Just like us, actor Michael Zegen – star of Amy Sherman-Palladino’s new show, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel – loves a good escape. We already fell in love with him on Boardwalk Empire, and now with this new hit from Amazon, the actor manages to time travel yet again, just to the 50’s not the 20’s this time around. We caught up with Zegen on everything from his last meal (which includes McNuggets), the importance of patience and why you should never accept no as an answer…
From start to finish, what would be your ideal food day?
Eggs and green juice in the morning, some sort of salad-y thing for lunch, and then Peter Luger’s steak for dinner. I try to keep healthy, and I don’t eat much red meat, but if we’re talking ideally here… Also, I’ll definitely eat a pomegranate at some point during the day. Gotta have those antioxidants!
Did you always know you wanted to be an actor? Did you ever want to be anything else?
I’ve wanted to be an actor since I was a little kid. I scored my first lead in kindergarten as the title role in “The Gingerbread Boy,” and I’ve never looked back. There may have been a brief period of time where I dabbled with being an astronaut, but outer space scares me now.
Who are some actors you looked up to when you were growing up?
I’ve always been a big Michael J. Fox fan. To this day, I don’t think any actor has ever been more likeable. Matthew Broderick, River Phoenix, and Kermit the Frog were some others. No joke about Kermit, either. He may be a puppet, but he’s as real as it gets.
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel takes place in the late 1950s; what elements in the show of your character (wardrobe, way of speaking, movement etc) are very 50s?
Obviously the clothes, but the way they slick my hair back puts me in 50’s mode immediately.
Why is the show important right now?
Well, it’s a show led by a strong female protagonist, so that’s pretty awesome right off the bat. And honestly, it’s just such a great respite from everything that’s going on in the world today. It’s funny, it’s inspiring, it’s heartwarming, and it’s beautiful to look at. You can definitely lose yourself in it. I only wish there were more episodes.
What is it like working with Amy Sherman-Palladino? What advice has she given you, and what have you learned from her?
Amy’s the best! She’s smart, funny, an amazing writer, and knows exactly what she wants. The best advice she’s given me is to stand up straighter…I tend to slouch.
Is there another time period and place you’ve always loved? What is it and why?
I’ve always been fascinated with the 1920’s. Gangsters, vaudeville, silent films, Babe Ruth…It was so cool getting to live in that world while working on Boardwalk Empire. I definitely wouldn’t mind going back there some day.
What’s your idea of the perfect first date?
Disneyland would be a pretty awesome first date – or Dave & Busters at the very least.
What’s the difference between how you approach television and how you approach movies? Theater? Is there a different approach?
The approach is the same, I think. The most important rule to follow, regardless of the medium, is to know your lines. Film and TV is more technical…you’ve gotta know exactly where to move, stand, etc. With theater, there’s a bit more freedom with the blocking. But they’re all immensely satisfying for me, and so much fun.
What similarities do you see between the world of food and Hollywood?
I guess there are celebrities in both worlds. Anthony Bourdain, Mario Batali, Iron Chef, Salt Bae, etc…Anytime I see people eating on TV or film, it makes me hungry.
What are your favorite restaurants in London, Los Angeles and New York?
While in London, I’m always partial to pub fare for some reason – fish n’ chips and whatnot. Los Angeles I think has the best sushi, and New York pizza can’t be beat. John’s on Bleecker Street is my favorite.
What would your last meal be and who would it be with?
Wow, how morbid! If it’s my last meal, I’m gonna want it all. My mom’s cooking, my grandma’s cooking, something from each of my favorite restaurants. Hell, let’s throw in some McNuggets too. And I want it set up like Smorgasburg, with all the food trucks and stuff. Can we have carnival rides too? If I’m going out, I’m going out in style. Everyone’s invited!
What advice would you give your twenty-year-old self?
Patience is key! Don’t get frustrated when something doesn’t go your way, because it’s inevitable, a part of life. And don’t take “no” for an answer. Just keep plugging along, and follow your dream. Also, be proactive! Make things happen for yourself.
If you could give us a quote of the day to sum up your mood and mode, what would it be?
“Life is tough, darling. Life is hard. And we better laugh at everything; otherwise, we’re going down the tube.” – Joan Rivers