Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning actress Rachel Brosnahan recently earned another Emmy nomination for her role in the Amazon Prime series “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” in which she plays a 1950s housewife who pursues a career in stand-up comedy.
Brosnahan brings that same energy to her work off-screen, serving on the board of directors for Covenant House, a nonprofit that helps homeless youth. Each year, she participates in the organization’s “Sleep Out,” where volunteers sleep outside to raise money and awareness for the more than four million homeless young people in America.
This year’s Sleep Out will be held virtually Monday with more than 100 Hollywood and Broadway stars “sleeping out” in solidarity.
Brosnahan first participated in the Sleep Outs eight years ago, when she was a 23-year-old Broadway actress. Appearing on “CBS This Morning” on Monday, Brosnahan told co-host Anthony Mason that the events have changed her life.
“Absolutely. I was profoundly moved by my first Sleep Out and getting the opportunity to see inside the Covenant House and meet some of the young people who called it home and meet some of the incredible staff who have dedicated their lives to this work. I was moved to make a commitment that night to stay involved. And I’m so proud and honored to be here eight years later.”
Mason asked, “What moved you specifically, Rachel?”
“Well, I met a young man who called Covenant House home at the time, and he was 23 years old, and so was I. And I was really struck by how, with just a few small shifts in circumstance, we could be sitting on opposite sides of the table. We were peers. And that is supremely unfair that our situations were so different.”
This year, given the coronavirus pandemic, the Sleep Out will be a virtual event.
“We’ll be sleeping out wherever we can find a space, whether that be a backyard or a front yard or a living room,” Brosnahan said. “I think that’s where we’re going to sleep out tonight. But the programming will remain largely the same – just in our little computer boxes.”
“So the spirit will be the same as well?”
Brosnahan, whose previous credits include “House of Cards” and “The Blacklist,” has said that she lost parts because she wasn’t funny enough. “That must have made auditioning for ‘Mrs. Maisel,’ who’s a stand-up comedian, pretty intimidating?” Mason asked.
“Yeah, definitely. It’s still intimidating,” Brosnahan said, laughing. “We’re at three, four years in, and it doesn’t get any less intimidating, but I think it just goes to show that we shouldn’t put ourselves in those boxes. You know, for a long time I had turned down auditions because I’d been told for so long that I wasn’t very funny.” She added that her performance is a testament to brilliant writing.
Referring to her performance on the show, “CBS This Morning” co-host Gayle King complimented Brosnahan on her portrayal of a stand-up comedian even though she has never done stand-up comedy before: “Because your timing and delivery is so good, so I wonder, how did you do that? And It’s fun to watch the evolution of your character because first she was a little tentative, and now she is all-in.”
“I think it’s just that. At first she wasn’t a tried-and-true tested stand-up; she was just a funny woman having a mental breakdown in a very public forum,” Brosnahan said. “As she’s gone on, she’s had to learn and refine her craft. And that’s been really fun for me in bringing her to life.”
She revealed that, in preparation for the role, she’d dragged fellow cast member Michael Zegen, who plays her ex-husband, Joel, to comedy clubs around New York City: “Mostly just to see how people were when they started, how they responded to unexpected success or unexpected failure in the moment, and I still try to go whenever I can. It wasn’t a world I was very familiar with, but I watch a lot of stand-up now.”
Brosnahan recently received her fourth Emmy nomination, for “Mrs. Maisel,” and she told Mason that, despite COVID-19, she still celebrated.
“Well, it’s a little different right now,” she said. “I have a little pod that I’ve been with since March, and we wanted to do something exciting, and somehow we came up with making match s’mores, otherwise known as apartment s’mores. You light a match, and you hold the marshmallow over it.
“It felt special and celebratory,” she said, laughing.
She, like other nominees, will be at home during this year’s Emmy Awards ceremony. “I’m definitely going to do something special, yeah. I get to bring my dogs to the Emmys. How often is that gonna happen? It’s going to be a fun night.”