What You Don't Know About Rachel Brosnahan

The following references suicide. 

Rachel Brosnahan has been a working actor since 2009, but it's one iconic part that turned her into a bona fide TV star. Playing the titular role in "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel," viewers quickly fell in love with the 1950s Jewish housewife turned aspiring stand-up comic determined to play by her own rules. As quick-witted comedian Midge Maisel, a character who may be inspired by the late Joan Rivers, Brosnahan brings fans along for a wild and crazy ride, imbuing the part with vulnerability, warmth, and her disarming "never-say-die" attitude. 

RogerEbert.com called the performance "a star-making turn for Rachel Brosnahan," adding that it's one of the great TV roles. And the rewards and accolades keep on coming. With two Golden Globes, an Emmy, and a Screen Actors Guild Award to her name, this red-hot star has established a stellar career.

The big question is, what do we really know about the woman behind all those fab '50s outfits you see on TV? Is she funny when the cameras aren't rolling? Are there skeletons in her closet (or rats in her toilet)? There's one thing we do know: This is a celebrity who doesn't broadcast every detail about her private life. So we looked under every rock we could find to bring you all the deets. This one will definitely be a lot of fun.

She isn't Jewish, but she's been to a lot of bat mitzvahs

"The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" features Jewish traditions like celebrating Hanukkah, going to Shabbat services, vacationing in the Catskills, and going to the kosher deli. Series star Rachel Brosnahan, however, is not of Jewish descent.

Born in Milwaukee, Brosnahan grew up in Highland Park, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. She told the Chicago Tribune that the role of Midge Maisel "felt very familiar to me. I grew up happily immersed in Jewish culture and community." In an interview with Vanity Fair, she said she's been to "hundreds of Bar Mitzvahs, Bat Mitzvahs. I could maybe Bat Mitzvah you." Acknowledging that in Highland Park, she was "in the minority," she later told Variety, "I spent more time in a temple than any other house of worship. I love that this show is unabashedly Jewish." 

According to the Capital Gazette, Brosnahan's parents weren't thrilled their young daughter wanted to pursue an acting career. "She wanted to teach herself from the beginning," Rachel's mom Carole said about her daughter, adding, "She did it all on her own, and we were really just in the background." Rachel paints a slightly different picture of the family dynamic for Cosmopolitan UK. When she told them about her career choice, she said, "My parents were horrified, but said as long as I went to school and studied the craft, they would be supportive — and they were."

She was on her high school's wrestling team

Rachel Brosnahan started acting in school plays and musicals at a young age, but she also liked playing sports, according to Biography. "I come from a really athletic family and used to love extreme sports," she told Men's Journal. "Now I'm afraid of breaking my face!" She started hitting the slopes of her home state at an early age. "I grew up skiing, but when I was 11 or 12, I tried snowboarding and found out I was better at it than I ever was at skiing. Skiing is hard."

In high school, she spent a lot of time zipping down local ski runs with an organization called the Snowflake Club, and according to Glamour, she became a certified snowboarding instructor for kids so she could snowboard for free. She also joined the wrestling team, where she competed against boys and girls. "I never felt like the only chick on the team—I was just a part of the team," she said.

Since it was done by weight class, that was all that counted when they picked who you were up against. "So within your weight class, everybody has totally different skill sets; the only thing you have in common is that you weigh the same," Brosnahan said. "It didn't matter if I wasn't as strong as the guy if I was faster or better in a position."

She didn't think she would get her first big role

Rachel Brosnahan was only 17 when she got a callback for her first on-camera role, but she wasn't banking on landing it. "From the beginning it was all working against me. I was told I was too young and too short, and that they didn't want somebody with red hair," she explained to Zimbio. She also was all set to go on a trip that conflicted with the shoot dates, and she wasn't entirely ready to drop those plans. After booking the part in "The Unborn," she said, "They must have thought I was a complete moron. I'm fairly positive they gave me this part just to f*** with me. I had no idea what I was doing. I'm lucky that anybody ever gave me a job again." But it wasn't all smooth sailing after that gig. Brosnahan, known more for her dramatic chops than her one-liners, says she has been turned down a lot for not making people laugh.

"I've lost many jobs because people would say, 'We really liked her, but she's just not funny," she told Glamour. "I'm laughing [at the fact that] I'm now an award-winning comedic actress." A comedic actor who has won awards for her portrayal of a stand-up comic, at that. What's more, the TV funny lady gets a kick out of being on the receiving end of the punch lines. "I'm easily entertained, so I'm the best person to have in the audience!" she told Cosmopolitan UK. "I love a good fart joke. Nothing makes me laugh more than farts."

