of “tits up,” the lack of Emmy love for their past series, “Gilmore Girls,” and what’s coming for Season 3 of “Maisel.” Watch the exclusive video interview above and read the complete transcript below.

Gold Derby: For me, “Mrs. Maisel” came just in the nick of time because with things happening in the country that are a little bit depressing, I needed uplift in the worst way.

Daniel Palladino: We’re all desiring [Dwight D.] Eisenhower to be our president now.

GD: I haven’t been before but now, yes. What I love what you do is you manage nostalgia but also keep it reflective of what’s going on now a bit and I think you do that in a very smart and fun and also thoughtful way and I appreciate you’re showing what women but also what women are now and mixing it up very well. I’m a baby boomer so I watched Joan Rivers and Totie Fields and Phyllis Diller on TV. I have to say, I was thinking about this, I rewatched the season recently and I realized the term “Tits up,” which Susie, which is Mrs. Maisel’s manager, before she goes on stage is sort of like a good luck catchphrase. I looked at a lot of articles and interviews you guys have done but I realized there was a woman who… At first, I thought, “Oh, is she really realistic getting away with this kind of humor?” But then I remembered Rusty Warren. Do you know that name?

DP: Vaguely, yes.

GD: She had an album called “Knockers Up.”

DP: She had that song, yeah. Dr. Demento used to play her a lot.

GD: I remember my parents having cocktails parties and they had her recorded albums. First came “Sing Along with Mitch” and then came “Knockers Up.”

DP: Wasn’t her big hit “Bounce Your Boobies”? I think that was her. I think that was her big live song.

GD: Did you take it from her?

Amy Sherman-Palladino: No, Brits say, “Everything went tits up” and it’s sort of an “Everything went crazy and wrong,” and I just liked the idea that that’s the monicker that they used, also because it’s sort of like chin up. For broads, it’s tits up.

DP: It was the Susie character’s usual crass way to say, “Break a leg,” basically, and then we just used it again and again. It’s a bit of an inside joke for them. It’s their shared thing that they liked so it felt natural.

GD: Your dad was a standup comic. Did you ever see him in the club perform?

ASP: I saw him perform mostly on the cruise lines because by the time I was old enough to go see his, even though he was not dirty, but you don’t bring a kid to these things, he was mostly working cruise lines for the last 30 years of his existence so I did have to go to Alaska. It was horrifying but I did see him on the cruise lines ‘cause they would have these beautiful theaters, big theaters, and he would do two shows a week and he would perform just at the halfway mark where everybody’s starting to realize they’ve been completely ripped off by this entire thing and nothing is free. It’s gonna cost them a fortune and the kids have all organized into weird “Lord of the Flies” corners and darkened hallways and the husbands and wives are yelling at each other. And then my dad would come out halfway through and say, “Who else can’t find the dining room?” And they’re like, “Oh my god!” So it was all, “I can’t fit into my bathroom, who can fit into my bathroom?” He would just make fun of the cruise lines, whatever line he was on, and relieve tension and make sure that husbands and wives didn’t murder each other and throw themselves off the side of the boat. I did see him action there.

DP: He saved a lot of lives.

ASP: He saved a lot of lives. He was a humanitarian, actually.

DP: He was a human life-jacket.

ASP: He was. I did see him and his early days of touring and Catskills and all of that, I was not privy to that. I was privy to the wonderful stories when he came home. To me, that seemed very romantic and intellectual and strange and unique and probably when you were there it just smelled bad and your bed had no pillows and you were starving and you were cold and everything was miserable, but to me, it was the romantic thing in the world. And then I wrote a show about it and I turned him into a woman.

GD: And good for him.

ASP: A cute woman! I made him adorable.

DP: When Amy writes about you, it’s very slimming.

ASP: Yeah, I put you in a corset.

GD: What traits did you take from him or did he hang out with other comics and things like that, like “Broadway Danny Rose”?

ASP: We had a lot of “Broadway Danny Rose” moments in our backyard, a lot of men sitting around smoking odd-smelling cigarettes and making each other laugh about the old days and talking about their trials and tribulations, but my dad’s style of comedy was very conversational. When he would go on the cruise lines, part of his charm and why they loved him so much is he could talk about his day. When we were trying to decide what kind of comedy Midge would have, there’s different styles and different styles of jokes, we felt like conversational, stream of conscious, whatever happened to her five minutes before she went up on stage, that was gonna kind of be her thing. That was my father’s style of comedy.

GD: I can guess what the difference is but I love “Gilmore Girls,” that was on the WB, though. I assume working for a streaming site like Amazon, I love your production values and the clothing and seeing money there.

