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The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Music Supervisor Robin Urdang on Her Journey From Working in Bars to Becoming a Three-Time Emmy Winner

June 16, 2022 01:37 | By
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Image via Amazon Prime Video

The music of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is as much a part of the show’s creative mosaic as its lively performances, colorful cinematography, smart writing, and eye-popping sets. So, it should surprise no one that Music Supervisor Robin Urdang has already collected three Emmys for her work on the show, and is once again likely to be nominated a couple of more times before the wildly popular Amazon series concludes its run after its upcoming fifth season.

Urdang’s credits date back 30 years, starting with The Mambo Kings (music coordinator), and continuing on with Gummo, 3000 Miles to Graceland, Soul Men, Beginners, Brothers & Sisters, Bunheads, Burn Notice, Suspiria, Younger, Nomadland, Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, and Call Me by Your Name.

Below the Line recently caught up with the energetic, talkative Urdang, who revealed how she got into the business and discussed the joys and challenges of working on The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. She also admitted that, given her job, it’s tough to just sit back and enjoy music without imagining how she might put a memorable song to good use in a future project.

Robin Urdang

Image via Amazon Prime Video

Below the Line: What is your take on what music can or should bring to a show or a movie?

Robin Urdang: That’s a loaded question. I always feel like it should allow people to feel what they want to feel, and not push them or make them feel something. It’s a huge part of any project. If the music is wrong or it doesn’t work properly, if the music is leading in the wrong way, it can totally ruin the film or the show. When music is used right, sometimes you don’t even notice it and sometimes you love it. It makes you feel. It’s another character.

BTL: How does one become a music supervisor? Is it a job you chased, or did you fall into it?

Urdang: This is something I actually fell into. When I was young and I went to college, I was always working at the bars. I loved the music. I listened to new music that was on the cutting edge, that wasn’t even out yet at the time. We didn’t have Spotify. We didn’t have any of these great apps. So, everything was just research, finding great music, and listening to things that were coming out on the radio. A friend of mine once said that I should be a DJ and I said, ‘Absolutely not,’ because I can’t speak in public.

I then worked for a music/comedy management company. They had a comedy club, and I liked the music end of it. When I moved to L.A., and I worked for Manhattan Transfer, I decided I wanted to move back to New York. When I did, Janis Siegel from Manhattan Transfer called me and said, ‘Robert Kraft is doing a movie in New York. It’s called The Mambo Kings. Do you want to work for him?’ I said, ‘Sure!’ That’s the first job I ever had.

BTL: Going into The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, what were your expectations, and how different or similar has the reality of the experience been?

Urdang: I worked with Amy [Sherman-Palladino] and Dan [Palladino] on previous projects, Bunheads and the Gilmore Girls revival. I received a call, and I’ll never forget it. I was driving down my street in Bell Canyon, where I lose service. I pulled over and they said, ‘We have this little pilot we want to do and we’d love you to do it with us.’ I said, ‘No problem. I’d love to.’ We talked about it, and that little pilot became The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.

The first season, there wasn’t on-camera music. There weren’t big, huge production numbers. That music was used by Amy and Dan as score and source… both. We started with the composer at one point and realized it didn’t make sense to have a composer, because they loved using songs. It became huge, like doing a musical every two weeks. They use music so brilliantly, and I’m so happy to be a part of it.

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Image via Amazon Prime Video

BTL: What’s it like to have won three Emmys for this show?

Urdang: It was incredibly exciting, because music supervisors were never eligible for Emmys. I’d watch award shows. My sister is a producer, and my other sister is an actor. We always used to sit down and I said, ‘I would never get up there. I can’t even imagine these people, how they get up on stage and have to say thank you.’ The first year we won the Emmy, I made such a fool of myself on the stage. Dan said something, and then Amy. Dan said, ‘Robin’s going to speak,’ and I threw my glasses on the floor by accident. Dan picked them up, but I couldn’t read what I wrote, so I just stood there and said, ‘Hi.’ I was speechless.

It was so incredibly rewarding, because we work so hard on the show. There are so many things about the show people don’t realize. In addition to finding music and creating the sound of the show that Amy and Dan do, we also take existing records and add instrumentals to [them]. Everything is done so precisely and with such great thought. We never have time for anything because we’re still a TV show. We’re not a movie. We have 8 to 10 scripts, depending on the season, and have to get everything done quickly. It’s been an incredible challenge, and wonderful.

BTL: Tell us more about the team you work with…

Urdang: We have an amazing team of people, including music. Stewart Lerman is the executive music producer, who not only has the talent, he has such patience. He’s so calm. He’s so easy to work with. Matt Shapiro, who’s one of the co-producers, he puts everything together for us. He’s my rock. I’m in L.A. and he’s in New York. He’s got Amy’s ear all the time, so a lot of things go through Matt to come to me. Some things go directly from Amy to me when it’s creative, like picking songs and wanting certain things. We have Curtis Moore and Tom Mizer, songwriters. Annette Kydrak is a brilliant music editor. What she does is insane.

We have a lot of on-camera musicians show up. We had Shy Baldwin’s voice, which was Darius de Haas, because (actor Leroy McClain) didn’t sing. We have a team of people that make the show what it is. David Chase does all the arrangements, or many of them. They all work together. There are no egos. I’ve worked on so many projects where people fight each other and egos are involved. This one, it’s like we’re all trying to make this show the best everything we can. We have incredible showrunners, writers, and creators. Amy and Dan are fantastic. They know what they’re doing and they’ve created a beautiful monster.

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Image via Amazon Prime Video

BTL: We’re heading into the endgame for Mrs. Maisel. How hard will it be to say goodbye to the show, the team, and to the wonderful period music you’ve gotten to live with the past few years?

Urdang: Saying goodbye to the show could bring tears to my eyes, saying it now. It’s been years. It’s going to be incredibly difficult. Hopefully, we’ll all continue to work together on other projects. And I am already working with the team on other things. So, we will work together again.

BTL: And that period music?

Urdang: I’m actually working on another project called Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies, which has music from 1954 and earlier, so the period music I won’t miss as much as I will miss the show. I do a lot of period music because I love it. I am also finishing up a project that has ’60s and ‘70s music, but I don’t think anything will ever take the place of Mrs. Maisel.

BTL: You just completed another project, Luca Guadagnino’s Bones and All starring Timothée Chalamet. What’s happening with that?

Urdang: Belvedere was the working title. It was just picked up by MGM and will be released sometime early next year, maybe at the end of this year. Luca Guadagnino is also doing another project. I’ve been working with him for the past, oh my God, I don’t know how many years, but on everything since A Bigger Splash. He’s working on a film now called Challengers with Zendaya, so, that’s a project I’m working on after Bones and All.

BTL: Are you able to just sit back and enjoy music, or is your mind always working and thinking, ‘Wow, this could be used in…’

Urdang: That’s a good question. When I’m in the car, I’m always listening to music, thinking, ‘Oh, this would really work in Mrs. Maisel.’ Yes, I do that all the time, but I’m driving and I’ll never remember. When I’m home, I’m usually working and I’m listening to whatever it is that I’m looking for at the time for whatever project I’m working on. And, music supervisors don’t normally work on one project. We can’t afford to. So, when I’m listening to something for Mrs. Maisel, I might say, ‘Oh, this would be good for Grease.’ Whenever I’m listening to music, I’m listening for other things. I can’t listen without thinking about work.

Season 4 of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is now streaming in its entirety on Amazon Prime Video.