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Mrs. Maisel’s Marin Hinkle on Learning French, Filming in Paris, and Dancing With Tony Shalhoub

Marin Hinkle. Photo: Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images

Tony Shalhoub and Marin Hinkle are joining us for a special Vulture Festival event. Join us November 14 at 2pm at the Hollywood Roosevelt for a conversation with the performers behind our favorite TV parental unit. Get your tickets here!

A few months before The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel went into production on its second season, Marin Hinkle got a call from a production coordinator who asked, “Hey, do you speak French?” Hinkle didn’t. The coordinator then told her, “You’re going to have some lessons and we’re going to Paris.”

The fact that Mrs. Maisel really did shoot in Paris was just one of the many surprises in store for Hinkle this season. Her character Rose Weissman, the perfectly coiffed, buttoned-up mother of the titular Miriam Maisel, abruptly leaves her husband and daughter behind in New York and moves to the City of Lights in the season premiere. Then, Midge and Abe try to rescue Rose from Paris, but are shocked to discover that she’s embraced a bohemian lifestyle (and even adopted a dog). The family eventually travels back to New York, but even there, Rose continues to reveal hidden sides of herself, as she’s set off balance by her daughter’s rebellions.

That story arc wasn’t what Hinkle expected, but she had a lot of fun as the writers kept throwing new ideas at her. “They surprise me, and they’re very surprising people,” Hinkle said of Mrs. Maisel executive producers Dan Palladino and Amy Sherman-Palladino. “I feel like they sometimes must come up with ideas, and then there might be a part of their brain that goes, Nah, and another part that goes, Yeah!” Vulture spoke to Hinkle about Rose’s most surprising decisions in the new season, how she learned to adapt to the Palladinos’ unsentimental writing, and what it’s like to dance along the Seine with Tony Shalhoub.

Rose has so much more to do this season, starting with her decision to leave Abe and Midge and go to Paris. What was your reaction to that?
She’s almost an unrecognizable person when you first see her in Paris. All the things that keep her structured are gone, and I love that she rediscovers some connection to her own youth. She has that amazing line when Miriam says, “You’ve gotta get home, Mama,” and I say, “Well, who’s talking?” That’s a great role reversal there, a mother calling a question to the daughter, because the daughter’s calling the question to the mother.

Why do you think Rose decided to leave? It seems like she knows Miriam is up to something and reacted to that, even if she doesn’t know it’s a career in comedy.
When you have a dear friend that’s going through something, suddenly it makes you wonder about yourself too. I do think that the demise of Miriam’s relationship makes both Abe and I have unsettledness in our own marriage. To have that episode where you saw me scream and yell in a temple at my daughter and say, “Where the fuck have you gotten this coat?” I think Rose became unhinged. I think her way of finding strength again is to remove herself from what made her feel betrayed. I think you’re right that she can’t put her finger on why she and her daughter are not gelling, but somehow by going away, it’s going to allow the two of them to heal a little bit.

What did you think when you found out you were filming in Paris?
It’s so delightful the way it happened. I got a phone call in late winter, early spring — we were going to start up again in mid-spring — and it was a production coordinator saying, “Hey, do you speak French?” I was like, “Uh, well…” and he said, “Well, you’re going to have some lessons and we’re going to Paris.” I didn’t get the script until the night before, so it was a comedy learning all the verb conjugations, which weren’t necessarily so helpful.

Are there people from your own life that you thought of as models for Rose? Women of that era who were very well-educated, very competent, but couldn’t figure out why they weren’t happy?
I’m fortunate that my mother is an incredible role model for me. She’d been thinking of being a doctor, lawyer, or teacher, and she ended up teaching, but when she had kids it was a little bit less so. When I was in elementary school, she was like, What am I doing not doing this?, so she ended up going to law school and becoming a lawyer and subsequently a judge.

But there are women in my life who are just what you said. They read so much, they’re more intellectual than their spouses all put together, and yet they don’t always have a place where they’re actively connecting with people intellectually. I’m thinking of two women in particular. There’s one who was the woman who ran NYU’s graduate acting program, Zelda Fichandler. She would dress to the acting classes and her hair had just looked like it was styled, and she was wearing these special leather pants and the perfect scarf. I would look at her like, You are so brilliant. Thank God she had become a leader in her field, but the classiness of who she was and her sense of purpose and strength was very much Rose.

Then I had a few ballet teachers that could come across as judgmental, and I guess they were, but it was because they were so strong in what they believed that they were unapologetic. That’s Rose. People think she’s nasty or cruel to her granddaughter because she doesn’t look pretty and has a big head, but she’s worried about whether or not she’s going to have a good life, because it’s harder to not be pretty in Rose’s mind.

There’s a telling scene after Rose comes back from Paris, where she talks the college girls out of taking art classes because they won’t find husbands that way. What did you think about that?
Sometimes you don’t get the episodes until right before you’re shooting and you can’t talk to your writers or directors, so you have to come up with the answer. I wanted to jump up and go, “How could you steer me towards Paris and then have me say to those women, You should go meet a guy in the business school?” That’s human nature. Rose does want to explode as an independent thinker, but when she comes back and sees these women in the class, she can’t help but say, “You know, it’s easier if you meet somebody rather than spend all your money on these classes.” I don’t think she’s being manipulative. I think she’s being helpful.

Are there things you find yourself wanting for Rose? Or that you advocate for when you talk to the writers?
I think that it would be interesting to have Rose learn from Susie, to find some part in the future where something that Susie does or says actually resonates for Rose. They seem to come from such different walks of life and also have different philosophies.

The Palladinos have such a distinctive style, sensibility, and even rhythm of dialogue. Do you have to adjust your acting style to match it?
Amy and Dan are never going to slow down to make sure an audience gets something. They’re not going to ever spoon-feed. They’re not going to ever be sentimental. They’re never going to say, “Oh, we want the audience to feel this way.” In any kind of emotional moment — even the moment where I say, “I missed me, too” [to Miriam in Paris] — they choose the take that tends to be the least sentimental. Their characters are so brazen that one thing I’ve learned is to just go forth without question. I have to be brave and obviously speedy, and not think too hard.

Still, the scenes where Rose and Abe reconcile in Paris are poignant. What’s it like to approach them with Tony Shalhoub?
We had this little dance scene along the Seine that actually took hours and hours and hours of work, and we got to rehearse with a dance choreographer that spoke very little English. Tony and I aren’t necessarily the best dancers, but it was one of my most favorite nights of my life. It was my birthday that night, and so the clock struck midnight and they brought out little bits of Champagne. It was so beautiful, so beautiful. And when I saw [the scene], it was like, Oh, it’s only one moment! One second! But it took a lot.

Marin Hinkle Had to Learn French for Mrs. Maisel Season Two