In Season 2 of Amazon’s award-winning The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Michael Zegen’s character, Joel Maisel is now a divorced father of two and ex-husband to up-and-quickly rising comedic star, Midge Maisel, set in the late 50s. He’s popularly known for playing period roles such as Bugsy Siegel in HBO’s Boardwalk Empire and in his latest chat with Gotham, he divulges how his anonymity is slowly decreasing, why his character has angered fans, and viewing his fight scenes as a form a therapy.
Let’s talk about The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. After the second season when you guys really started winning all of these awards, how much has your life changed since the beginning of the show?
MZ: I’m definitely getting recognized a lot more which can be jarring and nice at the same time. It’s a weird combination of the two because it’s nice to be recognized by people who love the show, it’s just not so nice when they have weird stuff to say to you or they tell you they hate your character. Since I was a kid, this is what I wanted. This, exactly this… kind of being recognized. [Laughs] Then once it happens, it’s like, oh wait, this isn’t really what I want. I just wanted to work.
What’s it like working with such an incredibly talented cast?
MZ: It’s incredible. It’s like there’s no weak link among us and everybody gets along. We don’t take it for granted. We all recognize the fact that we’re doing something special but this seems more special than anything else that I’ve done. We’re all at different stages of our careers and we just somehow all get along really well. Every time I see them I’m like, oh there’s my family.
There seems to be such a unique and strong bond between Midge and Joel, even after their divorce. That ending scene between the two of them—thoughts?
MZ: I’m getting a lot of crap for that ending. A lot of people are like, even people who know me, they’re like, I don’t know how I feel about that ending. And it’s like, why? But it’s me. (laughs) A lot of people can’t forgive him for cheating on her which I find, in terms of my professional career, kind of ironic because I did Boardwalk Empire and played Bugsy Siegel. I killed a bunch of people. I even shot a kid in the face in one episode, and people still come up to me and they’re like—love your character on Boardwalk. And nobody’s ever said anything bad about him to me. And this guy cheats on his wife once and they can’t forgive him. It’s so bizarre to me.
But the ending, I talked to Rachel [Brosnahan] about it and she had a good take on it. She kept saying, Joel is her guy. She has a history with him, she’s been with him, that’s her comfort, and it’s her last moment of comfort before she embarks on this trail alone. And she just wanted to be loved by somebody she knew would always love her. They have kids together so he’s not ever going to be out of the picture. And it’s just comfortable.
That noble moment when Midge calls Joel and he comes to her rescue at the comedy club - your character becomes this fierce, fighting dude. Did you enjoy showing that side of Joel?
MZ: Yea, because it does redeem him a little bit more. At least that scene really redeemed him in the eyes of Susie [played by Alex Borstein], which I thought was nice. And I loved the scene at the end of Season 1 where he beats up those guys who were taunting Midge on stage. I think he has a temper sometimes and I love those scenes. I love the fight scenes with Midge, obviously not hand-to-hand combat but the verbal fighting. For me, it’s kind of therapeutic.