When Amazon Prime’s original series “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” first premiered in 2017, audiences were immediately taken with the unique story, colorful characters and relatable tale of a woman who is breaking the mold in a male-dominated industry. The witty, smart and scintillating show is the brainchild of Hollywood power couple Daniel Palladino and Amy Sherman-Palladino, and there’s a reason why the series has won over ten awards just this year alone.
Jane Lynch talks the polarizing pull of Sophie Lennon in “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” Season 3
The series starts out following Miriam “Midge” Maisel (Rachel Brosnahan) in what she thinks is a “perfect” life. She’s got the husband, the kids, the comfy home and pretty clothes until it all comes crashing down one day with one all too familiar cliché — her husband leaves her for his secretary. In the midst of a breakdown of a marriage, Midge discovers a talent that she quite frankly has a natural edge for — stand-up comedy, and once the former housewife gets the attention of impassioned manager Susie (Alex Borstein) it’s hard to slow the pair down. But of course, a lot of people do try.
One of the characters that does oppose Midge on her comedic journey is comedy superstar Sophie Lennon (Jane Lynch). When audiences first meet Sophie, she’s outwardly a raunchy, self-deprecating comedian who is on the top of her comedy game and has made a lot of money doing so. On the inside (once you shed the fake fat suit), Sophie is actually an elitist Upper East Side resident who lives her life lavishly and lets her deep-rooted insecurities cloud her moral compass, especially when it comes to starry-eyed newcomer Midge. It’s that exact polarizing pull in the character of Sophie Lennon that captivated Jane Lynch into taking on the role.
“The dichotomy of the character intrigued me — I basically get to play two different people,” says Lynch. “But what did draw me in was the comic side, that was the first portion of the script that I read. I just fell in love with that, because I knew exactly what I was going to do and I could not wait to put on that fat suit.”
Lynch is no stranger to the comedy game having numerous accolades from a plethora of shows and movies, but to prepare for the role of Sophie Lennon, Lynch dove a bit deeper to her roots and the comics she admired growing up.
“Phyllis Diller, Totie Fields, Joan Rivers — they were women who were gaudy and loud that I grew up watching on television. They were all very self-deprecating, and it was back in the day when a woman could only be in comedy if she made fun of herself and her looks and her unattractiveness to males and their inability to get a date. They did that with such grace and panache, and I remember them all very well as a kid and just loving them,” adds Lynch.
The notion that women in comedy can only make it big if they make themselves “a gimmick” to men because they will “never take a real woman seriously” also plays a large role in the show. It’s something that Sophie insists Midge takes on, and when the young comic refuses and then outs Sophie as a fraud to the world, tensions obviously arise. Couple in Sophie’s burning insecurities and innate desire to break out as an actress, and you get a woman with a true career-driven vengeance.
“The insecurity manifests itself in her, but of course, it’s always right there just below the surface,” says Lynch. “She wants to be the star, she wants to be elevated and lifted above everybody else — that’s her hustle. She wants to be held up as royalty. If she could, she would travel on a satin pillow all day long with her footmen carrying her. She always has her butler right by her, she never greets anybody at the door, she has them brought into her room and then she makes an entrance.”
Sophie may want to launch Midge into a career-imploding abyss, but Lynch herself is actually pleased with the way the comedy world is going today. The actress still sees a long road ahead, but there has been growth since the timeframe of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.”
“Stand-up is still almost completely male-dominated, there are some women stand-ups out there, but it’s still very hard for a woman to break into,” says Lynch. “But it is definitely the era of women in comedy in television for sure. A lot of it has to do with this generation of women who are right behind me who have a very calm entitlement to a seat at the table. There are all of these men as well who wouldn’t think twice about hiring a woman — I think it’s definitely gone leaps and bounds in terms of women in a position of power in television. A lot of that has to do with the number of platforms that there are, but I credit the guys as much as I credit the women, we’re turning around a ship that has been going in one direction to go in another direction. It looks like we’re going the right way now. I’m sure there will be bumps, and I’m sure there will be rough seas ahead, but we’ll get through it all.”
If the comedy world is a ship going in the right direction, Lynch is helping to steer the wheel in a big way, which is apparent after her Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series win this year for Sophie Lennon.
“It’s just the greatest, I was handed a terrific opportunity, they supported me in every single way and I think one of the reasons the character has impact is because I’m used so conservatively. They know when to sprinkle a little of me in there,” says Lynch. “I was just so thrilled to be included with that group of women [at the Emmys]. I mean Fiona Shaw, Maya Rudolph — it was really just a who’s who of women in comedy.”
So with the highly anticipated return of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” Season 3 almost here, what can fans expect from Lynch’s diabolical Sophie Lennon?
“She has manufactured for herself an opportunity for her dream to come true, and we’ll just see how that turns out.”
“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” Season 3 drops Dec. 6 on Amazon Prime.