Yes, that’s right, the actor behind the charming and handsome Joel Maisel is Jewish!
Here are 18 things to know about Michael Zegen.
1. Michael was born in New Jersey to a Jewish family.
2. Growing up, he was very close with his maternal grandparents, who survived the Holocaust.
“My grandmother, Szoszana, escaped Ukraine just before the Nazis arrived by hiding in the woods. My grandfather, Aaron, escaped to Belarus. He discovered years later that his older brother also survived,” he told the Wall Street Journal.
In an interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Michael also mentioned that he was “raised” with his grandmother’s war stories.
3. His mother, Rachelle, was born in Austria in a displaced persons camp — where many Jews briefly lived after World War II while trying to find family and restart their lives.
4. Michael wanted to be an actor from the age of 5 and he participated in his first play in kindergarten, playing the lead in “The Gingerbread Boy.” (Yes, he was the titular role.)
5. Once in high school, he joined the theater program and later majored in theater at Skidmore College.
6. Michael’s first professional role was as the character of Dwight the Troubled Teen on “The Late Show with David Letterman.”
7. He played Damien Keefe on the show “Rescue Me” from 2004-2011, but Michael’s first big role was as Jewish gangster Bugsy Siegel in HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire.”
Check out this clip from the third season:
Bonus: Michael almost played the role of a different Jewish gangster on the show, however!
“I had gotten close to getting Meyer Lansky, and when I didn’t get it, I was crushed,” he told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “But then this came around.”
And we’re so glad it did!
8. Michael originated the role of Liam in the off-Broadway show “Bad Jews.”
9. The process of getting his role as Joe on “Girls” was an “emotional rollercoaster.”
“The day after I auditioned, I got a call saying they wanted me to do a table read with the full cast. They didn’t say I had the role, though. So I went in and I was incredibly nervous,” Michael explained. And I had no idea that everyone was going to be there – the cast, the crew, people from HBO. Everyone. Afterwards people kept coming up and thanking me for being there, which I thought was a sign that I didn’t get it. I kept thinking, “Am I just keeping the seat warm? Is Shia LaBeouf getting the job?” Then I didn’t hear anything for two days. Finally I got the call. And that was a good call to get.”
10. His Broadway debut came in 2015 in the revival of Arthur Miller’s “A View from the Bridge.”
11. Michael’s agent once got him an audition for “Fifty Shades of Grey” — which he declined to do.
You can listen to him and Rachel Brosnahan answer more questions like this with PUPPIES here:
12. Skip the cake, Michael likes a birthday pickle.
13. Ever wonder what his singing voice is like? Wonder no more! Watch here:
14. Michael is very familiar with Jewish guilt.
“I certainly understand [guilt] — it’s just ingrained in my body and brain,” he told Alma.
15. Check out the creative (and very Jewish) way Michael once weathered a blackout:
Very cute menorah, Michael.
16. This is what he looks like with a mustache!
He grew it in 2021 to play the role of Al Manners in the Broadway play “Trouble in Mind.”
17. Michael, who’s played the role of Joel Maisel in “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” since 2017, has provided some great behind-the-scenes content:
18. The upcoming fourth season of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” seems to focus Joel’s storyline on his burgeoning relationship with Mei:
We can’t wait to see more Michael!