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DGA Awards: The Couple Behind ‘Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ on Competing for the Comedy Prize

Married writer/directors Amy Sherman-Palladino and Daniel Palladino will face off this year at the Directors Guild of America Awards, having both been nominated individually for helming episodes of their hit Amazon series “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” But they’re sure not acting like a house divided.

When Variety recently caught up with the couple, Sherman-Palladino was calling from a Brooklyn hardware store, where she had just picked up a new, orange screwdriver for Palladino.

“Every night we cage fight,” quipped Sherman-Palladino of their friendly spousal competition. But the truth is, Sherman-Palladino and Palladino have carved out a winning partnership on screen, and in real life. Sherman-Palladino likes to compare their relationship to Leopold and Loeb, the infamous Chicago students who conspired to commit “the perfect crime.”

“We’re plotting the perfect murder and it’s much less of a married relationship than a very symbiotic, crazy, megalomaniac partnership that is working out very well for us. 21 years and counting,” she said.

Now, that relationship is being put to the test. As both of them compete for the DGA comedy series prize, it’s the first time a husband and wife have been up for the same DGA award. She’s nominated for “All Alone,” the show’s Season 2 finale, while Palladino is competing via the episode “We’re Going to the Catskills.”

“It was kind of funny,” Sherman-Palladino said of the in-house competition. “But it’s such a family affair that either way, possibly we go home with something shiny. Or not! Or another good show goes home with something shiny.”

Given their rival noms, the couple has at least doubled the odds for “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” at Saturday’s awards show, and momentum is on their side. Sherman-Palladino won Emmys last September in both the outstanding directing and outstanding writing categories, and the show itself won the overall outstanding comedy series trophy.

Since then, the accolades have continued, including a recent comedy win at the Producers Guild of America Awards (which the couple shared, along with the show’s other producers). Sherman-Palladino was also honored with a lifetime achievement award in television at the event.

“If we didn’t have this kind of crew and this kind of cast it would be a very different situation,” Sherman-Palladino said. “We’d be hiding a lot more in dark corners. But we have this amazing crew that reads these insane things we put down on paper and go, ‘All right, we’ll figure it out.’ And we have this cast that’s game for anything.”

“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” is an all-encompassing job for Sherman-Palladino, who directed four episodes this season and credited with writing five, and Palladino, who directed three and wrote four.

Directing is still a relatively new thing for the writers, but they’ve taken to the thrill of interpreting their words on screen. “This is a great film school for me and Amy,” Palladino said. “It’s great way for us to experiment trying to do things that we never had the resources to do before on, say, ‘Gilmore Girls,’ where we had to shoot more scenes and had way less money to play around with. We’re still having a lot of fun doing it and we’re kind of being selfish about keeping the fun to ourselves.”

Sherman-Palladino said she has relished directing on set as the antidote to the lonely life as a writer. And as a writer/director, it’s been easy to merge the two practices. “The benefit of being a writer, when you’re writing you’re starting to direct already,” she said. “So you’re writing the shots that you want to see. You write the angle, so it’s kind of like you’ve already started merging the two. But then you have to get on a set at 6:00 in the morning and do it.”

Sherman-Palladino said she, Palladino, and the rest of the show’s writers made an effort to add at least one “big, cinematic” moment to every episode of “Mrs. Maisel.” That made it difficult to ultimately choose episodes to submit for DGA; in the case of Sherman-Palladino, she settled on “All Alone” due to the sheer amount of work that went into it.

“I had in my mind that we would put up one of the Paris episodes for DGA because you’re in Paris, for f—‘s sake!” she said. “But then episode 10 came along and we had so much to wrap up from the whole season. And it became this monster episode. We had to pull sequences out because it was almost undoable, the way it was originally conceived. It became that episode that, once everyone embraced the sprawling bigness of it, became my favorite because it encompassed so much.”

As for Palladino’s episode, “We’re Going to the Catskills,” it sets up the three-episode trip showcasing the summertime family retreat — an arc that the writers had been planning since Season 1. Because of the location, far away from the show’s normal set, the Palladinos had to block-shoot all three episodes at the same time.

“It was like shooting an hour-and-a-half movie,” Palladino said. “It was our first summer episode, so we wanted it to explode with a summer feeling of joy that we had not experienced before. One of the things that we keep in mind is to make sure there’s a lot of joy in each episode to reflect Midge, a yearning for life.”

Sherman-Palladino said she was also partial to that episode because of the symbolism of what the Catskills meant to that generation. “It was bringing to life something that is lost,” she said. “That was such a big part of Jewish culture back then. It’s sad that it’s not around anymore. It was crazy and mental and wonderful and madcap. I think Dan did a lovely job.”

As they prepare to face off at the DGA Awards, Sherman-Palladino and Palladino admit they can’t get mad at the competition: Donald Glover (“Atlanta”), Hiro Murai (“Atlanta”), and Bill Hader (“Barry”). Of the nominees, only Glover and Sherman-Palladino have previously been nominated, and no one in the category has previously won a DGA Award — so it will be a first for whoever winds up on stage.

“I’m going to be applauding for whomever wins, unless it’s me, and then I’ll pretend to be very humble,” Palladino said. “[Look at] the company we’re in. We’ve met Bill Hader, and once you meet Bill Hader there’s no hating Bill Hader!”

Still, Sherman-Palladino brings up a key point: It’s a shame that she’s the only female nominated. In an age where more attention is being paid to inclusiveness and parity, the number of female directors being honored across kudos this awards season is woefully low.

“I will say my only gripe is [I am] the only woman nominated,” she said. “And I’m kind of wondering why. It seems mystifying, because the one place that women have actually made some strides, there have been a lot of women in comedy directing. I’ve worked with them. I love my dudes but I don’t understand why there aren’t other women in the mix. The Oscars is a disgrace, it’s just ridiculous.

“It’s a weird thing, it feels like if you saw ‘Leave No Trace,’ that was a fantastic movie, why wasn’t that woman [Debra Granik] nominated?” she added. “It’s not like the choices aren’t out there. The choices are out there, it’s just not happening. I am happy to represent my ovary-laden brethren, but I think it’s time to spread the wealth around.”

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