Up until the fifth episode of the third season of Amazon’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, we haven’t gotten enough of Luke Kirby’s Lenny Bruce. He comes and goes like smoke disappearing through a swinging door. He’s unattainable and mysterious, despite being one of the most notorious comics who ever lived. Kirby is so charismatic to watch, and you yearn for more of him after he and Rachel Brosnahan’s Midge have an unexpected flirtation when she tours through Miami.
Lenny looks at Midge completely differently as they spend time together in a crowded, atmospheric bar towards the end of the fifth episode. Is it because he just watched her perform a successful set on the road? Has he always felt an affection towards her or has he always thought of her as a sister? Someone to mentor? Needless to say, the way he looks at Midge as the music plays is not a way that we’ve seen him look at her before. Luke Kirby melts the screen.
The entire third season of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel raises the stakes, and Kirby’s performance is no exception. There are brief questions of mortality and the what sex can do to a relationship. These are more intimate themes explored through this huge, detailed world, but they might be the most important ones.
Awards Daily: A character calls Lenny “notorious” this season and he has that reputation. I feel like we hear that every season. Do you think Lenny gets tired of being called that?
Luke Kirby: I can’t imagine anyone would get tired of being called notorious, especially anyone who indulges in the game of show business. I kind of think that he knows that that’s part of the deal of the game—the allure of notoriety. It’s better to fess up to things like that over humility. My hunch is that he likes it to some degree.
AD: Who wouldn’t?
AD: What did you think about that Miami episode when you first read it?
LK: I think the sets are always incredible. Bill Groom just bowls me over. The work that everyone does is so immersive, and I think that’s why everyone loves it to much. The show wants to visually explore dimension so every nook and cranny has to be filled, but it makes, for actors, something really great for us to rely on to be transported. Every time I walk on set, I feel like I am taken away and that makes it all very more enjoyable. Sometimes you are given a very little amount of space, and there are so many distractions that pull you out of that. It’s very exciting, because it satisfies that childhood fantasy of what it would be like inside a movie.
AD: Yeah, the whole show is so gorgeous. I think your chemistry with Rachel [Brosnahan}] is my favorite. Would you personally want to see anything happen between Lenny and Midge or would you be worried about something changing?
LK: I think that’s something that everybody, at some point in their life, has had to struggle with. It’s hard to know. My feelings about it are that if they were to cross a threshold, it would have to be worth it.
LK: Historically, I think those odds are about 50/50. There is a real magnet that exists between Lenny and Midge and it’s hard to know what would come if they were pulled in closer to one another.
AD: You can’t know that until you’re propositioned with that idea, right?
LK: Yeah. At the end of the episode, there’s something further than acknowledgement, right? There’s also the allure about the moment before—that sort excitement, the effervescence.
AD: That anticipation.
LK: That’s a beautiful thing that you can’t lock in amber.
AD: There is a moment where you are both standing outside the room and the camera is positioned inside. Neither of you are ever looking into the room at the same time really. It’s a small, lovely moment where you’re going back and forth from glancing into the room and glancing back out.
AD: There are some allusions to death and ending in the final moments of that scene. Do you find, since you’re playing a real person, that you have to forget the trajectory of that person?
LK: I do try to not think about it. I try to play it as a man living in the moment. I really strive for that, but he casts a long shadow, for sure. There is a long myth around Lenny Bruce, and it’s still such a great privilege to play him in any fashion. That line is that kind of thing that can be just the poetry of someone saying something in a moment. He’s not saying that with any kind of sentient awareness, but contextually, we know the truth. It has a lot more punch. It’s the kind of thing that anyone would say. We all share that burden of knowing that this is a terminal experience.
AD: Do you think that Lenny still resonates because he was such a fighter for truth? There is that scene where Tony [Shalhoub] is confused as to why you are getting pulled off stage and arrested, and I think that really sparks something for his character. Does that have to be continually brought back to our attention?
LK: It’s hard to comment on that, because he was speaking about something that was so specific to the time he was living. Some would say that made it easier in a certain regard, most notably free speech’s relationship to entertainment. Lenny was vigilant for sure. Our ancestors are our proof of survival. When I reflect on the idiotic odds it takes for us to be having this conversation and experiencing this one life, it’s pretty staggering. In some ways, it makes me feel better about days like today.