She was 'so sick' during her Midge Maisel tryout

There are a few different accounts of Rachel Brosnahan's audition for "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel." Creator Amy Sherman-Palladino (who also created "Gilmore Girls") told The New York Times, "She blew in like a hurricane. Her pages didn't shake, her hands didn't shake. There was literally no fear." What Sherman-Palladino didn't see was that the actor was sick as a dog. Per Harper's Bazaar, after what she felt was a rocky previous audition, Brosnahan was invited back for an informal meeting with Sherman-Palladino and her husband, co-creator Dan Palladino. However, the morning of the flight that would take her to said meeting, Brosnahan felt so rough she worried she would have to back out entirely and potentially lose out on the part that would — spoiler alert — catapult her career to new heights. Determination won out, and she boarded the flight after all.  

Somehow, Brosnahan managed to get through the meeting. She recalled to Harper's Bazaar, "I rallied, but I honestly was so sick during the camera test — I was so sweaty Amy kept stopping me because I had to powder my face, I was blowing my nose, I took my shoes off at some point... at best, that test was a beautiful disaster!" Disaster or not, it all worked out in her favor. Fittingly, she added, "Midge is kind of a disaster sometimes."

Rachel Brosnahan isn't a fan of Los Angeles

Soon after she graduated from the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU, Rachel Brosnahan took the advice of a studio executive about where she should hang her hat. "You can be an actor in New York, but you can only make a living as an actor in L.A," she recalled in a chat with Rolling Stone. So she packed her bags and moved out West, only to return to the Big Apple eight months later.

Her biggest beef on the West Coast, she said, was the supermarket scene. "In New York, you go to the grocery store however the f*** you can get there, whatever you look like, wherever the line is shortest," observed the actor. "In L.A., the grocery store was a runway. People are done up to go to the grocery store." Living in La-La Land, the "Manhattan" star recalled "talking about juice a lot and drinking juice a lot and spending a lot of time planning yoga." Evidently, the green juice way of life did not feel like a natural fit for her. Heading back to New York to be part of a hit show she describes as "such a love letter to New York," on the other hand, suits her just fine. Spending her life in the City That Never Sleeps, she explained, is just icing on the green juice.

She once pulled a dead rat out of her toilet

Yep, some celebrities have to roll up their sleeves and deal with plumbing issues just like us. The usually glammed-up, done-up TV star showed she really loved New York last December, but in a very unglamorous way. Rachel Brosnahan posted the photo (above) on Instagram as she was pulling something out of her bathroom bowl. As the city was facing a new wave of COVID-19 cases due to the omicron variant, she wrote, "New York, I love you. Stay safe out there folks and let's please look out for each other as this new wave moves through our ranks."

She concluded the post, revealing precisely what she was digging out of the porcelain throne. "In other NYC news, today I pulled a drowned rat out of our toilet." No surprise to other dyed-in-the-wool New Yorkers. Sewer rats are commonplace in the city. Remember Pizza Rat, the pesky rodent who scurried down the stairs of a New York subway station with his coveted slice of pie?

For anybody living in the five boroughs, it comes with the territory. But the pandemic has made a bad situation even worse. As The New York Times reported in November 2021, the city's rat population skyrocketed from 2019 to 2021. The report points to restaurants being shut down or abandoned, excessive garbage on the streets, and rats becoming more bold and determined as some of the possible causes for the uptick.

She kept her marriage under wraps

In 2019, Rachel Brosnahan surprised fans with her arm candy when she picked up yet another piece of hardware for her comedic talent. At the Screen Actors Guild Awards ceremony, the winner kissed her husband, "Magicians" star Jason Ralph, before she walked on stage, per People. At the ceremony, she said that she and Ralph had been married for some time — a detail that'd previously flown right under the radar. In a statement, Brosnahan explained there are a few reasons she tries to keep her private life out of the public eye.

"The first being that it's just that...personal," she said. "Jason and I also noticed early on that, while we are both the leads of successful television series, he has almost never been asked about our relationship while I have been asked on almost every red carpet I have walked in the last 2 years," she wrote. "We both find this double standard problematic and frustrating." When she's doing interviews at award shows, she would much prefer to talk about, you know, the thing she's there for and/or about to win a trophy for. 

