Marin Hinkle (‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’) on how Rose is ‘in her own MGM musical’ [Complete Interview Transcript]

Marin Hinkle earned her second consecutive Emmy nomination this year for her role as Rose Weissman on Amazon’s “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” She is nominated for Best Comedy Supporting Actress alongside co-star Alex Borstein, who has won the category two years in a row.

Hinkle spoke with Gold Derby contributing writer Sam Eckmann before this year’s nominations about working with producers Amy Sherman-Palladino and Dan Palladino, the theatrical qualities of “Maisel” and what it meant to receive her first Emmy nomination last year.

Gold Derby: Last season we saw Rose got this huge storyline where she gets to run away to Paris and goes through all of these enormous personal changes and I’m kind of wondering, what was the thing that prepares her for this next chapter? She’s kind of in financial straits for a lot of Season 3. Is there anything about the Parisian experience from last season that prepares her for all of this?

Marin Hinkle: Thank you, that’s a great question. I think I’ve learned working with Amy and Dan that there’s really never any way to prepare for the extraordinary surprises that they offer each time you get a new script. I mean, I remember when I got the Paris episodes, I just felt like, “What? I better brush up on my French.” And then we found out we were actually really shooting in Paris. And then, as you know, we ended up heading home and my character ends up talking to this group of extraordinary students at Columbia where she’s taking classes and basically telling them almost the opposite of what she had said in Paris, where she says, “You should really just kind of find a wonderful husband and get married.” I remember in the moment where I got that script, I went up to Dan, who I believe was directing that episode and I said, “Wait, wait, wait. How did the woman that was all of the sudden saying, “I’ve missed me too in Paris” and feeling like such an independent spirit is sort of turning around as another kind of person and he just looked at me like, “Well, that’s where she is right now and who knows where she’s going to be soon?” So in answer to your question, I don’t think I was really prepared. Rose is from Oklahoma. I remember again feeling like, “Oh, no, should I have had a little Southern accent these past years?” But you just kind of go with what Amy and Dan… you trust them. They’re so magnificently creative that you just say, “My heart is open to the way life is that I never know what’s going to happen today. So tomorrow might be a completely new kind of side of myself.” So that’s kind of how I approach Rose. It’s like I just am there with the script and the moment. 

GD: Yeah, you don’t get to take a trip to Paris. Oklahoma is a little less romantic, perhaps than Paris, but that journey there to her family’s estate seems like a really huge turning point for her. Is it easy for her? She kind of in a moment decides to cut ties with the family. How hard of a decision is that for her in the moment? 

MH: I think in life, I don’t know about you, but I have moments where epiphanies, I look back and say, “Well, that was an epiphany.” But in the moment, of course, I didn’t realize that it was such a huge milestone. It’s the old Robert Frost, “The Road Not Taken.” It’s like you make a decision. I mean, this is a silly example but when I was young and I was in college and my parents had been in the Peace Corps in Africa, I always thought I was going to follow in their footsteps and then I was at Brown University and a couple of the students before me, which, they’ve become extraordinarily successful, Laura Linney, Tim Blake Nelson, they were pursuing lives of graduate degrees at Juilliard. And my brain didn’t even know about that. I remember just in the moment, I just said, “OK, what if I go look at a theater program?” And again, if I had gone Peace Corps versus a theater program for graduate school, I don’t think I would be in “Maisel.” But it was like this sliver of, “OK, why don’t I just follow these two people that are older than me that I love so much and see what they’re doing and see if it’s right for me.” So back to Rose, I think that she’s sitting in a boardroom and she’s increasingly more frustrated that there’s no room for a woman and she definitely has played around with what does it mean to do things differently in this particular day and age than what she had thought she was going to be doing, and she’s watching her daughter completely play her life out in a way that she never thought her daughter would or should. So I think in answer to that question, I think literally it just bubbles up and it’s like, “You know what? Screw it. I’m not taking these relationships with my siblings anymore and being put down and I’m not taking the money that I thought I needed. I’m just going to say no to all of it. And then I’m also going to grab that picture of Grandmama and leave the house,” which I think is just such a funny little anecdote, like it’s just a cherry on top.

But no, I think she doesn’t really think that one through and I think as she’d sort of train riding it back, or I think she’s with her chauffeur, right? Or I don’t know. I think she actually does take a train ride because she comes back completely disheveled. I remember that. It was the first time in the three years of shooting it that they actually let and wanted my hair to be messy. I remember my costume was all awry and I think that in that funny scene where she basically says to her husband, “This is my journey back,” and then she gets mad at her daughter, like, “You’ve made me do all this. You’ve made me have to be independent.” But the truth is, you know what? Rose has always been a little cut in her own cloth and marching to her own drumbeat. She plays the whole, “Oh, yes, I am like all the other women,” but inside her, she feels like she’s in her own Broadway show. I’ve said this before, but the first pilot script that we got, they described her as she entered in, I think it was like a feather boa dressing gown. I always wear these great gowns on the show, these robes. And it basically said she entered the room as if in her own MGM musical. I kind of feel like in a lot of her big epiphany moments, she’s in her own musical, doing her grand number. Not singing, but basically saying, “I’m going to do it differently.”

