The “Layered Absurdity” of Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’s Wonder Wheel Scene

Additionally, the real Wonder Wheel has some carriages that rock and roll back and forth—but the team decided it would be too difficult to shoot with those while still hearing the dialogue, so they were cut early on from the plan. They decided that every character would be in a stationary white carriage and only go around once, though the ride goes around twice in real life. They also played a little bit with the colors of the original Wheel, staying loyal to the show’s signature style. “Mrs. Maisel has such a look, and we decided to stick in those pastel colors even though the real Wonder Wheel is a bit more garish with its colors,” says Robson-Foster. “We decided that every carriage would be cream-colored…So it has a bit of Maisel stardust on it, which was important to do.”

To film the scene, they hatched a plan to replicate carriages on a stage in front of a green screen so that they could then film each actor in the cage and splice them together. Robson-Foster spent hours using her model to figure out all the logistics of who would be across from whom at any time as the Wheel rotated. “After a while of Lesley has explaining, explaining, ‘This has to go here and this has to go here, and then they have to be here and they have to be here,’ it’s like, literally, I just needed whiskey, ” says Sherman-Palladino with a laugh. “I just needed a drink before I sat down and looked at one more animatic. It was very technical and very precise.”

Precision was key for cinematographer M David Mullen, who rode the real Wonder Wheel with Robson-Foster as part of his research. “We rode around with my little video camera, and I filmed Lesley in the carriage just to see what the light was like,” he says. “I kind of knew where the sun tended to rise and set outside, but the light inside the carriage is rather flat because it’s coming to you from all sides, except over your head.” Mullen wrapped the entire cage in big, soft lights to create the ambient sky effect.

When it was time to shoot the scene, the entire cast came to set so they could yell their lines off camera at the actor sitting in the actual carriage. “It was a whole day of this cast getting to yell at each other at the top of their lungs,” says Sherman-Palladino, who also directed the episode. “I was so worried that they’re going to get tired, or they’re going to lose their voice. And nope, they enjoyed screaming at each other for 12 hours. And it was really fun.”

The scene is full of Maisel‘s signature stylish chaos. For example, Shalhoub’s character is shocked to see his daughter, who he had thought was in Europe on tour. But, in typical Abe fashion, he is focused on arguing about other things, like his wife’s burgeoning career as a matchmaker.

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