According to Biography, the couple met in 2015 on the set of the TV series "Manhattan." Ralph has been a huge "Mrs Maisel" fan from the very beginning. In 2018, the "Younger” actor even dressed up for Halloween as his wife's beloved character, donning her pink and fuschia ensemble from Season 1 of the show, per Page Six. Brosnahan, in a since-deleted Instagram post, responded to the pic, quoting her husband, "Who wouldn't want to come home to this every night?' – @rasonjalph winning Halloween."

Rachel Brosnahan is actually a natural blond

In 2019, after celebrating a Broadway show opening with a friend, snapshots of the "House of Cards" alum with blond hair surfaced, sparking a flurry of questions. Take Stylecaster, who wrote, "I thought maybe she was having an identity crisis." No crisis here. As it turns out, blond is her natural color.

"I'm naturally blond," Rachel Brosnahan told Popsugar. "I started dyeing my hair really dark when I was 16, and then I waited almost 10 years before I went back to blond." She switched from blond to brunette at different points in her life, and even to ginger for a while. She does, however, have a preference. "Even though I'm a natural blonde — and normally I'm a huge advocate for being exactly who you are — but I really feel more myself with dark hair," she said. "I like them both, but when I look in the mirror with dark hair, I feel like I see myself, and when I look in the mirror with blond hair, I see a fun but slightly different version of myself."

As for the actor's brown locks on "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel"? Well, that actually isn't Brosnahan's hair at all. As Jerry DeCarlo, head of the show's hair department, told Refinery29, Midge Maisel wears a wig — and a "perky" one at that. "She has a perky quality as a character, so we wanted the wig to match," DeCarlo explained. 

Fashion designer Kate Spade was her aunt

Rachel Brosnahan is the niece of renowned fashion designer and entrepreneur Kate Spade, who died in 2018. Her death was ruled a suicide, according to The New York Times. A year after losing her aunt, Brosnahan told People her family was still struggling. "I think my family and I, as you can expect, are still grieving very deeply." Earlier that year, the "Patriot's Day" actor announced she would be the new face of Kate Spade's luxury footwear and handbags collection by Frances Valentine to honor the legacy of her famous aunt.

Brosnahan explained that she and her family were touched by the outpouring of support they received from people who were touched by the designer. "When you lose someone you love, you search for boundless ways to keep their memory alive," she told People at the time. "This felt like a way to do that through her beautiful creations and an opportunity to share them with all of those who her work meant so much to."

On the one-year anniversary of the designer's death, Kate Spade New York announced it was donating $1 million to support suicide prevention and mental health awareness, per People. In honor of her late aunt, Brosnahan wrote on Instagram, "She was exceedingly kind, beautifully sensitive, insanely talented, funny as heck and one of the most generous people I have ever known. She was effervescent."

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ at​ 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

How much is Rachel Brosnahan worth?

According to Celebrity Net Worth, Rachel Brosnahan is worth an estimated $15 million, earning about $300 thousand per episode for her work on "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel." But that $300k per show doesn't tell the whole story. When she signed on to do the series, per The Hollywood Reporter, she was reportedly making about $100 thousand per episode — which was less than some of the other more seasoned cast members, like "Monk" actor Tony Shaloub.

After the show raked in eight Emmy Awards from its first season, several actors got pay bumps, most notably its headlining star. Brosnahan tripled her salary, shooting her above Shaloub, who landed at about $250k per episode. Her deal may also include backend profits (meaning a share of the profits). At the very least, she earned $2.4 million dollars in 2022 just for eight episodes. Cha-ching!

This doesn't take into account the income she earned from any of her movie roles, like her critically-acclaimed turn in "I'm Your Woman" or her startling transformation in "50 States of Fright." Brosnahan also has another revenue stream, developing shows exclusively for Amazon studios with her own production company, Scrap Paper Pictures. It's safe to say this marvelous lady will be sitting pretty for quite some time.

She's an advocate for homeless youth

When Rachel Brosnahan was in her early 20s, some friends in the Broadway community asked her to join them to support an event called the Covenant House Sleep Out. Covenant House is a nonprofit that provides shelter, food and services to homeless youth, operating in 31 cities across six countries, per the organization's website. "They presented it as an invitation to spend some time with some of the young people who called Covenant House home," Brosnahan explained to Health.

