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Rachel Brosnahan on Helping Homeless Youth Through Covenant House and Filming ‘Maisel’ Amid COVID-19


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Rachel Brosnahan has a date Monday night with Covenant House as one of the many celebrity participants for the virtual fundraiser Night of Covenant House Stars. The actress and producer serves as a board member for the organization — an international nonprofit that provides housing, food and health care to children and youth who are facing homelessness in 31 cities across six countries — and has been a champion of the cause since she took part in a Sleep Out event in New York.

Brosnahan has called it a life-changing experience and since then, she’s used her platform on behalf of Covenant House like so many high-profile stars of the stage and screen. Meryl Streep, Dolly Parton, Ryan Reynolds, Stephen Colbert, Jon Hamm, Morgan Freeman, Sara Bareilles, Vanessa Williams, Laurie Metcalf, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Jon Bon Jovi, Ben Platt, Zach Braff, Marlon Wayans, Tony Shalhoub and Chita Rivera are just a few of the boldfaced names who will appear during the Kia-sponsored concert. Tony Award winner Audra McDonald and 60 Minutes correspondent John Dickerson — both members of the Covenant House board of directors — are teaming to co-host with a theme of “Stand Up, Stand Strong.”

Ahead of the event, The Hollywood Reporter caught up with the Emmy, Golden Globe and SAG Award-winner on why so many stars continue to show up for Covenant House, what the needs are right now and how she’s navigated filming The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel with COVID-19 protocols with a new accessory — a HEPA-filter umbrella lovingly dubbed “COBRELLA.”

How has Covenant House been impacted during the pandemic? 

The beginning of the pandemic was particularly challenging because we were all being encouraged to shelter at home, but how can you shelter at home if you don’t have one? There was also massive job loss among Covenant House residents which was not only emotionally challenging but also meant that the sites needing additional resources to accommodate the increase in residents at the houses full time. But thanks to the outpouring of support throughout this difficult time, Covenant House was not only able to provide the same continuum of care they always have but also implement necessary increased safety measures to protect both residents and staff.

The pandemic has widened the gap and led to a rise in homelessness in many of the 31 cities where Covenant House works. What are the needs right now?

That’s right. We are facing a new wave of youth hunger and homelessness that requires we do more. In response, Covenant House has expanded its food services across all 31 cities, serving over 2 million meals since the pandemic began. They are also adding hundreds of new shelter and housing units expanding to three new cities. The short answer is that Covenant House needs additional support to fund all of this vital work as well as to keep their major health clinics operating and schools open.

Night of Covenant House Stars, the virtual event on May 17, is packed with celebrity participants. Why do so many artists flock to Covenant House and what can audiences expect to see by tuning in? 

Artists are drawn to Covenant House for a number of reasons. Some have experienced homelessness and/or housing instability themselves, some were introduced to the lifesaving and life-changing work Covenant House does through family or friends, some have been moved by stories of courageous and resilient residents — many of whom also have an interest in the arts. On May 17, audiences can expect a variety of appearances from supporters like Meryl Streep and Morgan Freeman as well as performances from artists like Jon Bon Jovi, Sara Bareilles and Covenant House residents. It’s also a great way to learn more about the vital services Covenant House provides!

May I ask a couple of work questions? I saw several on-set images in recent weeks of you navigating the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel set with a very cool-looking HEPA filter umbrella. What was it like to use that umbrella? And how did you find filming amid COVID-19 protocols?

Ha yes! Our wonderful COVID compliance team invented the lovingly dubbed and now infamous “COBRELLA.” I wasn’t able to get a mask on over the lace from my wig and they rose to the challenge. We’re also all tested every day and have a multitude of other measures in place to keep everyone safe. So, while certain things take more time than they used to and we miss hugs, we’re all incredibly grateful to be back at work and especially in a workplace that has prioritized our well-being.

Lastly, you will be a part of the revitalization of live theater this summer in New York by producing the play The Great Filter. Why was it important for you and your production company to get behind this particular project at this time?

Yes! Thank you for asking. I’ve known, loved and admired the team for a long time — I also might happen to be married to one of them. [Brosnahan is producing on the project alongside husband Jason Ralph and his The Magicians costar Trevor Einhorn, both of whom will star in the play.] When they brought the Scrap Paper Pictures team this fantastic new play and mentioned to us that they wanted to mount it in support of theatre arts workers still in recovery from an extremely difficult last 14 months, we immediately came on board. This is a partnership of both theatre lovers and artists and there has been a live theatre-sized hole in our hearts in its absence. We are thrilled to be a part of its return in support of the Cultural Solidarity Fund.

Night of Covenant House Stars will be streamed on, Amazon Prime Video, Broadway on Demand, Facebook, YouTube, WNBC and via TodayTix.

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