GD: You tend to get a lot of those explosive moment monologues where you get to go off on someone, which Amy and Dan are great at writing. It’s really delightful to watch that moment where she’s been through this epic travel journey. So are those as satisfying to deliver as they look? 

MH: Isn’t this funny, the little actor secrets? I get so scared about doing them because as we all know about Amy and Dan’s work, it’s so perfect and the lines are so exquisite, like extraordinary music, so you have to get every beat and every “I” dotted and “T” crossed. And so, when I get those scripts, I sometimes hire friends’ children to come over to my rented apartment and run the lines as if it’s like in my sleep I’m running them so that when I get on set, it’s really a marathon and you just kind of let go and run it in a level of disengagement from reality. And then, what’s nice about it is you don’t have the self-consciousness of judging yourself because all you’re doing is just trying to let it out, and let it out as quickly as possible. So yes, it’s very frightening, but it’s also the exhaustion after a marathon. I’m thinking of the one I did with Shirley where I had to run out in the street and basically tell her off and in a sense, tell the entire neighborhood off. When I finished that, I had sweat pouring down. My heart was beating, I think I was completely flushed. I really felt more exhausted than I had it in ages. But I love that feeling of exhaustion. We don’t get to work that often as actors. We have a lot of downtime, a lot of rejection. So when we get something as hard as that, it feels exciting to be challenged that way. 

GD: I’m glad you mentioned Shirley, because it’s always nice in a long-running series when the characters can have different pairings. When Abe and Rose lose their finances, they move in with Moishe and Shirley, which is a great dynamic to watch these two polar opposite couples battle it out and try to coexist together. What was it like getting so many more interactions with those characters? 

MH: I’m a blessed woman that I work with Tony Shalhoub so often and Rachel Brosnahan and those are the two people that get to be my scene partners through the majority of my scene work. And this year, to have, as you say, this opened up landscape where I have Caroline Aaron, Kevin Pollak, and I’ve always loved working with Michael Zegen, but I didn’t get as much time with him this year, but with those two, it’s exactly what you said. It’s like, talk about fish out of water. I mean, I think that Rose dealing with even the loud Shirley and just the brassy kind of, shall we say, grating, shall we say, uncouth at times. Rose fancies herself so finessed. Everything about her, I think the way she even moves her hands and uses her teacups and drinks her sherry, it’s all done with this level of delicacy and then you have Shirley come in, bull in a china shop. And I just love what it makes… the reactivity that I get to have to all that means that I almost don’t even have to think about acting. I’m just literally reacting to them and they make me laugh so hard that that’s perhaps the only hardship about it is how do I not break in the middle of a scene with the two of them. They’re so funny. And I love them as people. That’s the other thing about being an actor is part of why I was drawn to it, back to my idea of was I going to go in the Peace Corps, something that would be very noble or else do this kind of crazy, kooky profession? But I love the community that theater offers, and in this case, it’s very theatrical. This TV show is like a little company. We’re like a traveling theater group or something. I feel like I was always a kid that liked to come alive with that kind of sense of community and Caroline and Kevin and then Tony, having us all in that particular house in Queens was just delightful. I hope it keeps happening next season. 

GD: You don’t get any scenes with her on the show, but another character that had a huge impact on the show was Jane Lynch and as I was refreshing my mind over your resumé, I remembered you were in a version of “Miss Julie” an adaptation of “Miss Julie” and Jane Lynch does “Miss Julie” in this as Sophie. Was there any opportunity to trade notes or give her any tips on playing Miss Julie? 

MH: You’re amazing, thank you for saying that. You know, it’s funny. That experience was really… talk about pivotal. That was one of the characters I’ve ever played. I love how Amy and Dan are so right to choose that particular difficult role. There’s hardly any role that I’ve ever played that was more challenging than that. It was amazing. I did it twice, actually. I did it in the Berkshires and then we brought it into New York and I remember, putting this aside, I just remember I broke my nose doing it with Mark Feuerstein. I also did it with this wonderful actor, Reg Rogers, the second time around. I think I twisted my ankle or maybe broke my toe and went through this whole thing and I think I mentioned to Dan and Amy that I had done it and then I maybe took one little photograph that has me totally disheveled on the ground or something in one of the reviews and by the way, sometimes I didn’t get the greatest reviews for that, but I don’t think that I felt like what I did necessarily would offer too much help to the extraordinary Jane Lynch, who, by the way, never needs any help. But I will say that when I finally got to see the scenes later, because I wasn’t on set when she did that, I just could not stop laughing and thinking if only I could go back and do “Miss Julie,” the freedom and cacophony of craziness that her character has, I think that it would be kind of fun to have a comic musical version of “Miss Julie.” So maybe Amy and Dan should do that next, with Sutton Foster playing the lead and Jane Lynch in it, too, singing. Jane sings so of course she could play the role, too. 