There was one young man there whose story tugged at her heartstrings. "I was also 23 and was struck by how, with a few small shifts in circumstance, we could be sitting on other sides of the table," she recalled "It didn't feel fair, and it didn't feel right." Brosnahan later joined the board of Covenant House and she's passionate about the work the organization does.

Per the nonprofit's website, Covenant House's mission is to support "young people facing homelessness and survivors of trafficking through unconditional love, absolute respect, and relentless support," with its doors open 24/7. "Young people who are overcoming homelessness at Covenant House are our future doctors, teachers, lawyers, and mothers and fathers," Brosnahan said. She points out that unhoused youth have "hopes, dreams, goals, fears, triumphs, and low points" — just like anybody else. "They just need an opportunity."

She calls herself a 'crazy dog lady'

Besides hubby Jason Ralph, there are two other loves in Rachel Brosnahan's life. They would be Winston, a Shibu Inu, and Nikki, a pit mix. "They're my fur children," she told Men's Journal, as she admitted she might be a tad pooch-possessed. "I can hang with the craziest of the crazy dog ladies." As for the most "crazy dog lady" thing she's ever done? "I was in Vancouver and going on vacation for a week, and I didn't want to board them because Nikki is a rescue and she's a little bit nervous," she recalled." I spent five days driving them all the way to Dallas to stay with family. My best friend came along, and we turned it into a big old doggie road trip." 

And when it was time to get gussied up in glam pajamas for the virtual Emmys in 2020? Brosnahan, Ralph, and their two pups wore matching PJs. As far as who enjoyed themselves the most during that evening's relatively casual extravaganza, the TV star told Cosmopolitan UK, "Definitely the dogs. Nikki loves clothes, she really does. She was strutting her stuff." Brosnahan didn't pick up another trophy that night, but she did get to watch the proceedings in the comfort of her own home with her man and those precious fur balls. Not a bad consolation prize.

A co-star says Rachel Brosnahan is a 'hero'

If you're looking for backstage drama, you might not like what Rachel Brosnahan's fellow cast members have to say about her. They like her. They really like her. Michael Zegen, who plays Midge's husband Joel, told Us Weekly his co-star is an "amazing talent." The "Frances Ha" actor said he especially likes going toe-to-toe with Midge in their frequent argument scenes. "I know she's gonna bring it and I'm gonna bring it and we're gonna have the best time doing it," he shared.

Kevin Pollack, who plays father-in-law Moishe Maisel on the show, refers to the star as a "powerhouse talent who's a mother hen over the entire crew and cast." As Rose, Midge's mother, Marin Hinkle often doesn't see eye-to-eye with her on-screen daughter, but the "Once and Again" star called Brosnahan her "hero," referencing what the Emmy winner does with her life beyond the cameras. "She's touching a million different places and all of them are filled with charitable, humanitarian gifts," Hinkle gushed. "She's an inspiration."

The actor who plays Lenny Bruce on the series, Luke Kirby, acknowledged that playing the lead in a series like "Mrs Maisel" and promoting it is a tough job. "She's just always there and incredible and bringing so much curiosity and energy to anything that we're doing," he said. "It makes traveling to that make-believe all the easier just by virtue of her kind of lighting up."

What's next for Rachel Brosnahan?

It's official: Per TVLine, the fifth season of "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" is officially the final chapter in Midge's story. So, what's next for its marquee star? Frankly, it looks like the world is her oyster. In 2020, Deadline announced she would be appearing in the film "Dead for a Dollar" with Christoph Waltz and Benjamin Bratt. Add that to an earlier scoop from Deadline about her starring role in "The Switch," a film adaptation of Beth O'Leary's novel.

In April 2022, Rachel Brosnahan will be heard, not seen, in another role. Per Variety, Brosnahan is Miranda Grosvenor in "The Miranda Obsession," a scripted podcast series inspired by a true story. Other celebrity voices in the cast include Josh Groban and "This is Us" star Milo Ventimiglia. This was produced under Brosnahan's Scrap Paper Pictures umbrella, which has several projects in the works.

Per Deadline, the company will produce a second installment of "Yearly Departed" with Yvonne Orji from "Insecure," and according to Fortune, a new comedy series. When she signed her deal with Amazon in 2020, Brosnahan said, according to Deadline, that she wants to work alongside the streamer's team "to amplify stories and storytellers that have been left out of the mainstream narrative for far too long." A year later, she commented, "We're just getting started."