To watch Rachel Brosnahan play Midge Maisel, the housewife-turned-comedy star on The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is to be blown away by her confidence — or at least Midge’s. Then again, when you see an actor like 29-year-old Brosnahan, so obviously talented and full of presence — not to mention the winner of an Emmy after her runaway hit show’s first season — you kind of assume that must come easily to her. But that’s not necessarily the case.
We sat down with Brosnahan, just a couple of months before the highly anticipated third season return of her show (December 6!) and in celebration of two new Cetaphil products (she is the brand’s spokesperson), to find out what beauty and confidence mean to her. When asked about playing such a fearless character, she told us, “I would love to have a fraction of the amount of self-confidence that Midge has!” Scroll through to learn more about how Brosnahan handles the spotlight — and her sensitive skin.
Midge has a very defined aesthetic. What have you learned about beauty from her?
“Midge and I have slightly different beauty aesthetics. Midge is kind of a ‘more is more’ gal, and I’m a ‘less is more’ gal. But, I’ve learned not to judge what makes somebody feel beautiful. Early on in the show, a lot of people wanted to talk to me about the scene where Midge wakes up in the middle of the night to put on her makeup. I think initially, I kind of judged that scene, and her, and felt sorry for her, and thought about what a burden it must have been to feel that way. But I realized, I have realized through playing this character, that Midge’s beauty routine, no matter how different it is from mine, is something that makes her feel powerful, that makes her feel beautiful. And that’s great, too.”
What have you been able to take away about self-confidence from playing her?
“I feel like Midge has become my kind of Sasha Fierce alter ego! You know? When I’m feeling particularly vulnerable or insecure, I try to channel Midge as much as I can. But for better and for worse, Midge is somebody who pushes forward no matter what, she hardly ever looks back. And that’s something that I find really admirable that I’m certainly trying to implement in my own life.”
What advice do you have for people who are struggling with self-esteem or confidence?
“This is so much easier said than done, but please know that you are beautiful. Be kind to yourself. It’s one of the greatest exercises in self-care, and one of the biggest gifts that we can give ourselves. But also, surround yourself with a community of people, or pets, or fictional characters that make you feel good, that don’t encourage you to be anything other than who you are. Search for that community.”
I love that you included fictional characters, because I think that’s the reality for a lot of people!
“Yeah, it’s so valid.”
You started working with Cetaphil because you have super sensitive skin. What is your must-have Cetaphil product that you never go anywhere without?
“The Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser is what introduced me to Cetaphil. My mother introduced me to it more than 10 years ago. That’s the one I can’t go anywhere without. And I love…I actually recently learned, and I wish I’d known this 10 years ago, that you can use it two ways, that you can use it with or without water depending on what your skin needs that day. When my skin gets particularly sensitive and does all sorts of weird things that I can’t explain, that’s when I like to use the Gentle Skin Cleanser without water. It’s even gentler that way. It’s already a really gentle product, but without water, it’s even gentler. You just put it on a cotton round and wipe it over your face. It keeps even more moisture locked in, and then you can use it with water the traditional way, and that’s fantastic, too. I do both.
What are your best tips for dealing with your skin when it’s at its most sensitive?
“My advice for people with sensitive skin is the as my beauty mantra: less is more. It can be so tempting to use more products to try to combat whatever unique issues you’re facing! But keeping it simple is always the best way to let your skin heal, and recover, and find its balance again.”
What do you do to feel good about yourself before a red carpet appearance?
“Play loud music, eat snacks, and dance around with my hair and makeup artist, and my team, or my friends, or whoever’s with me. I think it’s so important to me to not take myself too seriously, to not get too stressed about something that shouldn’t be stressful—that should be fun. It should be a really exciting moment! How many times in your life do you get to walk a big red carpet? Or to get to play that character of yourself? It should be fun. And it’s hard to remember that sometimes. So just general silliness.”
Does that make it easier, especially as an actress, if you think of it as playing a character, or a version of yourself?
“I think so. I find it a little bit easier. It’s so vulnerable … I became an actor because I love playing other people. One of the hardest things to do is be myself in public. I’ve learned over the last couple of years that I’m kind of shy, and I didn’t really know that! I wouldn’t have ever told you that five years ago. So thinking of it as playing a character, although ultimately it’s mostly just me, helps mentally prepare.”
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel was kind of an overnight sensation. Did you have to overcome any beauty insecurities being thrust into the spotlight when the show premiered?
“Totally. Especially in the age of social media. As someone who considered myself pretty secure with myself, I never knew there were so many ways to hate myself. Until a lot of people pointed them out.And just trying to hold on to that and shut out the noise, and realize that everybody has insecurities. Sometimes you wake up with them, sometimes you go to bed with them. Sometimes they make absolutely no sense at all. But you feel it. And trying to make sure that I’m checking in with myself, and again, surrounding myself with a community of people who make me feel great, and special, and beautiful, and smart has been something that’s been really important to me through this weird whirlwind.”
Finally, for the fans of the show, what are you most excited about for the upcoming season?
“Well, I’ve seen a little bit of this season, and honestly, I’m so excited about some of the crazy technical shots that our team pulled off this season. We have…I’m sure everyone says this, but I really mean it, we have one of the best crews in the business, some of the most talented people in their fields. Our camera operator, a guy named Jim McConkey, has pulled off some extraordinary feats of camera work this season. And some of these shots, I’m kind of a film nerd, but have blown my mind.”
Wow! That’s not the answer I expected!
“It’s not necessarily something I would have said, except that I’ve seen some of it recently. And I’m just blown away by some of the technical elements of the show this season. The show just keeps getting bigger and better and it’s been fun!”