Caroline Aaron Talks Season 3 of 'The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel' & Stepping Back Into Shirley Maisel
Caroline Aaron is having a ball playing the somewhat eccentric, mahjong-loving Shirley Maisel on Amazon's award-winning darling The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.
“It seemed like after last season, when Maisel couldn’t stop winning awards, it was really scary. How do you live up to that? I have to say the creators have outdone themselves this season,” the actress teases.
“There is always the terror of being the popular kid, because you know next year another kid can be more popular. They did a great job. I know people say this all the time and never mean it. But I mean it. We really like each other. So, we were excited to come back and be together.”
With a career spanning more than 35 years, the veteran actress is used to stepping in and out of TV shows with appearances in an episode or two. However, Joel’s (Michael Zegen) mom is grateful for an extended stay in 1950s Upper West Side.
“At the very beginning in the first season, I actually did some research about this time period in New York because I grew up in the south. When it comes to the writing and these characters, it’s like heightened authenticity,” Aaron said.
“There is truth behind everything...You can see these people walking around in the world. Certainly, that is true in my case. So many people come up to me all the time and say I remind them of someone. Their mother, their aunt, their teacher, their friend’s mom...At that point we know we’re on the right track.”
Before Season 3 of the series is released for your binging pleasure, Aaron sat down for a chat about what to expect.
You have such a long career and are known for other roles like your Instagram handle @JoeDirtsMom. However, this show is so popular. Has life changed for you being on such a beloved series?
Caroline Aaron: I would say it has changed in people recognize me more on the street. More my voice than my face. If I’m checking out at the grocery store, and I’m saying something, it’s like whiplash. They turn around and go, “Are you?” I go, “Yes I am. I’m Shirley.” It’s so extraordinary, and I’m so grateful.
What do your kids think? Do they think you’re much like Shirley?
I think in some ways they do. In other ways, they don’t. Shirley is the fantasy version of me in terms of being a mother. I have a recently married son who turned 30. Of course, I would love him to be in his little boy bed across the hall so I could still do his laundry. I wouldn’t do that like Shirley would. I think he knows I’d like to, so in that way yes, they reference that. And also she is kind of kooky. My daughter always says to me, “You’re so crazy. You’re so crazy.” I go, “What is so crazy about me? You have a brother, a dog, a house, a father. You check all the boxes of a normal life.” She responds back with, “The fact that you don’t know you’re crazy is just more proof.”
What can you tell us about Shirley and this season overall? Does the dynamic change with Midge (Rachel Brosnahan) away from home on tour?
It changes enormously because in a way this protective family has seen someone who is the center leave. As her world gets bigger, interestingly enough, so does ours. Maybe that's the way it works in the family. We all grow this season. Certainly, Midge the most because she really is in the world in a big way. I asked Amy [Sherman-Palladino] and Dan [Palladino] about how they have to go back to the blank page after having been anointed. That has to be intimidating. I don’t do the heavy lifting. They do and invite us into their fantastic imagination. Dan said, “No, we’re just going to keep making the show we’ve always been making.” Boy, they went to the moon with what they come up with.
As a fan yourself of the show, from the outside looking in and a mother onscreen and off, do you want to see Joel and Midge end up together in the end?
I do. I don’t think I’m going to get a vote on that in terms of their lives. Sometimes I’ll ask questions to Amy like how I’m supposed to feel about the Weissmans in this moment and that moment. She always says, “You don’t have a feeling. Their family.” I thought that was such a great response. That sense that we’re family, and I want my family together. I don’t know if that will happen. Certainly, last season I told Joel it may be time to move on, reluctantly. But I don’t want him to be alone. If she moves on, I don’t want her to break his heart for sure.
You mention being a family on set. One of those members, Brian Tarantina, passed away a few weeks ago. Do you have a favorite memory of him?
Last night (Monday), Amy and Dan rented the Monkey Bar in New York City and invited everybody, cast and crew, to have a toast for Brian. What was so extraordinary is that we had such a big week in terms of press, but everyone showed up. The grips, gaffers, makeup, wardrobe people, every single element of the show came together. Dan gave an extraordinary toast to Brian that they’ve known him for 25 years.
He had been in just about everything in one way or another they had done. They talked about being in a ponderous place in terms of writing next season to do it without that character. He was the linchpin of comedy. He developed an incredible relationship with Susie in the story. Now he’s gone. I never worked with Brian in terms of the story. We’re all together in the table reads; it’s like rehearsing for a wedding. I sat next to him last year for the SAG Awards. It’s the first time I got to really talk to him. He was hilarious and dark and at this for a really long time. His passing was a real blow to Amy and Dan. It was like they lost a member of their creative family.
You have your Angst & Daisies podcast . What is it like to have this outlet to share your stories and views to audiences? Is there some trepidation knowing some strong opinions might rub people the wrong way?
When I moved to New York to do the show from L.A., [co-host] Steve reached out to me. He is a true activist as opposed to me who is a living room activist. He said you’re the most curious person I know. I’m going to drag you off the couch and into the resistance and introduce you to some things. He was one of the main architects for Occupy Wall Street. He really walks the walk. I admire that. I feel like our world has gotten smaller and smaller and scarier and scarier in terms of what is going on politically. It is dangerous and may be wiser to stay neutral so you don’t exclude anyone. And I don’t want to exclude anyone. I just want to convince people that we need to reinstate a moral center here in order to be who we are. I love having that opportunity.
Anything else you have coming up after Maisel?
The next thing for me is, I have, in the last five years, begun to write and have a play. One I wrote called Such A Pretty Face has a workshop in Texas in April, so I’m really looking forward to that. It’s a different and a scary thing to do, but I like it.
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Season 3 Premiere, Friday, December 6, Amazon Prime Video