Interview: Molly Ephraim on Baseball, Babies, and A League of Their Own
Ephraim co-stars in the new Amazon Prime Video series, based on the beloved film of the same title.
A television adaptation of the beloved film A League of Their Own comes to Amazon Prime Video beginning August 12. Created by Will Graham and Abbi Jacobson, the series uses Penny Marshall's movie as a jumping off point, following new characters during the formation of the real-life All-American Girls Professional Baseball League during World War Ii.
Stage and screen vet Molly Ephraim costars as one of the players, the spunky Maybelle Fox, loosely based on the real-life former player Maybelle Blair, who made headlines earlier this summer when she came out as a lesbian at the age of 95. Blair had one real piece of advice for her onscreen counterpart, which Ephraim was happy to share: "Hot dogs, hot dogs, hotdogs."
This conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity.
A League of Their Own is one of those movies that we just watch whenever it's on.
It's a perfect movie for when you're in a hotel room somewhere. It comes on and you're like "I'm gonna watch that for the umpteenth time," because it does come on all the time. It's a fantastic movie, and it's so exciting that we're going to have those generations of fans along with all these new ones.
How did you get involved with the show?
A regular old audition. I knew that Abbi Jacobson was producing and part of it, and I, like every other young woman of a certain age, was obsessed with Broad City. So I was like "I'll do anything to get on that show." I feel so lucky. It's the kookiest, funniest group of gals. The cast is amazing. It's a dream.
What did you know about the subject matter going in?
Baseball? I don't know. I mean, I watched Phillies games a kid and was obsessed with John Kruk for reasons unknown. But women playing baseball? The professional female league? Zilch.
Your character's real-life counterpart has been in the news lately. Tell me about her.
I play Maybelle Fox, who is based loosely on Maybelle Blair, the belle of the ball. World's most amazing gal at the moment, the 95-year-old women's baseball player who just came out in June at the Tribeca Film Festival. She's got the hair, the nails, the shades, the Louisville Slugger cane, the sass. I think when I auditioned, the breakdown said "Maybelle: The spunkiest person you'll ever meet," and that is her to a T.
Did you ask her for any advice during the process?
I did! I'm not a baseball player by training, so naturally I was like "Is there anything else you can give me about you? What you like? Game superstitions? Whatever?" And she was just like "Hot dogs, hot dogs, hot dogs."
Was that completely useless for character building?
Oh no. Oh no, my friend, no. I had a hot dog bar at my 30th birthday. I was like "I feel good about this. This is symbiosis!"
Were you pregnant while you were shooting?
Yes. It was wild. Thank you for asking. It was insane.
I saw what my wife went through just, you know, walking around the house, so I can't imagine what it was like to shoot a TV show about baseball.
It's nuts. So, being pregnant, having a baby, as you know, is both the most insane and most mundane thing combined. My husband and I wanted to start trying to get pregnant. We were looking at the calendar, and League was supposed to start shooting in L.A. at the end of April, early May. I was like "Great, definitely don't want to be too pregnant while we're shooting," so if I can be mostly through my first trimester…And then we got pregnant immediately, which was great, but then the production pushed to mid-July in Pittsburgh, and I was like "Well, fuck." So, you know, it was hard. It's hard because you're going to the bathroom 3,000 times a day, and then I would waddle back to the set in Pittsburgh in 95-degree peak humidity when they were ready to go. So it was hard.
There were a lot of props that I held in front of my person. I got really good at finding my angles in a way that I have never had to think about my body and space. Two of the gals in the wardrobe department were so helpful because they would take a shot of the camera set up and then come over and show me, like, "If you can pop this leg out, and len back a little more, you can get away with it." It's this constant Easter egg throughout the series. You have to know how to look for it. And then there are certain scenes where there was no hiding, but there were other shots that looked pretty good.
It's a nice little memento for your kid that a lot of people don't get to have.
Yeah, it's amazing. I did that while pregnant, and I did Angelyne too. I finished up shooting some Angelyne while super-pregnant, and my character actually gets to be pregnant in a scene, so you see her in her glory and I didn't have a thing in front of me, which was thrilling. Because, as an actor and a former theater actor, you are used to being totally embodied, and being able to inhabit a space in a character with your full body. All of a sudden, I was kind of truncated holding these bags and newspapers in front of me. But it was a blast. It was just fun and silly getting to grow her around all of these hysterical women. I kept thinking that she's going to be a nut. She's hearing me laugh all the time. And that's what she is. And she has quite an arm on her, too.