AThe first leading s go, Rachel Brosnahan was a good one. Playing a torn housewife turned up The wonderful Mrs. Maisel, she’s won an Emmy, two Golden Globes, and a whole bunch of critical adulation. When the show first aired in 2017, she was excited to talk about it – her confusion of gender stereotypes; his refusal to paint women as adversaries; the abundance of female talent in front of and behind the camera; how funny it was. “And then almost every interview I’ve done,” Brosnahan says now, “was about the allegations against Kevin Spacey. And when I answered that question, it hit the headlines and then canceled or even erased the conversation on this amazing show. And that was a real shame.
Spacey had nothing to do with Mrs Maisel, and Brosnahan had nothing to do with him. She had appeared in Card castle for three seasons – as a sex worker whose dreams of a better life end in a shallow grave in New Mexico – but she never had a single scene with Spacey, who played corrupt Congressman Frank Underwood . When news broke in 2017 of multiple sexual misconduct charges against him, Brosnahan had to repeat over and over again that she had only met him twice.
“I think so many women have to answer for the actions of shitty men,” said the 30-year-old, speaking on the phone from her New York home. “And first and foremost, these men, and other men who have taken similar action, should be held accountable for them. I am grateful for this moment of collective judgment surrounding so many of these issues that have been kept in the dark for so long.
Hearing Brosnahan speak, you can see why she specializes in playing women who find their voice and learn to wield it. His new film, the slow-burning crime drama I’m your wife, is no different. She plays Jean, a ’70s housewife whose life is turned upside down twice: first when her criminal husband Eddie hands her a baby and declares it her own, then when he goes missing, forcing her to go on the run with a stranger. called Cal (Arinze Kene).
“Jean, when we meet her, is pretty numb,” Brosnahan says. “She compartmentalized the trauma and is just trying to survive each day. She found herself attracted to Jean. “You hear her say so many times that she doesn’t know what she’s doing, and she feels incapable, then frame by frame take on her own power in a way that feels different from most movies that I have seen where it is accelerated for the sake of drama.
The film spits out the chauvinistic traps of its genre – “All these men and all their guns,” one character says with a tired sigh – never feeling too shallow or cynical, as though he’s banging a Hillary Clinton sticker on a car. ‘evasion. If Jean is the victim of a patriarchal society, she is also the beneficiary of a racist society, and the film never forgets that. When she and Cal, who is black, are spotted sleeping in their car by a police officer, he assumes that she must be in danger. “This scene is a mirror of this moment and so many conversations that we are having right now,” Brosnahan says. “I appreciate the subtle but incredibly powerful dynamic between Jean and Cal. John has a slow, non-linear awakening. And that’s how most awakenings happen.
The film and television industry is slowly waking up. As people of color and those of other marginalized identities have carved out more space for themselves to tell their own stories, the debate over who can and should play certain roles has intensified. But it is not always clear. In Mrs Maisel, Brosnahan plays a Jewish woman who jokes about mezuza and shiksas and Yom Kippur. “For Christmas, a nice guy would buy a bike to remind him that his parents loved them,” she said during a stand-up. “For Hanukkah, we were given socks to remind us that we were being persecuted.”
One of the few non-Jewish people in her hometown of Highland Park, Ill., Brosnahan was so immersed in Jewish culture growing up that she came home from school one day and asked her father what was his Hebrew name. But, of course, that doesn’t make her Jewish. And she knows it. “I enjoy these conversations so much,” she says, “and they certainly got me thinking and helped me grow. I only really talked about where and how I grew up because I’ve often been asked, “What did you do to prepare for this role?” and [my childhood] was a basis for education. It just meant that I had to do less research up front, because I was aware of what certain words and traditions meant. But that doesn’t give me the lived experience of someone who is Jewish. And I recognize it. And I respect and value the conversation around who should and can play what roles and when. There is a long pause. “Yeah. ”
I’m starting to say something, but Brosnahan has one more thing to add. “I have a lot of respect and love for the Jewish community,” she says, “and my only goal in playing a role similar or different to me is to bring the character to life with so much love, respect and of joy. as I can understand.
