Season one of Amazon’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel asked audiences to laugh along as a ’50s housewife took a sledgehammer to her life, rebuilding herself as a stand-up comedian with lovable chutzpah. Season three of the show asks us to do the same thing – laugh along tightly-gripped realities crumble – but it’s not Midge (the always excellent Rachel Brosnahan) whose life is thrown into chaos, it’s her parents.
Specifically, her father, Abe Weissman, played by Emmy award-winner Tony Shalhoub. While Midge takes her act on the road, Abe and wife Rose (Marin Hinkle) go through a jarring lifestyle change, one that forces them to reckon with feelings of unfulfillment and failure in increasingly humorous ways.
Uproxx spoke with Shalhoub, whose character goes through a transformation that includes beatniks, black turtlenecks, and an unbearable living situation, about the rollercoaster ride that is season three. The takeaway: he’s having fun acting out a midlife crisis and yes, he knows what you think about that romper.
You guys won some Emmys and now you’re back for season three. It’s not a bad way to end the decade.
Oh! Is it the end of the decade already?
It is. I don’t know what that makes me feel. Closer to the grave, I guess.
That’s the spirit.
Season three starts out rough for Abe. He’s lost his job, he’s losing his apartment, he gets in trouble with the law. He’s spiraling. Was it fun to explore a different side of the character?
It is fun and the best part was that I got to work with Luke Kirby, who plays Lenny Bruce. In the first two seasons, I was such an admirer of his work in the show. I just couldn’t imagine how he and I were ever going to be able to cross paths. Then, sure enough, the first script for season three, they put us together and I just couldn’t have been happier about that.
Lenny’s got a lot of experience with failure but Abe, not so much.
Yeah, Abe is on a whole new track in his life. He’s really thrown caution to the wind and he’s taken some enormous risks. He’s let go of the stability and the security of his two jobs. Now they have to let go of the apartment too. So, he’s just kind of up for anything, but he doesn’t know what he’s going to do, how he’s going to survive.
I was struck by the parallels between Midge’s journey in season one and Abe’s journey in season three. Has he been influenced by this implosion of his daughter’s life in some ways?
I think they’re all being influenced, not just Abe. The dissolution of her marriage and then her trying to reinvent her life. They’re all impacted by it. They see that she’s a fighter and she’s a survivor. I think Abe and Rose have these qualities in them, even though they may have lost touch with those qualities. They’re getting back in touch with that. So yeah, there are definitely parallels. I think the differences are that Midge knows what she wants and she’s on that track. Whereas, Abe is just flying blind a bit. He knows he wants something different. He just doesn’t exactly know what that’s going to look like.
So it’s safe to say that when we see Abe in season three he’s going through a mid-life crisis?
It’s definitely a midlife crisis. He must reevaluate where he’s been, what he’s done, how he ended up where he did. He’d gotten complacent in his life, in that kind of cushy existence that he had. It turned out that it wasn’t really what he thought it was. He needs to feel that his life is going to have more meaning.
Speaking of cushy, Abe is forced to slum it a bit this season and he makes some interesting, younger friends in the process. Is he cut out for a less glamorous life?
Not really. He thinks of himself as a kind of Bohemian type, but he’s gotten soft over the years and he’s gotten used to his creature comforts. So he’s going to have to learn how to let go more. That’s what this journey is about, what season three is about.
Amy Sherman-Palladino is known for long takes and dense dialogue. Has there been a particularly challenging scene to film over the past few seasons?
The big group scenes where we’re all talking a mile a minute, and we’re doing it in sort of one long take, those are really challenging, of course. I think that the ones that stick out for me are the scenes in the Catskills in season two when Abe first discovers what Midge has been doing and how kind of shattering that is. Because this is his daughter, someone he thought he knew everything about, and now realizes that she’s a different person. That’s the beginning of everything starting to crumble for him.
Then he discovers that his son isn’t really the person he thought he was. His job wasn’t really what he wants either. Almost in every area of his life, he’s having to reassess. So those scenes of Abe going through those massive changes were, I think, the most complex.
I’m glad you brought up the Catskills because we have to talk about the romper. Are you surprised by people’s response to that scene?
Yes, I am. I mean I just thought this is something that was a thing that certain people wore for a certain moment in time. I guess I just wore it well, can I say?
Are we going to see the return of the romper in season three?
I hope so. I want to bring it back. I’m thinking if maybe Amazon will let me do like an exercise video. It could just be Abe in a romper and people can play it in their living rooms and we can run through workouts.
Season three of ‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ begins streaming on Amazon Prime on Friday, December 6th.