“It’s definitely one of the most ambitious scenes we ever shot,” Marvelous Mrs. Maisel exec producer Daniel Palladino concedes of the sequence in Season 2’s fourth episode, which revolved around Midge and her family getting rambunctiously resettled in their (summer) home-away-from-home in the Catskills.
Even by the Emmy-winning Amazon comedy’s lofty production standards, the highly theatrical set piece — which ran for nearly two uninterrupted minutes, included a half-dozen overlapping vignettes and featured nary a single cut — was quite the visual and auditory achievement (watch it above).
How’d they pull it off? TVLine sat down with Daniel, who wrote and directed the installment (titled, appropriately, “We’re Going to the Catskills”), series creator Amy Sherman-Palladino and leading lady Rachel Brosnahan (whose Midge is front and center in the sequence) to find out.
IT ALL STARTED WITH A PHOTO
DANIEL | We had pictures of the [Catskills] location early on, and one of them was of this storybook cottage. And we put the photos up in our writers’ room to use as inspiration for when we were breaking the stories. The idea was pitched that we play with the upstairs/downstairs [aspect] of the house, because it was perfectly laid out like a Habitrail, with the the porch and the windows and then that balcony. So the location came first.
AMY | The whole point of the Catskills episodes — especially the first one — was to show more of what Midge’s normal life was as we are watching her transition out of that normal life. And going to the Carskills was an annual family tradition and actually something that Midge really liked.
DANIEL | Basically, that scene is showing what happened every year for the past 20 some-odd years of Midge’s life.
RACHEL | We read the scene at the table read and it was such a disaster. [Laughs] If one person lost track of where they were, the whole scene fell apart. We were basically just reading all of our lines on top of each other and hoping it all made sense.
NOT. A. SINGLE. CUT.
DANIEL | The sequence was shot straight through without a single cut. There were no visual tricks. We locked off the camera. The cameraman didn’t even have to stand with the camera.
AMY | He went for coffee…
DANIEL | We rehearsed it many, many, many times.
AMY | We rehearsed the s–t out of it.
DANIEL | The cast had a blast rehearsing it. This is where our cast is amazing. And also a little crazy. They literally didn’t want to stop.
AMY | They love rehearsal. And a lot of actors on TV don’t like to rehearse. Our actors find it incredibly useful and enjoyable.
RACHEL | It was like shooting a one-act play. It really felt like we were doing theater. We had to figure out how to get ourselves in the right place at the right time so that we could hear each others’ cue lines. It was so challenging but such a blast.
DANIEL | First I rehearsed Rachel and Marin [Hinkle]. I wanted to get their [movements] blocked first. And then I rehearsed Tony [Shaloub, who plays Midge’s dad] and Jacob [Kemp, who plays a resort staffer]. And then I rehearsed those two [pairings] together. And then I started threading in the bellhops and [other] resort employees…
RACHEL | These poor background actors were so exhausted by the end of shooting that scene from moving the furniture in and out of the house. [Laughs]
DANIEL | We rehearsed all of these things separately and then threw them in together. We could’ve done this rehearsal forever. But eventually we had to stop and start shooting.
THE CREW HAD TO BE OF SOUND MIND
DANIEL | Sound was a big part of the scene.
AMY | More than almost any other scene [we’ve done]. One of the areas of our show that doesn’t get nearly the recognition we feel it should is our sound department. We don’t do battles or explosions or fights, which tend to get more attention. But the amount of work that goes into a scene like this, and the levels of sound that have to be so diligently adjusted, is quite masterful.
DANIEL | And your ears have to discern enough of the dialogue from all of the playing areas. We also had the actors [record their lines separate from the scene, creating something known as a “wild track”] after we cut, as if they were doing a radio show, only this time the dialogue didn’t overlap; we needed them clean to make sure the timing was perfect. So some of the words you hear are from the scene itself, and some of it is from the wild [track].
TIMING WAS EVERYTHING
DANIEL | We did eight to 10 takes. We probably ended up using Take 6 or 7. It took a long time to reset, too. But I [warned our crew] that this was something I was going to need a lot more time on than a [typical] four-page scene.
AMY | It [took] about four to five hours.
DANIEL | It was about half of our [shooting] day. It’s definitely one of the most ambitious scenes we ever shot, because there was such a high chance of failing. We know how to make a walk-and talk work. We know how to make a dinner-table scene work. With this, there was a risk that it could not work at all. It might not be entertaining. The shot could be too wide to be interesting. But it felt like it was working on the day.
All 10 episodes of Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Season 2 are currently streaming on Amazon Prime.