Rachel Brosnahan on Her Favorite Joke, Wrestling as a Kid, and Being a Crazy Dog Lady

Rachel Brosnahan at 'The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel' New York Premiere
 Nicholas Hunt / Staff / Getty Images

Rachel Brosnahan, star of Amazon’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, opens up about wrestling guys and driving cross-country with dogs.

 

 

But first, the basics:

– Age: 28

– Hometown: Highland Park, Illinois

– Funniest female comics:

  1. Sarah Silverman
  2. Joan Rivers
  3. Gilda Radner
  4. Ali Wong
  5. Jean Carroll

Between the Golden Globe and the Emmy, it’s been a big year for you. How are you going to celebrate?

With some time off and a lot of Netflix.

In The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, you play a budding stand-up comedian. Did you hear any great jokes while researching the role?

I use this one whenever I need an ice-breaker: What’s the difference between a tire and 365 condoms?

What?

One’s a Goodyear, and one’s a great year. Ba-da-bum!

Would you ever do stand-up, or would that give you the nervous barfs?

Did you say “the nervous barfs”?

That’s what I said.

That’s exactly how I feel about it! I will leave the real stand-up to the professionals. I bow down, but I prefer to watch from a very safe distance.

What do you think about the old criticism about women not being funny?

I feel frustrated when I hear people say that. You do still hear people say that, which is mind-boggling. Funny is funny, or not funny is not funny. I don’t think there’s any difference between the genders there.

In Mrs. Maisel, your character’s husband leaves her, and she has to navigate being on her own. Are you more comfortable being partnered up or solo?

I’m comfortable both ways. I think nobody needs somebody else to be their best self, but sometimes if you find the right person, they can complete you and lift you up and help you explore new parts of yourself that you didn’t know were there.

Your show takes place in 1958—how do you think things have changed for women since then?

Slowly but surely it’s becoming more acceptable for women to lead their households, to have more financial independence and autonomy, but those are still things that feel taboo. The number of women in the workforce versus the number of women who hold positions of influence and power is still completely disproportionate. In many ways we’re still fighting the same battle that we were, but the needle has moved.

When you were just starting out as an actor in high school, you were cast in a horror film produced by Michael Bay. Was that a big deal to your classmates in Illinois?

To be honest, my role was like five lines. But I was in my high school theater program doing musicals, even though I can’t sing.

Funny is funny, or not funny is not funny. I don’t think there’s a difference between the genders there.

I also read that you were on the wrestling team. And that you wrestled guys.

Yes, but I never felt like the only chick on the team—I was just a part of the team. I liked that it’s done by weight class, so within your weight class, everybody has totally different skill sets; the only thing you have in common is that you weigh the same. So it didn’t matter if I wasn’t as strong as the guy if I was faster or better in a position.

Did wrestling teach you anything about acting?

It felt improvisational. It was about listening and responding to someone else, and that feels like something I’ve taken with me as an actor. It made me feel powerful and strong. The workouts were intense and insane. I loved being a part of a team but also competing as an individual.

It sounds like you’re a jock.

I was also in the Snowflake Club, which would take kids out on the weekends on these big coach buses to ski and snowboard in Wisconsin. I grew up skiing, but when I was 11 or 12 I tried snowboarding and found out I was better at it than I ever was at skiing. Skiing is hard.

Do you still do it?

My brother lives in Denver, so my family and I go at least once a year. I still love it, but I’m definitely less fearless as an adult than I was then. I can’t really afford to break my face now.

True. Your dogs show up on your Instagram a lot—are you a crazy dog lady?

I can hang with the craziest of the crazy dog ladies. They’re my fur children. Nikki is a pit mix, and she’s so gentle and sweet and needy. She just stares at you with these human eyeballs. Her well is very deep. Then Winston is my Shiba Inu, who is filled to the brim with ’tude. He was fiercely independent, more like a cat, but he’s getting cuddlier.

What’s the most crazy-dog-lady thing you’ve done for them?

I was in Vancouver and going on vacation for a week, and I didn’t want to board them because Nikki is a rescue and she’s a little bit nervous. I spent five days driving them all the way to Dallas to stay with family. My best friend came along, and we turned it into a big old doggie road trip.