At the start of Brosnahan’s career, there wasn’t much room to bring the characters to life. Before Card castle – which was only supposed to be a few lines, but she impressed the director so much that her character was given a name and a three-season arc – her resume mostly included parts of an episode on shows like Gossip Girl and CSI: Miami. She’s played a lot of what she calls “wide-eyed girls”. Did it frustrate her? She laughs. “At that time, I was grateful to have a job. Anything that helped pay the rent, and that I didn’t have to serve as a waitress another day, looked like such a gift. Certainly, as I have had the privilege of experience and success, I have sought to grow far beyond the wide-eyed chicks. Another laugh. “There are so many other types of chicks that we haven’t seen on screen yet. ”
Midge Maisel is one of them. Nervous and hyperactive, she shoots words like a machine gun shoots. Anyone who is at a rowdy distance is a fair game; diatribes and jokes spring from his rat-a-tat-tat. Brosnahan doesn’t quite speak at Midge’s breakneck speed, but she has the same shrewd candor. If I hadn’t read that she was obsessed with wrestling in school, I would have imagined that she was leading the debate team. It’s a surprise to learn, then, that she almost gets anxious on set. After spending the day playing a brave go-getter, she was heading home Mrs. Maisel in tears every night.
“I know I’m not alone,” she said, “feeling like the things that I love the most come with the most anxiety.” Even three seasons later, she is still anxious. What is she so afraid of? “Fail,” she said without hesitation. “It’s always the fear of failure. Afraid of disappointing people and letting them down, but more than anything, afraid of disappointing and letting myself down. There is a gift, when you are starting out, in the bar which is extremely low. And there is an increased pressure that comes with success, to continue to be successful in whatever you do.
Not that it’s even possible, she adds. “I believe that if you take bold risks and big swings, failure is inevitable and should not be feared but rather accepted.” There is a pause. “It doesn’t make it easy when it happens! But I work hard to remember that when the fear and anxiety are overwhelming, and I work hard to be motivated by that fear rather than crippled by it. And how is it going? She laughs. “It’s day after day.”
If it all sounds a bit exhausting, Brosnahan insists it’s worth it. “As someone who can be a bit shy publicly and feel quite vulnerable being myself in a public space, this is the best free therapy – you can dig deep inside and explore all the different ones. pieces that make you you, then explore all the things that seem foreign and weird. You grow tremendously spending time developing, understanding, and empathizing with someone who is different from you. And with that growth comes resilience. I feel more courageous after playing brave women.
The wonderful Mrs. Maisel ‘Filming for the fourth season was supposed to start in June, but the pandemic put an end to that. Production was tentatively restarted last month, but so far it’s been little more than a hat adjustment. In the meantime, Brosnahan has produced a new special on Amazon, Annual departure. He’ll see a handful of actresses – Tiffany Haddish, Sarah Silverman, Ziwe, Patti Harrison, Phoebe Robinson and Brosnahan herself – say goodbye to this year ***.
It is one of the first projects in which she participates and where women occupy almost all management positions. “And so looking around the Zoom room at our production meeting felt radical to us in a way that shouldn’t be anymore,” she says. “I wish it wasn’t that special yet. I wish we hadn’t noticed it anymore.
We are used to it being the other way around, she adds. “Any woman or under-represented group knows what it’s like to be the only one in the room. Feeling obligated to fight for your needs, security and well-being, but also feeling obligated to be careful in your way of doing things. And we’re so used to looking around rooms full of white men and not thinking twice. And that’s why it’s so radical to be in a room where it’s reversed. Since I moved into production, I have more say and more control over the appearance of these rooms. ”
She is determined to use this power for good. “I try everyday,” she says, “to be part of the change that I want to see.”
I’m your wife is streaming on Amazon Prime Video now