“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” and “Game of Thrones” win big at the Emmys; Stars shine on the red carpet at the Primetime Emmy Awards; Emmy winner Glenn Weiss proposes to girlfriend after his win. (Sept. 18) AP
He’s played American mobster “Bugsy” Siegel in HBO’s Boardwalk Empire and a bandit-turned-zombie in The Walking Dead; now he stars as Joel Maisel in the Amazon original series The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. So, Ridgewood native Michael Zegen may look very familiar.
He’s stood on stage while the Maisel cast won and accepted the Golden Globe Award for Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy; the Critics’ Choice Television Award for Best Comedy Series; the Peabody Award for Entertainment and, most recently, when the comedy-drama, which is set in the late 1950s, picked up an Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series.
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But the 39-year-old actor, who now calls New York City home, hasn’t forgotten his Jersey roots (“I still prefer Paramus Park to Garden State Plaza,” he says. “Guess I’m just nostalgic”) or the Ridgewood High School theater program that helped him develop his passion (and that he used to consider his “home”).
(201) spoke with Zegen about the award-winning The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (season two is coming soon to Amazon Prime Video), growing up in Ridgewood, and a special talent most people might not know about him.
What was your impression when you read the script for The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel the first time?
It was one of the best scripts I had ever read. Laugh-out-loud funny. Plus, that time period, with Lenny Bruce, and jazz, and the whole downtown Greenwich Village beatnik scene…I knew I had to be a part of it.
How does it feel to be part of an ensemble that was nominated (and won!) an Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series?
It feels great, mostly because it means that people dig the show. Not that I ever thought they wouldn’t, but it’s still validating. Plus, with so much content on our screens these days, it’s amazing we were able to stand out amongst the crowd. Again, though, that’s not to say I thought we wouldn’t.
Why do you think the show has won critical acclaim?
Because it’s a good show! The writing is hilarious, the costumes are phenomenal, the cinematography is unreal, and Rachel Brosnahan is the best actor on TV right now.
What can fans expect from your character in season two?
Joel had a tough time in season one. His life was falling apart — by his own doing — and he had no sense of purpose. In season two, he starts coming into his own a little bit, taking charge again. I do think fans can still expect to be continually perplexed as to whether they should love him or hate him. He’s complicated!
The show has been renewed for a third season. How do you think the characters will develop in the next season? Is there anything you’d like your character to experience?
You’re going to see how everyone moves past the break up. Whether it’s Midge and Joel, or their respective families, everyone learns to coexist. As far as what I’d like for Joel, I just want him to find something he’s good at, something that’ll make him happy. He’s not there yet, but I think he’s close.
Do you ever come back to Bergen County to visit?
All the time! My parents live in Ridgewood.
How did growing up in Ridgewood contribute to your success in your acting career?
Luckily, Ridgewood High School has an amazing theater program called “New Players Company.” Every year, we’d do a whole season of shows. Like six during the school year, and three in the summer. It was amazing. Musicals, straight plays, Shakespeare, children’s theater, student-directed scenes, etc. And we had fantastic directors — Meg Schaefer, Lori Barnett, Dennis Carroll, and the late, great Rachael Daum. We really had an amazing company of actors and stage crew. Everyone basically lived in that theater, hung out, ate lunch…some were even known to have slept there. It was home.
What’s up next for you?
Season two of Maisel. I’m so psyched for people to finally see it, myself included. I think it’s even better than the first.
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