ASP: It’s a tragically expensive show and every day we show up we’re kind of surprised they let us in the building.

GD: But considering all that, you got to go to Paris. Those two episodes, I just said, “Oh, I’m gonna love this season,” because I appreciated you took us out of the apartments and got us moving around a bit more and it worked so well.

DP: The character, we’ve always seen her as a woman in the world. In the pilot, once we got past her first official standup, which was the toast at her wedding, we showed her out in the world. We showed her walking down Riverside Drive, we showed her going to the butchers and it’s always been an important thing for us to remember to have her out in the world. It’s easy for us and cheaper to have people talking in rooms…

ASP: Shh. Don’t mention the C-word.

DP: And to have people talking on-set. But that woman has to be out in the world. That’s really the point.

ASP: Thematically, her life was small and contained and then it blew up and suddenly her life keeps expanding and getting bigger. It’s sort of our responsibility to show the audience her world as it gets bigger, which would be strange if she just kept walking up and down the hallway.

GD: You can’t do this on a regular network because she couldn’t do her jokes and she couldn’t show her boobs.

ASP: And I’m not sure a regular network would care for a character like Midge. She’s a streaming gal, because she’s adorable but she can also be a little narcissistic and she can be a little, “All about me.” She’s got wonderful, adorable qualities and she’s a woman. She’s got it all. She’s got the good, the bad, the indifferent. We wanna be able to show it all because frankly, that’s what makes you a comic. A comic is somebody who also acknowledges the bad and often wallows in the bad and the dark and the problems and the broken parts of your psyche. That’s where the jokes come from. It doesn’t come from, “Hey, I’m adorable and I can make a cake.” It’s just not very funny. You gotta be able to step into that dark, dark…

DP: It’s delicious, though.

ASP: It’s so delicious.

GD: “Maisel” is beyond the pale that the “Gilmore Girls” lone Emmy win was for makeup. How did that happen?

ASP: It was nuts (laughs).

DP: It was partly a bias against outlets like the WB that the Emmys at the time just completely ignored.

ASP: They called them weblets.

DP: We were different from a lot of the shows. It really was a specifically teen romance network. We had teen romance in our show, which is what they liked but we were a lot more. It was more sophisticated and we always had a lot of buzz in the press about, “Lauren Graham should get an Emmy nomination and an Emmy,” and she should have.

ASP: Should have, absolutely, and Kelly Bishop.

DP: Ironically, we did one show that was this giant, we recreated the Pageant of the Masters thing that they do down in San Diego every year, which is this crazy reenactment of old paintings. They would have 12 real people reenact the Last Supper, with the 13th being Jesus and they would do it and it would look like the painting and they would stand still there for like 60 seconds and everybody would applaud. It’s kind of the greatest thing ever.

ASP: It’s completely nuts.

DP: We recreated that in Stars Hollow and we went all the way and yeah, we got this makeup nomination and then our makeup person won, and she’s the only person who got an award for “Gilmore Girls.”

ASP: Such is life.

GD: I think more than made up for it at the Emmys and it’s wonderful the awards you did win, and you’re the first woman to win for writing and directing. You deserve that and more in my book. This was like a Broadway show every week, for me.

ASP: We feel like that, too. It’s a very, very big production and we literally couldn’t pull it off if we didn’t have the people working for us that we do. We have geniuses working for us at every level so that the sets are brilliant and the costumes are amazing and then the cinematography is gorgeous and then these actors are perfect and lovely and they like each other and they come out of their trailers and they’re not schmucks at all. They’re just delightful people. Everybody’s there working together for a common goal. It feels like the most expensive, “Let’s put on a show in the barn Mickey [Rooney] and Judy [Garland] sort of production that has ever existed in the world.

GD: That’s a good description, I agree. Season 2, like I said, those Paris episodes, and especially seeing Tony Shalhoub in the beret was making me happy every time.

ASP: It kind of was worth everything.

GD: And then the other thing is I love Susie, not just because I’m not named Susan but because she’s great. That red plunger made me so happy. It made me laugh so hard and she pulled it off so well and you believed she could get away with that and when Mr. Crisscross showed up, I was dying.

DP: The plunger was one of those things, it just made us giggle when we were in the writers’ room. It just made us giggle and you cross your fingers ‘cause we wrote it then into like three episodes in a row. The plunger had to work ‘cause it had to work for three straight hours of her using the plunger as a tool to gain access. We tend to think if it really initially makes us giggle, don’t overthink it, just put that plunger in Alex Borstein’s hand and let her go.

