From the moment that Miriam “Midge” Maisel (Rachel Brosnahan) meets the smooth, suave, but troubled legendary comic Lenny Bruce (Luke Kirby) he becomes a major supporter who fills her with loads of constructive criticism about the difficult career path she is embarking on as a female stand-up.
Their flirtatious friendship and chance and arranged encounters add yet another layer to the confection of a beautiful period show that offers so much to make us laugh and pull at our heartstrings.
At the heart of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, which begins streaming the first three episodes of Season 5 on Friday, April 14, are the relationships – between Midge and her family members, friends, colleagues, and supporters, primarily Susie, Lenny, and her ex-husband Joel (Michael Zegan).
Like her crusty manager Susie Myerson (Alex Borstein), Lenny Bruce is plucked from the history books, fleshed out with a combination of real-life and fictional sequences. He is there to provide much-needed advice from his own career while helping to pick Midge up when she is ready to call it quits on her dreams of having a big career and a big life.
“It definitely felt like from the outset that Lenny was meant to be somebody who sprinkles something on her journey,” Kirby exclusively tells Monsters and Critics. “I would call it a combination of magic dust or cruel reality, but he has to get a message across to Midge.”
Read on for more about Lenny and Midge’s chemistry, what he adores about Rachel and Midge, and how he did exhaustive research to honor Lenny Bruce’s community and legacy.
Monsters and Critics: You have referred to him previously as her fairy godmother and the show’s “Fairy Godmother.” Can you expand on that a little bit?
Luke Kirby: That just sort of is how it felt because I was just wondering how this person from history appears inside of this fiction. Because of his timing in the earlier episodes of the first season, it felt like he would kind of show up at a time when she most needed it.
Even in the way that he is kind of trying to help her move along for whatever reason it felt like that same fairy godmother from Cinderella. He is kind of a dream weaver. As the seasons went on it, felt like he was kind of being pulled down to Earth a little bit, and I’m glad for that because it made for some fun episodes.
M&C: Were you happy with how Midge’s story and Lenny’s story ended up?
Luke Kirby: I’m definitely happy with Midge’s and Lenny’s fait accompli. I think it’s appropriate. I think we never lost a sense of tenderness from Lenny, and I feel like we carried that through to the bitter end. I’m happy about that. I’m glad he didn’t turn into a hammer.
M&C: Could you personally identify with Midge’s struggles? As an actor with big dreams dealing with rejection and naysayers.
Luke Kirby: Yes, I sure can. Show business is such a stupid thing to do, but what else are you going to do? What’s the alternative? I loved in the fourth season when Lenny tells Midge the kind of cold, hard, and beautiful reality of what it is to find something you love; that it’s not meant to be easy and you’re not meant to be able to be the architect of the whole experience, you’re just meant to go to work. This feels very relatable, and I find myself aligning with that kind of philosophy.
M&C: How would you say this show changed you personally and professionally?
Luke Kirby: I made friends with Lenny Bruce in a way, and it lightened my spirit for a spell. I’m glad about that. I got to work with incredible people, and I just hadn’t entertained that being a reality. So, in sum: I am shorter, older, and happier. [He quipped].
M&C: Talk about why it was difficult for you to say goodbye to the show, the character, and the dynamic.
Luke Kirby: It’s very rare when things align in a way where you feel like – not only do you feel like your work is on track but that there is an audience that’s on track with it. I think that’s a very rare occasion to experience in this realm. I’m sad to see that go. But, better to have loved…than to never have loved at all.
M&C: What do you think it says about the chemistry that you and Rachel had on screen and Lenny and Midge’s chemistry?
Luke Kirby: It just speaks to Rachel’s power as an actor. She’s just a great anchor. She has something special about her. There’s just a little hint of mischief in her eyes that, to me, made her and Lenny kind of sparkle together.
M&C: Were you surprised that the fans wanted Midge to wind up with Lenny?
Luke Kirby: Well, she should have paid attention. Seriously that’s nice that they had so much invested in the relationship. There obviously is a magnet between the two. I just don’t know that it’s the healthiest magnet. I’d hate to see their domestic spats.
M&C: Were you surprised by the ending of Season 5?
Luke Kirby: No, I wasn’t, but I was moved by it and happy for it.
M&C: When fans approach you, what are they saying about you, the character, or the show?
Luke Kirby: It happens on occasion, and it’s generally really kind and nice. The best is when people who kind of had a fondness for Lenny Bruce are supportive of my interpretation. That’s the one that makes me feel like I can go on with my life. Because had I upset that community, I would have been shamed into a life of anonymity.
M&C: I know you did a lot of research listening to his records, and I read that you were watching his cadence and his rhythm. Did that continue all through to the 5th season?
Luke Kirby Yes. I’m probably not totally done with that research. Just for my own curiosities and intrigues. I like him. I like him, and I like exploring his world. Thankfully I can still do that as much as I want.
M&C: Would you consider trying standup on a real stage with an actual audience?
Luke Kirby: I don’t think so. I don’t think it would be very fun, and I don’t think people would be very fond of what I have to offer. I think it would be pretty upsetting for the whole lot of us.
What is it like seeing everybody again after saying goodbye in November and being back this spring for the send-off?
Luke Kirby: It’s a charm. It’s great. It’s just a reminder of how lucky we were to get to be together in the first place.
The fifth and final season of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel premiere on Prime Video with three episodes on Friday, April 14, with a new episode dropping every week until the final episode on Friday, May 26. Seasons 1-4 of the series stream on Prime Video.