Best Performances is TV Guide's Emmys video series highlighting the best acting performances of the year. Actors take viewers behind the scenes of their Emmy-nominated performances and explain the secrets of their craft.
Doing stand-up comedy is hard, but acting like you're really good at stand-up comedy might be harder. And yet Rachel Brosnahan has won the hearts of critics and fans alike doing just that through her performance as Miriam "Midge" Maisel on Amazon's breakout hit The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.
Over the course of the eight-episode first season, Brosnahan takes Midge from a devastated, deserted housewife to a triumphant New York City stand-up comedienne. The season's final episode, "Thank You and Good Night," which Brosnahan has submitted for consideration at this year's Emmys, shows the full arc of Midge's journey as she reconnects with her husband Joel (Michael Zegen), fights with his mistress Penny (Holly Curran), and ultimately learns to rely on herself to make her big comedy comeback.
Brosnahan's real shining moment in the episode comes in the final scene, when she performs her first tight, rehearsed stand-up set and absolutely nails it. While Brosnahan, who is nominated for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series, cut her teeth on serious dramas (House of Cards, Manhattan), she already knows that pulling off a funny scene means playing well with your scene partner, even if there's a dozen of them.
"I knew that was a moment where you needed to see that Midge had found her voice as a stand-up. She had grown so much. She'd succeeded, she'd bombed — and both kind of on accident. This was purposeful, this was intentional. It was direct and she killed it," Brosnahan explained for our Best Performances video series. "It was a lot of pressure, but thankfully we have some of the most incredible background actors on this show, who are scene partners in those scenes, who really give it all they have. They listen to me tell the same jokes for 16 hours a day and they laugh and give so much energy back. Really, I owe them so much for making those scenes come alive."
The final scene isn't the only instance in the episode in which Brosnahan pulls from her fellow actors' energy, though. The actress shared a behind-the-scenes secret that explains why her showdown with Curran came off so electric.
"We went to college together. We've known each other for years and years and years, so to actually get to work together was ... the best," Brosnahan said. "Penny had hardly said anything through the entire first season. She had almost no lines and then to see her finally marching in and just opening her mouth, and the kinds of things that came out of it — that scene was a blast."
"It was really such an incredible moment to see [Curran] shine, and [for us to] go toe-to-toe with each other, to go face-to-face and duke it out," she continued. "It was cathartic to get to tell Penny off in a real way."
The 70th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards air Monday, Sept. 17 at 8/7c on NBC. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is currently streaming on Amazon.