GD: I did get to talk to Michael [Zegen] about the scene but that thing with the baseballs was insane and he told me you trusted him and the other actor to keep doing that. He said it was one take.

ASP: It was and it was one of those things where it wasn’t necessarily going to be one take and then we started rehearsing it. It was the last shot of the season, it was 3 o’clock in the morning. First of all, they’re so sensational together but they’re such gamers, those guys. As we rehearsed and as I grabbed my Steadicam guy, Jim McConkey, by his shirt and dragged him around where I wanted him to be, and Michael saw me do it, he kept saying, “Is this gonna be a oner?” I’m like, “I don’t know, Michael. I’m still deciding.” And he’s like, “Alright. It’s gonna be a oner, right? Just tell us. It’s gonna be a oner.” By the end of rehearsal it’s like, “Yeah, it’s gonna be a oner.” They are two guys that find that an incredible challenge and they were brilliant. I love them.

GD: It was amazing. I interviewed him and when I knew that, I go, “Oh, I gotta watch that baseball scene again and I gotta ask him about that.” In the moment, my jaw dropped and I just said, “How are they doing this?” Very proud of getting it all right. I’m a big believer in rituals and even in “Gilmore Girls,” like, “We always do this. This is what we do and you gotta eat this and you gotta do that and you gotta go there and all that.” I was raised Catholic but I get Jewish people totally. I have enough friends that it rubs off on you. also, my dad was an educator and he used to go to conventions at the Catskills so I’ve been to Grossinger’s and I’ve been to Concord and I know they’re not there anymore. I know you filmed somewhere in Binghamton, which I would never go to for a vacation necessarily but it looked good on TV. Is that your trait that you like things to be… you know what to expect that you’re gonna go to the Catskills and then you’re gonna go to do all these things that you always do?

ASP: It’s comforting. We didn’t have a whole lot of rituals in my family. We didn’t have, “Every year on this thing we all get together and we do this.” We weren’t that kind of family. We were a little bit more of a vagabond family. It was the three of us and whoever got out the door first led. I always grew up loving the concept that once a year the whole family gets together and they have this dinner. The idea of rituals and things that you can count on, it was just appealing to me because it just wasn’t the way my family functioned. When we went to do “Gilmore Girls,” it was all about a woman taking her daughter and carving out a whole completely different family in Stars Hollow because she couldn’t relate to her own family. I felt like rituals are gonna be very important to her in raising this girl. She’s gonna want things that they are in sync on and they understand and they have a second language on. It adds to the comfort level and why people dug the relationship between the two of them because they had these things in common that they counted on. It’s something you can count on. Sometimes in this world, it’s nice to have something you can count on, even if it’s red vines and a movie.

GD: I agree, that’s me. That’s why I used to watch “Monk,” because that’s me. Things have to be a certain way and if it annoys people, too bad. For Season 3, this is what I think I know so far, that Abe and Rose’s son is gonna give them another grandchild. That’s what Tony said at some point. The other thing, I’m worrying about their apartment.

ASP: Are you?

GD: Yes, it gave me agita.

ASP: We don’t want you to worry about anything because first of all, it’s not real. And the apartment is a beautiful apartment but it doesn’t even have hot water and our show is about change and explosions and one person’s left turn makes everybody reevaluate what their lives are. We promise you this. One hand giveth, one hand taketh away but then the giveth came come again. So if we make you sad, we’ll make you happy some other way.

GD: And I assume Susie is gonna rep Sophie as well, somehow?

ASP: We haven’t read the scripts yet (laughs).

DP: It would be unlikely but…

GD: And Sterling K. Brown, is there romantic things going on there?

ASP: He’s showing up.

DP: With you and Sterling, is that what she’s asking?

ASP: I kind of have a thing for Sterling.

DP: Let’s hash this right now.

ASP: I kinda dig Sterling. I love him.

GD: Stand in line.

ASP: I know, he’s delicious.

GD: Given that we’re heading into the ‘60s, things are gonna be un-ritualized pretty soon, I think, and things are gonna shift a little more rapidly now.

ASP: Things move and change. The beginning of the ‘60s was still a little bit like the ‘50s. It sort of gained momentum as you got deeper into the ‘60s.

DP: We’re about a year and a half from Bob Dylan showing up in the Village, which is kind of a demarcation point and then also the Beatles showing up, but we’re a few years from Beatles.

ASP: And [John F.] Kennedy is not quite president yet.

DP: But Bob Dylan’s packing his bag.

ASP: He’s working on it.

GD: We’re on the perch of a new era. Anyway, thank you for making these wonderful shows and you made my life much better for the past several years.

ASP: That’s very sweet. Anything we can do to help, seriously.

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