A lot of TV shows feature great acting, but at the moment there's a certain type of great acting that you can only find on The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. The show specializes in hyper-articulate, hyper-intelligent screwball banter, with jokes whizzing by so quickly that catching each punchline is less important than being carried along by the overall comic tone. For a performer, nailing this rhythm requires the ability to land both a joke's timing and its emotional undercurrent without ever waiting to make sure they land. The slightest pause could topple the entire edifice of a scene.
Not every actor is good at this, which you may recall from watching certain guest stars flub the pacing of 30 Rock. On the other hand, those with a knack for this type of comedy can ride it to stardom. Consider Tituss Burgess in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt or David Hyde Pierce in Frasier. Or better yet, think of half the cast of Maisel itself. Rachel Brosnahan and Alex Borstein have become household names by nailing their performances as stand-up comedian Midge and her cranky manager Susie. Luke Kirby, who plays Lenny Bruce, is so good that he's become the rare performer to win a Guest Actor Emmy without already being famous.
With that in mind, it's time to get excited for the fresh faces joining the cast in Season 3, which drops today on Amazon Prime. Since the show's casting has been impeccable thus far, we can assume these newcomers to the show are going to show us a new facet of their previously celebrated talents.
Here are six actors to keep your eye on as The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel returns:
Both the cast and series creator Amy Sherman-Palladino have been coy about the arc of this season, which means we have to pore obsessively over the trailer for clues. And if you look, you'll notice a moment where Sterling K. Brown does a pratfall with a drum kit. This is intriguing! According to IMDb, Brown's character is named Reggie, and it appears that he's some kind of club owner who hosts Midge on her world tour with the singer Shy Baldwin. With the exception of a memorable episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine and an SNL hosting gig, Brown is known for dramatic work that requires him to grieve (in shows like This Is Us or movies like Waves), fret, or navigate the O.J. Simpson trial, so it'll be nice to see him spread his comedic wings. He may even become to Maisel what Jon Hamm was to 30 Rock: a dramatic star revealing his funny bone.
We saw a bit of McClain last season as the aforementioned Shy Baldwin, but now that Shy and Midge are going on the road, he's been promoted to regular status. Theater fans already know McClain is a great actor, since his stage projects include everything from Othello with Philip Seymour Hoffman, to a series of edgy downtown shows in New York City. McClain had a small role on AMC's underappreciated spy drama Rubicon, but this will be his first time playing a major character on a hit series. It's possible he'll become the show's next Luke Kirby, riding his role to broader acclaim.
One much-anticipated reunion this season will be Amy Sherman-Palladino reuniting with her Gilmore Girls star Liza Weil, who played the prickly Paris Geller for seven seasons (plus the reunion season on Netflix). Since then, Weil has been a regular on How to Get Away With Murder, and before that, she guested on Sherman-Palladino's Bunheads, so if there's anybody that can nail down this tone, it's Weil. In the trailer, we see she's playing a woman with very intense eyeglasses who gives Midge some sober advice.
Just like McClain, Madeleine Martin got her start in theater. As a child actor, she was spellbinding in the original Broadway casts of August: Osage County and Martin McDonagh's terrifying play The Pillowman. She also played David Duchovny's daughter on Californication and did several episodes of Netflix's Hemlock Grove, but her run on Maisel — where she plays a character who's also named Madeleine — marks her first major comedy gig. It will be exciting to see what she can do.
Hsu has a legion of Broadway fans who adored her performance in the musical Be More Chill, and that show — about a computer that takes over teenagers' brains — proved she can find the humanity in a heightened story. She's playing a character named Mei on Maisel, and she'll probably be just as comfortable in fizzy comedy as she was in musical sci-fi.
That's right: Cary Elwes! After storming back into our collective consciousness in Stranger Things, this eternal crush object will play a guy named Gavin Hawk on Maisel. Considering he won the world's heart in The Princess Bride, which just happens to be one of the greatest comic romances of the 80s, the skin tingles to consider what he'll do with a period costume and some crackerjack wordplay.
Best of all, this list may not be complete. For all we know, there's someone else in the new season of Maisel who's just waiting to wow us. If that's true, it would be (ahem) a marvelous thing indeed.
People are talking about The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel in our forums. Join the conversation.
Mark Blankenship is a critic and reporter who has contributed to The New York Times, Variety, and many others. Tweet him at @IAmBlankenship.