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When The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel calls, you catch that bus

Meryl Prendergast, a second year student, was cast as an extra in the TV show The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, which recently won several Emmy awards. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

What happens when you’re working on the Emmy-winning show The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel? Well, you get to see big-name actors being regular people. You get a 1950s-style hairdo and costume. And, you take a quick nap leaning up against a fence between early-morning takes.

At least, that’s what it was like for Meryl Prendergast, a second-year student in Northeastern’s Department of Theatre who was cast as an extra for the show’s second-season finale.

Prendergast spent her summer applying to casting calls in the Boston and New York areas in order to gain film experience. Having performed in several of Northeastern’s productions so far, she was comfortable with her theater experience, but wanted to know more about what working in film might be like.

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One Tuesday afternoon, Prendergast’s phone lit up. It was a casting agent from the Amazon-produced show The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, asking if she could be in New York City the next day for a fitting. The only problem was she was in Boston, training to be a resident assistant.

“I panicked, but I knew I was doing this,” Prendergast recalled.

She got on a bus at 10 p.m. that same day, and pulled into New York’s Port Authority at 2:30 a.m. Wednesday. A few hours later, she was in a room where Mrs. Maisel staff were taking her measurements for the show’s 1950’s-era costuming.

Her fitting was Wednesday, and shooting the scene happened Friday. In between, Prendergast helped freshmen move into her residence hall.

Prendergast and the other 79 extras who were going to be in the scene were shepherded to a big room where they spent hours getting their hair and makeup done and getting into costume. By 8:45 p.m. Friday , everyone was ready.

Prendergast couldn’t say much about the scene she was in because the episode hasn’t aired yet. But she could say that it was a nighttime scene that took place partially outside a large party. Her job, and that of several actors, was to walk down the sidewalk outside the ballroom where the main action takes place to build the sense that there were people out and about. When all’s said and done, you might be able to see her pass by a window.

“It’s really amazing how much time they spent on a scene that’s probably three minutes long,” Prendergast said. “I must’ve walked past the same window, in heels, at least 20 times. The attention to detail of everyone working on this show was incredible.”

Set crew had rented vintage cars to cruise the street and would wet down the pavement to make it appear more dramatic on film, Prendergast said. Portable air conditioning machines blasted the street with cold air so none of the actors sweated through their makeup. It was mid-August, after all.

Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

Between takes, Prendergast could see the series’ stars, Rachel Brosnahan (who plays the titular Miriam “Midge” Maisel) and Michael Zegen (who plays Joel Maisel), joking with each other and “just dancing around,” she said.

“It was so cool to see them,” she said. “They had to keep up the same energy level the whole night, and that was inspiring.”

They wrapped up at 6:30 a.m., having worked all through the night. It was during a brief respite around 4 a.m. that Prendergast, leaning against a fence, thinks she accidentally fell asleep for a few minutes.

The whole experience, exhausting as it was, has made Prendergast consider a future in film after graduation, she said. And, a chance moment of synchronicity certainly didn’t hurt.

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Prendergast gathered with some friends to watch this year’s Emmy Awards, held earlier this month. Award night fell on Prendergast’s 20th birthday, so she wore a red gown to celebrate both occasions. As luck would have it, Brosnahan also wore a red dress to the gala, where she and Mrs. Maisel crew swept up eight awards.

“We tuned in a little late, so the first person I actually saw on stage was Rachel Brosnahan, accepting an award for The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel in her red dress,” Prendergast said. “It was incredible just to know that I had a small part in this amazing show.”

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