By Megan Zerez
For some fans of Amazon’s original series The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, the show’s setting in 1950s Manhattan is more than just a quaint backdrop – it’s their own block, or even their apartment. Much of the show was set and shot on location throughout the Upper West Side.
Ahead of the season three premiere, four members of the Mrs. Maisel production team gave some Upper West Siders a behind-the-scenes look at the process of turning back the clock on familiar neighborhood landmarks.
But unlike the series’ meticulous period costuming, the Upper West Side rarely needs much dressing up, said Jan Jericho, UWS resident and art director for the series.
“The Upper West Side is so great to shoot because it still has so much of the beauty of pre-war architecture,” Jericho said. “In the 50s, the Upper West Side probably didn’t look very much different from [the way] it looked in the 20s or 30s.”
Jericho said that sometimes, all they’ve got to do is cover up the odd “no parking” sign, as the signs aren’t period accurate.
While Midge Maisel may not have come across any “no parking” signs in her version of the Upper West Side, shooting the show on location sometimes came with parking inconveniences for Upper West Siders, said Bill Groom, the show’s production designer.
“I always say if it’s inconvenient for you, imagine how it is for us,” Groom said to laughs. “But thank you for letting us be in your way.”
The event, hosted by UWS historical preservation organization Landmark West, was held in the West 83rd Ministry Center on Thursday night and drew a near-full house.
“They’re mostly Upper West Siders, but somebody came from Indiana,” said Audra Moss, Landmark West’s program director. “She wants to be a location scout. She’s got family here, though.”
West 83rd Ministry Center is no stranger to the Mrs. Maisel crew. While it doesn’t appear as a filming location, the center served as a “home base” for the production team during filming in the Upper West Side.
Several of the sets in Season One were all shot in the same apartment building. Two identical floorplans in The Strathmore, at 404 Riverside Drive, serve as the fictional home of the Maisels and the Weissmans, Midge Maisel’s parents. Later in the season, another unit in the building was transformed into a cramped one-bedroom belonging to Joel Maisel’s paramour, Penny.
“We really got lucky,” said Amanda Foley, supervising location manager for the show. “It’s so hard to find apartments on the Upper West Side that would allow us to shoot – let alone three, and with elements we needed for a period set.”
While the Weissman and Maisel apartments were only filmed on location in The Strathmore for the pilot episode – the production crew later recreated the apartments on a sound stage in Brooklyn – the building’s intricately appointed lobby makes appearances throughout the series.
One curious audience member asked about what happens to actual residents of an apartment during filming. The answer? They’ve got the option to stay in a hotel – all expenses paid – but some choose instead to hang around and be more involved, Foley said.
Other Upper West Side filming locations included Columbia University, Union Theological Seminary, Riverside Church, the Dublin House Bar and the now-closed Artie’s Deli – right down the street from the West 83rd Ministry.
“We literally only found [Artie’s] the day after it closed,” Foley said. “I’m sorry you guys lost Artie’s, but we were glad we found it.”
The now-closed Artie’s played the role of the (also closed) Stage Deli, a popular haunt for local comics. In the deli’s debut in the series, Midge slides into one of the original Artie’s booths and gets some very bad advice over two plates of some very good-looking pastrami.
The restaurant has gained a bit of a new life through the series. It’s appeared many times in season two as a meeting spot for Midge Maisel and her agent, Suzie Meyers.
“It’s nice sometimes to capture a little bit of the New York that’s disappearing,” Groom said.
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel season three will premiere on Amazon Prime Video on December 6th 2019.