Interview with Screenwriter Danny Gendron (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel – “Opening Act”)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Danny Gendron: While on tour with famous singer Shy Baldwin, Midge struggles to handle newfound anxiety that comes with her looming success. Elsewhere, Susie keeps a secret from Midge that could seriously threaten their friendship and working relationship.

2. How does this script fit into the context and themes of the show?

This script zeroes in on the moment when a performer makes a certain jump in career status that means they are no longer a big fish in a small pond. In the context of the show, Midge has been crushing it at clubs, rising to the occasion at dinner theaters, and pulling a miraculous performance out of thin air for an all-or-nothing appearance on a telethon. But what happens when you start to feel like your whole career is all-or-nothing? The weight of the prospect of fame and visibility might make even the most confident performer start to crack a little.

3. Why should this screenplay be the season 3 opener for this show?

It was fortunate that season 2 of Mrs. Maisel ended with the prospect of Midge and Susie going on a six month long international tour. It gave me a lot of freedom to write our main characters in locations that are different from the show’s usual New York setting. What’s even more fortunate is that the show frequently visits various locations. So while I got to break the mold a little, I never felt like I was betraying what made the show special (something I feel a lot of spec scripts can easily end up doing).

4. How would you describe this script in two words?

“Doubt” and “Inevitability”

5. What movie have you seen the most times in your life?

That’s tough. I think it’s a tie between “Back to the Future” and “The Shawshank Redemption.”

6. How long have you been working on this screenplay?

I conceived, outlined, and wrote this spec script in about two months. I rewatched a lot of season 2 of the show and took notes on every scene to get a feel for how the show is structured and to figure out what hallmarks of the show I wanted to embrace.

7. How many stories have you written?

This year I wrote this spec and an original pilot. With that, I have now written four teleplays and a feature length screenplay. But, in my job as a television writers’ assistant, I am apart of crafting several stories a week along with the writers and showrunners in the room.

8. What is your favorite song? (Or, what song have you listened to the most times in your life?)

“The Suburbs” by Arcade Fire jumps to mind but I have a playlist of like 20 songs that I basically listen to over and over again. I also love “Don’t Get Married without Me” by Punch Brothers.

9. What obstacles did you face to finish this screenplay?

This is a story in which Midge is facing a lot of self-doubt. That turned out to be the biggest balancing act in the story because she is typically an incredibly confident character who specializes in getting people to like her. It was a fun challenge (but a challenge nonetheless) to figure out how to have scenes where people DON’T like Midge and where she loses her confidence without feeling like I was being unfaithful to the character. Ultimately, the solution was to just have her talk out how she’s feeling in real time.

10. Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?

I love music, food, and alcohol. If this writing thing doesn’t pan out, you’ll be probably find me working at a winery tasting room in Edna, California by day and hosting open mics by night.

11. You entered your screenplay via FilmFreeway. What has been your experiences working with the submission platform site?

FilmFreeway is the easiest way to submit your projects to various fests. I’ve also submitted short films through the site and what’s immediately obvious is that the festivals themselves work closely with FF. There’s mutual trust that makes you feel good about sending in your work for evaluation.

12. What influenced you to enter the festival? What were your feelings on the initial feedback you received?

As this was my first ever spec script, I was really keen to get feedback on it from people who love TV and know the show. The positivity of my feedback was frankly overwhelming and a big confidence booster. I am very fortunate that Television Feedback Fest received my piece so warmly. I would submit again in the future.

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

While serving as the opening act for singer Shy Baldwin on his European tour, Midge grapples with the anxiety and fraud complex that comes with her increasing stardom. Meanwhile, Susie wrestles with a secret she should have revealed to Midge a long time ago.

CAST LIST:

Rose: Jordan Boscariol
Joel: Fabio Abreu
Shy: Gabriel Darku
Narration: Sean Ballantyne
Midge: Justine Christensen
Susie: Elizabeth Rose Morriss
Moise: William Poulin
Abe: Steven Holmberg

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