GD: There was a really fun sequence, too, where you go down to Florida to visit Midge, Rachel Brosnahan, and Rose just can’t watch her standup act and I’m curious in your mind, why is it so difficult, even though she’s gone through so much growth and so much accepting of new things, why is it still so difficult for her to accept that portion of her daughter? 

MH You know, that’s such a great question, because that scene, which was so delicious for me, again, as an actor to have, which was just basically drink, drink, drink and end up throwing yourself over to the gods and hoping that Shy Baldwin is gonna notice you. I mean, it really was such a fangirl moment. Again, you get to see Rose acting very out of character in that drunken moment. I think she speaks about this actually at the end of the season. I’m not sure Rose completely has a great sense of humor about her own frailties. So when she says later to her daughter, “Why are you making fun of me up there? How do you find our lives comedic,” I think Rose is still in the midst of sorting through herself. She’s actually in a way less self-aware that her daughter is. I think her daughter has an incredible ability to mock herself and Rose isn’t there yet. So perhaps that’s why she has a hard time watching her daughter. She still takes herself way too seriously. So to see their own lives made fun of like that, “Can’t really go there yet.” Maybe in a year or two, she can actually do that. 

GD: You touched on bringing things into a musical world and it’s interesting because the show has a theatrical production quality to it and the scenes are so grand and the pacing is so quick that it reminds me of clockwork. Everything is so highly synchronized and moves like the gears of a clock. Is that kind of what it feels like on set? Is that a daunting process to be a part of? 

MH: You know, when I was in graduate school, I worked with a number of extraordinary directors and a lot of the ones that at first I thought were most challenging, I realized it was actually a way that presented something that felt even safer to me because I was a ballet dancer when I was young. So all that physical choreography and letting yourself express yourself after you have structure…. a perfect example is I worked with this Eastern European director and he almost acted everything out for us. I mean, literally showed us the hand gesture and sometimes would have directed the same thing he directed us in like five times over and was just redirecting it. Amy and Dan don’t do that. Certainly, there’s not been a “Maisel” before this. But they have such a vision. They really see things in that pictorial way. And then the colors that are coming in, it’s just as you said, it’s like an amusement park ride that they’ve kind of figured out and I think I’ve said this before that our incredible camera operator, Jim McConkey, is coming in and David Mullen, who is our DP, he’s acting like a dancer with us. He’s having a Steadicam on us and we’re all kind of moving with each other and he ducks at a time and you kind of go over him. So it’s very, as you said, it’s very dancer-like. It’s very outside in, and once you get that physical life like that, then you, again, let go. It’s like the choreography lets you have more freedom.

But before I actually did it the first year, I was so scared because I felt like it was like doing math. It’s like I felt like there was really a right way and a wrong way, and that made me feel incredibly insecure for a while and that insecurity wasn’t serving Rose. So I really had to do actor work where I was like, “You know what? Pull aside your insecurities that you’re wrong and just believe in yourself.” Rose believes in herself. And that really has been a journey of something that hopefully is about the kind of growth in this. Rachel Brosnahan, just to speak about her, she’s like a supernatural creature. At such a young age, she’s achieving so much with such a generous spirit and I really learned from her and Tony too, the two people I work with the most. They’re very centered humans. They’re incredibly generous and they’re incredibly, in a way, calm, and they find a level of love on set and I feel so very moved saying this. I feel very cared for with them and I think that those kind of safe sets allowed you to disappear into a character that in another time would have been too scary for you to play. 

GD: Well, before I have to let you go, I wanted to quickly ask, because you’ve had a great long career but last season you finally got your first-ever career Emmy nomination for Season 2 alongside Alex Borstein in the supporting actress category. This show has just become so popular. What was that experience like? 

MH: I’m in my 50s and as you said, I’ve done this for a long time, and a lot of the time we’re not able to have enough work to work. There aren’t enough projects with too many people for the projects. So when I got this role, it was a particular time in my life where there had been some things in my personal life that were struggles so I felt like it was a real blessing. So then on top of something that feels as extraordinary as this kind of role, to have, I guess, a community of people that you’ve been in awe of for years and that you felt like from a distance, “Wow, what it would be like to be in a room even with those folks?” So to be even entered and asked to be entered into a room with them, that was the extraordinary thing. Going to some of those award ceremonies, the dresses and putting that stuff on is really delicious is novel for me because I’m not like a fancy dresser, but just being next to Robert De Niro or seeing Meryl Streep in the bathroom next to you or [Martin] Scorsese there or just any of these people. Viola Davis, I had worked with her years ago and then to be able to walk by her again and hold her, or back to Laura Linney, she’s my idol. At the Emmys, I think my mom was with me. She was my date, and Laura had been nominated for “Ozark” or for whatever the extraordinary things that she’s done and we walked from the ceremony to where the food was and I got to thank her and say, “Over all these years, part of the reason I’m an actor is you,” and I just felt so lucky to be right there in that room with her. So that’s what I would say to that, is I felt very blessed to get that nomination. 

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