If you loved Prime Video’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel fast, funny, brilliantly paced, richly hued comedy about a woman’s determination to be taken seriously in her craft, the wait is almost over and it’s so worth it. The Amazon streamer debuts the Covid-delayed Season 4 on Feb. 18, more than two years after we last saw Rachel Brosnahan and ensemble flitting across NYC, Miami and Paris. This time, executive producers Amy Sherman-Palladino and Daniel Palladino stuck to the Big Apple with expansive new sets at Steiner Studios and location shoots in Brooklyn, Queens, the West Village, all over Manhattan, spinning logistical limitation into television gold. Family dynamics took center stage, characters evolved and revolved around Midge as she transforms a Season 3 humiliation into angry resolve. “Every single show, I am going to say exactly what’s on my mind,” as per the trailer that dropped early this week.
“I find in my life anger is a great motivator, much better than happiness, or satisfaction,” says Sherman-Palladino. In an interview with Deadline, the couple tease Season 4 with an angrier funny Midge, describe how shooting during Covid forced them to change plans in surprising ways, and share what they know about a potential Season 5 renewal. (“We live in a perpetual state of murk,” says Daniel Palladino.)
(Q&A is edited for flow and clarity)
DEADLINE: Could you talk about how filming during Covid changed the arc of Season 4?
AMY SHERMAN-PALLADINO: Every season has a slightly different journey. Taking Midge on tour in Season 3 was so much fun because we got to do all the music, and all that stuff. Season 4 is different. She’s not on tour, so it’s a completely different kind of animal. Season 4, we were going to travel. And suddenly it’s like, no, you’re not. So it sort of forced us to, in what turned out to be a good way, to embrace New York because we’re here. We’re not going anywhere. That was actually quite lovely and quite satisfying.
I never want to say anything [good] could happen because of Covid, because we want Covid to go away. The lovely and very thin and effervescent Covid to leave our tiny shores. [She said she’s taken to complimenting Covid, to see if it will leave us alone.] But you know, there were certain venues that you wouldn’t necessarily have been able to shoot in [before] but they were closed and they wanted people to come in and take part in them. So we really got to sort of refocus on New York, and that turned out to be kind of great actually.
I mean our production design is off the hook in Season 4. Because we couldn’t travel, we had to build a lot more sets. So, we wound up building these just incredibly, insanely great sets. It was sort of, we were home, but we weren’t home. We built these massive, colorful, interesting things. And we’ve got to be able to walk from one end to the other without cutting, so they’ve got to be really long, so we can have our walk and talks.
Challenges sometimes lead to decisions that wind up being interesting and fun as opposed to just depressing and sad.
DEADLINE: The safety protocols, complications of shooting during the pandemic have been widely covered — what did you find were the biggest?
PALLADINO: It’s really weird in hindsight because, thinking back, we went into production with a couple of hundred crew members, often with 50 to 150 extras on the set, before there was a vaccine. We’re kind of looking back at that going, ‘Were we completely nuts?’
SHERMAN-PALLADINO: We were like, ‘Oh, God, we didn’t have a vaccine. Oh, my God.’
PALLADINO: Now we’ve got this incredible vaccine and everyone’s been boosted and everyone we know who hasn’t been boosted we punch repeatedly on top of the head. Yeah. The work that our crew did, like any crew that got through a Covid season, boy, it’s amazing. Because you are risking health to work, and everybody was in it together. So the masks were for each other.
SHERMAN-PALLADINO: Well, masks were especially for little lady Brosnahan, who couldn’t put a mask on because of her wig. She was just hanging out there like a trooper. We’re very tight with our crew, and our crew very much loves the actors, and there was no grumbling about trying to keep them safe. That was a nice thing.
It was hard. It was weird. It was creepy. But I think that it’s good that we had already been together three years and we were already really tight. I think it would have been really hard if we were a new show and we’re all getting to know each other and that trust wasn’t there. We’re really lucky because we just had each other to sort of fall back on and bitch and moan to. That made it feel like a big family is going through this instead of just a bunch of people wearing masks who you don’t quite know who they are.
DEADLINE: Season 3 ends with Midge sobbing on the tarmac after being fired as Shy Baldwin’s opening act. What can you tell us about her evolution in Season 4?
SHERMAN-PALLADINO: Well, we can tell you that Midge is doing a hell of a lot of standup this year. A lot of standup this year. I still feel we need to buy Rachel some sort of gift for the amount of standup we’re having her do this year. She decides to sort of take her career in her own hands and steer it in a new direction.
PALLADINO: In the past, we’ve seen her, when reacting to adversity, thinking of retreating or quitting. The Shy Baldwin debacle, it makes her angry and she gets active. She says in that teaser, let’s change the business. She’s no less reckless but she is not going into this season in any way timid.
SHERMAN-PALLADINO: I find in my life anger is a great motivator, much better than happiness, or satisfaction. So, welcome to my world, Midge.
PALLADINO: Anger is an energy. And it gave her a lot of energy.
