“It’s what any actor would dream of,” shares Tony Shalhoub of his ever-evolving character Abe Weissman on Amazon Prime’s “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” In the fourth season, the former Columbia University professor starts a job as a theatre critic at the Village Voice, another major change for the role that the actor describes as a “luxury.” “It’s true of most of these characters on ‘Maisel.’ They evolve, they reinvent themselves, they’re forced to let go of things that have become part of their persona,” the four-time Emmy winner notes. Watch our exclusive video interview above.
Shalhoub has appeared on Broadway eight times in the past four decades, not to mention his other stage work. The Tony winner for “The Band’s Visit” admits that the chance to “take on that mantle as Abe as a critic was really exciting,” joking that he feels it’s “payback time.” “Like most actors, I have suffered at the hands of critics for years. In the early going it was so bad, there’s always that moment where you think, ‘I’m just going to throw in the towel,’” the actor recalls.
In this new line of work, Abe sports a particularly memorable cape to the opening of a new Broadway musical in the episode “Everything is Bellmore.” Shalhoub describes that costume choice as “fun,” but also “challenging.” “I literally would come in for rehearsal sessions” just to get his hilarious cape-twirling right, the actor reveals, which “meant working with the steady-cam operator, it meant certainly working with Donna Zakowska, our costume designer.” His career as critic, which he loves but pays a paltry sum, also brings him closer to daughter Midge (Rachel Brosnahan) who has similarly pursued a career in the arts. He observes, “I think he’s becoming more accepting of her pursuit, carving out her own life.”
The fourth season welcomed back guest star Jason Alexander as Abe’s best friend Asher. Over dinner with Midge, Abe and Abe’s wife Rose (Marin Hinkle), Asher reveals that he and Rose dated while Abe and Rose were on a break, which makes Abe remarkably jealous. “His humiliation and that little pain that he feels of betrayal overrides his embarrassment,” Shalhoub comments about the fact that Rose told Abe about the short-lived romance dozens of times over the years, but he’s “not really listening, he’s too self-absorbed.” The actor describes working with Alexander as “a blast.”
The series balances those scenes of heightened comedy — and the one in which Abe accidentally takes communion while on the run from his wife’s rival matchmakers, for example — with a lot of genuine emotion and heart. In the season finale, Abe’s former in-law Moishe (Kevin Pollak) has a heart attack, and Abe writes him an obituary just in case the man doesn’t pull through. Shalhoub reveals about the moving scene, “They’re contemporaries and this is a very distinct, strong indication that our time is getting shorter and we’re all susceptible to problems.” Abe realizes, too, that Moishe’s generosity “touched Abe and touched Abe’s family personally,” recounts the actor.
“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” will return for a fifth and final season. Shalhoub would not reveal any details about what will happen in the final batch of episodes, but he did praise series creator Amy Sherman-Palladino and writer and director Dan Palladino, saying, “I always put my faith in these writers, they never disappoint.” “Obviously, I hope that they don’t kill me off,” the Emmy winner also says with a smile.
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