Michael Zegen isn’t just a star of Amazon’s hit series “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” — he’s also a fan, and proved it by trekking from his home in the city to Farmingdale last March to watch co-star Rachel Brosnahan shoot scenes that didn’t involve him.
That sequence — which includes a big splashy USO-type musical number, shot in a hangar of the American Airpower Museum at Republic Airport, with nearly 2,200 locals hired as extras — makes for a big, boffo start to the Emmy-winning show’s third season, which drops Dec. 6. Fans will find plucky Midge Maisel (Brosnahan) continuing to pursue her dream of stand-up comedy stardom (she’s graduated to gigs in Miami and Vegas) in the wake of her separation from husband, Joel (Zegen), with support from her scrappy manager (Alex Borstein) and flummoxed parents (Tony Shalhoub, Marin Hinkle). Newcomers this season include Sterling K. Brown (“This Is Us”) and Liza Weil (“Gilmore Girls”). Zegen, 40, a native of Ridgewood, New Jersey, is known for playing Denis Leary’s firefighter nephew (in “Rescue Me”) and Bugsy Siegel (“Boardwalk Empire”). He’ll soon be seen as Drew Barrymore’s boyfriend (in the upcoming comedy film “The Stand-In”). He recently spoke by phone with Newsday contributor Joseph V. Amodio.
Does season three feel different from previous seasons?
Well, it’s definitely bigger. It’s apparent we’ve got more money. Which really is a testament to Amazon, and the fans who believe in us. In this season’s first episode, we did a scene with (thousands of) extras.
It’s quite a production number, with all those dancers and guys dressed as soldiers.
It was nuts. I’m not in that scene but I took a train out to Long Island where they were filming because I needed to see it with my own eyes.
So …you read the script and thought, man, I want to see this happen?
I do that a lot. This season we go to Miami. I’m not in any of those scenes, but I went to Miami because I don’t want to miss out on anything.
Last season there was quite a rivalry between you and Midge’s new beau, Benjamin (Zachary Levi). Have you had encounters with fans who are either Team Benjamin or Team Joel?
Well, it’s more what they say on Twitter or Instagram. I think the show put out a social media post asking, are you Team Joel or Team Benjamin? I wasn’t looking forward to seeing the comments, but I can’t pull myself away sometimes. To be honest, it was 50/50. I get where people are coming from when they support Benjamin. He’s a good guy. And a doctor. When the first season aired, I got a lot of animosity from people. One woman called me “loathsome” to my face. That has subsided. Now more people are pro-Joel, which I welcome.
Joel cheated on her and a lot of people can’t get over that. I understand. But…it IS a TV show, not real life.
Midge and Joel actually serve as great role models for how to break up respectfully, amicably. We don’t usually see that on TV.
Well, they’re co-parenting, and there’s still love there. I don’t know if it’s necessarily over between them. They’re just trying to make things work. They got married at a very early age — that’s what you did at the time, you got married straight out of college and had kids. They set up shop, essentially, before they even knew what the shop was. So they’re still trying to find themselves.
I love those looooong camera shots where the camera follows you all over and never cuts—sometimes for a whole scene.
We call them “one-ers,” To me, it’s like theater, and most of us on the show have theatrical backgrounds. Knowing your lines — that’s key. Sometimes Rachel and I Facetime each other the night before and run lines. (Otherwise) we don’t really rehearse. You come in at six in the morning and run it, run it, run it — and by like, noon, you’ve got one good take. All you need is one. There’s a scene in season two where Kevin Pollak (who plays Joel’s father) and I walk through the factory, and at the end I’m supposed to open a door and tell this guy, Manny, who’s smoking a cigarette, to stop smoking. We’d done it 20 times, it was nearing lunch — and this one take was going so well, I just felt it. I was like, oh, this is the one, this is the one. And I open the door…. (He chuckles.) And completely forget his name. It was like, ohhh, no. We had to start over again.
There’s pressure. But it’s so much fun, it really is.