DEADLINE: This season moves out of the 1950s. It’s 1960, the start of a new era in the country and certainly New York City. How did you approach that?
SHERMAN-PALLADINO: The thing is, 1960 was still on the border of the 1950s. At first we [thought] that, too, and then we were like, oh, wait, The Beatles don’t come in for… Come on! But still, it is starting to move. The clothes are starting to change, things are starting to shift and change and be a little less poofy. The ’50s always seemed kind of poofy to me. So it is nice to sort of gear things toward a slightly different zone. I know costumes was excited to do different kinds of costumes, and production design.
DEADLINE: Bob Dylan played at The Gaslight Café in the Village, what about him?
PALLADINO: Bob Dylan arrives sometime in ’61. We hope we can get there. We actually got early word many years ago from the people who oversee his music, although he sold his catalog. We know he wasn’t watching the show because I have a friend who’s a very good friend of Bob Dylan’s and my friend was saying. ‘You don’t want Bob to watch this because he’ll just find everything wrong with it.’
SHERMAN-PALLADINO: We’ll get a long letter from Bob Dylan telling us what we did wrong.
PALLADINO: This series is really set in the pre-Bob Dylan Greenwich Village. When Bob hit, it was kind of at its peak and then the village, as we’re depicting it, started to go away.
SHERMAN-PALLADINO: The last hoorah.
PALLADINO: The heyday of the poetry readings and the odd music and the odd comedy and jazz players playing with comedians and all that stuff. That great mix of all those different people and artists.
DEADLINE: Amy, you’ve called Midge a “streaming gal” who wouldn’t play on network television. Why?
SHERMAN-PALLADINO: I think if you want to do a certain kind of show, streaming is where you’re going to live. The networks are still the networks. They haven’t really changed their model any. I guess they can’t. I mean they’re the networks. They’ve got advertisers and they’ve got to do things a certain way. So I just think she’s still a streaming gal. I think for certain kinds of characters and stories, it’s just going to live in a different space. There’s a lot of those spaces now.
DEADLINE: So where does that leave the networks?
SHERMAN-PALLADINO: I read some headline about This is Us. They’re finishing their run and it was sort of like, is that the end of network television because This is Us is going off the air. We came from network TV. We cut our teeth on network television, and, frankly, we still love it. When Betty White, god love her, passed on, all of a sudden you’re seeing these Mary Tyler Moore clips and Golden Girls clips. That sh*t’s still funny today. It’s still good today, and it is sort of a mystery why the networks can’t up the game a little bit, because frankly, the network is the place if you want to make some money in this business. That’s the place to do it because you’ve got 22 episodes. You’re not doing five episodes over 16 years, which sounds delightful in theory but it’s not how you pay your mortgage. But they are what they are.
Even if you wanted to do All in the Family today, you’d have to go to a streamer. You can’t do All in the Family on a network television station anymore, which is kind of a bummer because they had that. They owned that. Roseanne, at the beginning, was different and edgy and unusual. That could still happen. It just is not happening, so I don’t know.
DEADLINE: Prime Video will release two episodes a week instead of the entire season at once, as previously. Why the change?
SHERMAN-PALLADINO: I think, quite frankly, as somebody who has binged and has not binged, the shows that I really looked forward to, like The Sopranos, they made you wait for it. There was something to not being able to consume everything in the moment. I think you pay more attention to the show. Our show is very dense. There’s a lot going on. I mean I wouldn’t recommend anybody binge our show because you’re going to miss stuff. You’re going to miss stuff if you just sort of fly through it in sort of a fever, drunken panic, wild-eyed and desperate to use the bathroom.
Again, I just go to The Sopranos on Sunday night. It was like, ‘I might love you but if you’re on fire and The Sopranos is on, you better find a way to put yourself out.’
PALLADINO: I think we all kind of miss that. It hasn’t hurt Succession. It didn’t hurt Game of Thrones. There’s something about the conversation continuing weeks after the debut, which I think is healthy. It’s good, and it’s more fun for the audience that there’s a little break in between.
SHERMAN-PALLADINO: And there’s less urinary tract infections, which is very important, that people don’t hold it in that long.
DEADLINE: How about a Season 5 — no news?
SHERMAN-PALLADINO: No. No. We like our future very unsettled so that we’re just angry and confused all the time.
PALLADINO: We’re living in a perpetual state of murk.
SHERMAN-PALLADINO: Yeah. That’s the world we like to live in.
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, from creator/executive producer Amy Sherman-Palladino and executive producer Daniel Palladino, is written and directed by Sherman-Palladino and Palladino, and stars Emmy-winner Brosnahan, four-time Emmy-winner Tony Shalhoub, three-time Emmy-winner Alex Borstein, Emmy-nominee Marin Hinkle, Michael Zegen, Kevin Pollak, Caroline Aaron, and Emmy-winner Luke Kirby. It’s the winner of 20 Emmy Awards including Outstanding Comedy series, three Golden Globes including Best TV Series—Comedy, six Critics Choice Awards including Best Comedy Series, two PGA Awards, a WGA Award, and a Peabody Award.