“Once you’re part of the ‘Maisel’ family, you never really leave,” says LeRoy McClain about what he has been told by “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” creator Amy Sherman-Palladino. The sentiment certainly holds true in the case of McClain’s character Shy Baldwin on the Amazon Prime series, who after a dramatic exit in the third season finale returned for two episodes in Season 4. “I definitely thought that the story lent itself to needing some sort of resolution,” McClain shares. Watch our exclusive video interview above.
The previous season ended when McClain’s world-famous singer Shy fired stand-up comedian Midge Maisel (Rachel Brosnahan) from his tour after she performed an opening set at the Apollo Theater that not-so-subtly hinted at Shy’s sexuality. McClain emphasizes that for a Black man and recognizable public figure like Shy to be outed as gay in the 1960s was “a powder keg.” The audience never sees Shy’s reaction to Midge’s set, though, so McClain had hoped to return so that the character’s feelings and the “fallout” of Midge’s actions could be explored.
In the episode “How to Chew Quietly and Influence People,” Midge and her manager Susie (Alex Borstein) unexpectedly receive invitations to Shy Baldwin’s wedding, and they attend for the free food and booze and out of spite. Although Shy says he didn’t know she was invited, McClain shares, “I definitely think that he welcomed her presence there, for many reasons.” The wedding reception requires Shy to perform, not just onstage when he sings his new single to his new bride Monica, but also to act the part of a happy, straight newlywed. McClain believes Shy “has been performing on and off stage” since a very young age, adding that “he has nobody.” The audience sees the “terrible toll it takes on him,” he notes, in his final scene in the episode, in which Shy smokes a cigarette outside and realizes that he will face “a lifetime of being alone, constantly performing.”
When Midge sees an opportunity to talk with Shy alone, she corners him in the men’s bathroom. The scene is notably not only for the two characters’ long-awaited reunion, but also because the pace of the dialogue is noticeably slower than usual for the series. “Our first run-through of that scene was quite fast, it was quite at ‘Maisel’ speed,” McClain reveals, adding that the extra time to explore the “pregnant pauses” felt “luxurious.” He describes the talking to and around each other that goes on in their confrontation “the most tense, macabre dance you’ve ever been invited to between these two.” McClain also sings the praises of his scene partner Brosnahan, calling her his “saving grace throughout this entire journey, so welcoming, so loving, so bright and full of energy.”
During that scene, Midge offers Shy an apology, a rarity for the character. McClain feels that Shy “does receive it genuinely” since “she hasn’t been demonstrative of anything overtly mean, brutal, dishonest towards him” in the past. “I think he’s so desperate, so in need of companionship,” McClain observes, that Shy is likely “willing to overlook” any animosity he may still feel for her about her set at the Apollo. “He’s floating in the sea without a life raft,” he continues, and that’s why he offers an “olive branch” to Midge, even though she doesn’t accept it.
“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” will return for a fifth and final season. Asked whether Shy Baldwin will make a return appearance in the last batch of episodes, McClain comments, “I can honestly, honestly say that I don’t know.” He would be “willing to don those suits again and continue that journey,” though. “Maisel” fans certainly hope he will.
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