Michael Zegen seeks redemption in Marvelous Mrs. Maisel season 2
The actor talks about playing Joel, the closest thing to an antagonist the hit show has.
The events of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel season 1 are set into motion when Joel Maisel (Michael Zegen), a businessman and would-be stand-up comedian, leaves his wife Miriam (Rachel Brosnahan) and their two children for his secretary. As a result, his personal and professional life spirals out of control, while Miriam’s - also known as “Midge” - blossoms. She moves in with her parents, gets a day job and becomes one of New York’s most-talked-about comics. It’s easy to see Midge’s success as the ultimate revenge against Joel, whose character is the closest The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel ever really gets to having an antagonist. As Zegen tells Metro ahead of the debut of Marvelous Mrs. Maisel season 2, however, Joel was never meant to be a simple foil for Midge’s triumphs. On the contrary, he’s a flaw human being who makes mistakes, learns from most of them and tries to make things right - albeit from his limited perspective.
“You’ll be seeing a different side of Joel this season. You’ll see a more human side of him,” he says. “In the first season, he's really the antagonist. I mean, there's not really an antagonist, but he kind of takes that position in most people’s minds. But I think he's less of an antagonist in the second season, and more of somebody who's kind of rooting for Midge to succeed. That ends up being a kind of redemption for him.”
And there’s the rub, for despite what Joel did to Miriam and their two children, he’s one of the first people to recognize how great she is on stage. He quickly realizes what she’s capable of, and even though it remains a thorn between them, he knows she should keep doing it. After all, by the end of the first season, he’s one of the few people in her family that knows about her second career.
“Joel is one of the few people who knows what she's been up to,” he says. “And what she’s been doing is beginning to have a ripple effect now, especially on him. Obviously, more people are going to eventually discover what she's been up to later this season or next, but for now, he’s the one.”
He’s also the one that, despite what audiences may have felt was their better judgment, many have come to sympathize with. Midge remains front and center throughout Marvelous Mrs. Maisel season 2, but that doesn’t mean that showrunner Amy Sherman-Palladino and Dan Palladino weren’t going to give everyone else their due. This even includes Joel.
“It was always our intention that Joel was going to be the love of her life then, now and probably always,” says Sherman-Palladino. “Unfortunately, for some things, the timing is off. Maybe you run into that person at the wrong time, or your lives take you in different directions. But you understand what the relationship is and you don't blame Midge for falling in love with him in the first place.”
“The initial reaction makes sense,” adds Zegen. “I think it hits a nerve with a lot of people, perhaps because they’ve been wronged, cheated on or something like that. Hopefully, however, I'm playing it as real as possible, because getting that sort of a reaction from those who watch the show is not necessarily a bad thing. If somebody is feeling something because of my performance, then that's what you want as an actor.”
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel season 2 premieres Wednesday, Dec. 5, on Amazon Prime.