“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” Reid Scott Interview: Will Gordon Date Midge?

The “Veep” alum tells IndieWire about joining “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” as a badass TV host — and possible romantic foil.

Reid Scott plays perhaps the most well-known asshole, so it’s understandable if fans of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” are on high alert this season.

Scott joins the Prime Video comedy in its final season as late-night talk show host Gordon Ford and Midge Maisel’s (Rachel Brosnahan) new boss, who struggles with the unruly territory of an all-male television writing room. In Episode 3, Gordon tries to kiss her, and in Episode 4, he boldly asks her out, despite being married (“I’m not that married,” he says cryptically).

“I’m attracted to these characters who have different sides where you can see beneath the surface,” Scott told IndieWire via Zoom. “And that was the great thing; Every script, episode by episode, we get to peel back another little layer and learn a little bit more about this guy, and it just renews and refreshes.”

Scott’s show is an amalgamation of late night hosts throughout history; the young Johnny Carson at its core, but with elements of Jack Paar, Steven Allen, Jack Benny—all stamped by Amy Sherman-Palladino and Dan Palladino and infused with a certain type of Hollywood persona that Scott knows all too well but can’t resist.

“It might seem like a no-brainer, but I loved that the writers of ‘The Gordon Ford Show’ clearly respected and feared him, but they also respected him because he was so good at his job,” Scott said. “It’s kind of an apt reflection of Hollywood, for better or worse. Bad behavior is often rewarded in Hollywood because someone is simply good at it.”

Scott spoke with IndieWire about expanding his role, joining the Palladino verse, and what will happen between Gordon and Midge in the final episodes.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

IndieWire: When did you know Gordon was going to play a bigger role in Season 5, and what was your reaction?

Reid Scott: Between seasons 4 and 5 (the showrunners) said they wanted me to be a regular, I really wanted to explore that world. Amy and Dan are huge fans of all forms of comedy, so it was clearly very important to them that this was the one format they hadn’t really played before. They told me once… all the juicy stuff behind the scenes that they wanted to get into, I was really into it and I loved it.

It’s really cool to pinch. I thought it was just a cameo in season 4.

We weren’t sure. We really weren’t sure. Yes.

Did you look to any talk show host or other type of role for inspiration when developing the character?

I’ve done quite a bit of research. My real formative years were the ’90s, so I was stuck in late night, which was maybe at its peak because Letterman and Jay Leno were still on the air. Conan came up with something completely new that really captivated my generation and took us back to late night, and my parents were huge Johnny Carson fans and so was my grandfather.

I tried really hard not to impress this guy. I didn’t want to base it on anyone in particular, but I wanted to bring together the greats who were there before. It was fun to play with the different mannerisms of one, the inflections of the other, the way this guy delivered a joke, how he worked the room, how he did an interview—and it was fun to try them out.

There’s the infamous Amy Sherman-Palladino dialogue beat. You did it in season 4 as well, but how did you do it the first time and then this time it came in and was more comfortable?

Oh, I loved it. There’s a musicality to everything they write, and I’m certainly not the first to point that out. It is an honor to serve their words. And it works – especially in the larger group scenes, the real give and take, the quick passing of the ball, it really feels more like a dance troupe or a sports team. You all share. And then the one-on-one scenes that I got to play with Rachel, it’s really give and take, it’s rapid-fire—but then the pace changes. It’s so much fun. It keeps you on your toes, it’s incredibly exhausting. You never want to miss a word, an “um” or a comma, respecting every detail, but then you see the end result and realize it’s all part of the grand plan.

A group of men surround and sit in a 1960s rink, zamboni on the ice;  still from it "The wonderful Mrs. Maisel"

A fief and his fief; “The Wonderful Mrs. Maisel”

Philippe Antonello/Prime

What was the learning experience like as an actor then? Because it sounds like a crash course in a writer’s own style.

This. It’s different from ‘Veep,’ which was also incredibly well written, but obviously we were encouraged to do a lot of improvisation and mess around. Entering Dan and Amy’s world, where everything is incredibly specific, it was an adjustment. It brought into focus a lot of things about my acting that I hadn’t necessarily forgotten, but depending on the performance, you use different muscles. I like to go back to that, which really felt more like theater. You score points, dance with the camera, play with your partner, use these wonderful words. It’s like nothing else on television, I can tell you that, and the experience — I’ve carried it over to the projects I’ve done since because I love working that way and I didn’t know how I was going to.

You mentioned “Veep”; have you played some charming assholes or should I say asshole charmers? Where does Gordon fall in this repertoire?

That was the thing that hit us the hardest: everyone on “Veep” was morally reprehensible. Every single person was just a horrible, horrible, horrible human being. Gordon is not a terrible human being. I think he’s a good guy deep down. He’s so driven, so driven, so laser-focused on being number one, that he rules this little fiefdom of the “Gordon Ford Show” with such an iron fist that his ambition sometimes clouds his judgment. I think he’s a results-oriented guy, so it’s like, “Whatever you have to do, if you’re not the guy, if you’re not the girl, get out of the way. And on to the next one, and boohoo for you.”

Did you root for Gordon and Midge? Should the audience cheer for them?

I was sure. I think Gordon was totally blown away. First he gets a few giggles when he sees her making it at Wolford, then he’s charmed by her beauty and attitude, and then that charm sort of morphs into: he’s seduced, he can’t quite figure it out. . In general, these conquests are not so elusive for him. But he’s an intellectual guy, so I don’t think he’s the type of guy who just tries to sleep with women. I think he’s saying, “Oh, I care about that,” so he wants her—and the fact that he can’t have her makes him want her even more.

How do you play a role like that when you have to draw the line between being creepy again and still being this charming, dignified figure?

It’s definitely the writing that sets the direction, and they struck a wonderful balance in that where the creepiness never got bogged down. From the perspective of 2023, it’s, “Well, this behavior is completely wrong.” But you try to put yourself in the mindset of 1961, you realize it happened, so let’s move on. Let’s play it out. I think the worst thing you can do is cheapen it by softening the blows. No, no, no – play up how inappropriate or misogynistic it was, because it’s real, and it gives her character something to push back against.

I love playing these characters who are sometimes a little rough, mean, horrible, because I think I know some of these people. And I don’t like these people, which is strange, I’m drawn to playing these characters. I think it’s because I want to represent them in a way that you can do both; you can hate them, which you should at times, but i like making them human. And knowing that even if there’s someone you absolutely hate, somewhere there was once someone deserving of love—so where is that, and how do we show it? This is how we should treat each other in the world right now. Someone may be terrible, but how can we help them change?

New episodes of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” premiere Fridays on Prime Video.

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