As a kid growing up outside of Philadelphia, Molly Ephraim was a “Phillies girl.” Her father watched the baseball team on TV and her grandfather took her to their games where she cheered on mullet-sporting first baseman John Kruk.
“I had a crush on John Kruk growing up,” Ephraim told the Post. “Not my type, but I loved him.”
But despite her enthusiasm for her home team, Ephraim wasn’t overly concerned with the sport itself.
“I couldn’t tell you what really happened,” the 36-year-old actress admitted. “I was more keen on the hot dogs.”
So Ephraim really had to step on stage for her role in the upcoming Amazon series A League of Their Own, a spin-off of the popular 1992 film about a WWII-era women’s professional baseball league. Ephraim plays Maybelle Fox, a fiery, fun-loving blonde who plays midfield for the fictional Rockford Peaches and is named after real-life legend Maybelle Blair.
Ephraim, a natural brunette, had the pleasure of meeting the vivacious Blair, who appears in the pilot. She asked the 95-year-old if she had any tips to get her in the zone or if she had any superstitions related to the game?
Blair’s response: “Hot dogs, hot dogs, hot dogs.”
“I thought, ‘This girl knows how to live,'” Ephraim said. “We should all be 95 years old and so cheeky and just chomping down on hot dogs. What an absolute dream.”
Maybelle isn’t the star player, but Ephraim still had to learn to hit, catch, throw and run bases like a pro, and attended a four-week training camp with her castmates, including author and star Abbi Jacobson, another Phillies Girl. Ephraim focused on perfecting Maybelle’s hitting style.
“I was really practicing my swing and trying to make it really cheeky, wiggle it a little bit,” she said.
But when – due to production delays – she had to flick around the camera, Ephraim was almost eight months pregnant.
“I was huge,” said Ephraim. “I think I did it three times, and I was like, ‘Oof, okay, and we’re done.'” Still, one of those takes was successful enough to make the second episode. “I was very proud that I had that in there.”
The actress is used to taking big swings. At 15, she moved to New York City from Bucks County, Pennsylvania to make her Broadway debut. She left her acting career to study religion at Princeton. And she went on to direct two TV shows — League and Peacock’s Angelyne — while pregnant with her first child.
“The only difference from ‘Angelyne’ was that I actually got to play a pregnant person in one of the scenes,” she said. “Coming from theater, I like to play with my whole body… It was definitely a challenge to be like, ‘Oh no, I can only get shot from up here, or I have to find an angle [where the bump doesn’t show].”
Ephraim was born in Philly in 1986 and then moved to nearby Doylestown, Penn. Her parents ran a pet supply store, and she and her brother kept a variety of animals — birds, dogs, a snapping turtle, amphibious water dogs — and went to 4-H shows. “Small town stuff,” she said.
She came to acting through dance and eventually took musical theater classes. For her 10th birthday, Ephraim asked her parents for an agent.
“They were like, ‘Oh no, this is bad, this is very bad,'” she recalled. “They’ve been very supportive, but that’s also frightening.”
Ephraim began community theater at the Bucks County Playhouse, playing Bielke, aka Daughter #5, in “Fiddler on the Roof.” The actor who played Tevye, Eddie Mekka, actually had a small role in the original “A League of Their Own” as Madonna’s swing dance partner. “We were very impressed,” said Ephraim. “It was like, ‘Oh my god, that guy who’s playing our dad danced with Madonna!'”
When she was 15, the actress and her mother temporarily moved into a relative’s Manhattan freelance studio so Ephraim could make her Broadway debut as Little Red Riding Hood in a 2002 production of Into the Woods.
“It was very shortly after 9/11 and there was this feeling of unease,” Ephraim said. “I remember getting on a subway car and my mother was still on the platform and we got separated. I had never been away [from home], I was in this town and we didn’t have cell phones.” She was petrified. “But then she found me at the next station and everything was fine.”
It was: Two years later, she returned to the Great White Way in “Fiddler on the Roof,” even staying alone in Manhattan for a few nights. After graduating from Princeton with a degree in religion, she immediately landed in the Tim Allen sitcom Last Man Standing.
In early 2021, Ephraim and her now-husband Evan, who works at a software company, decided to try for a baby. “I think for a lot of people, the pandemic has changed the timing of things and the course of life events that they thought about,” she said. “And for us, it was like, ‘OK, I’m ready to have a kid.'”
She had already shot the pilot for A League of Their Own and had a few months off before filming resumed in Los Angeles in early May: “I didn’t want to be too big [when filming]but I also wanted to be mostly after my first trimester in case I got sick.
Ephraim had perfect timing, but then production was pushed back to Pittsburgh, far from her LA home, until late July. “So I had four bags in front of my stomach for most of the shoot!
“They just gave me more and more bags and more and more jackets and sweaters and knitting accessories,” Ephraim recalled. This is also the reason why her character can be seen so often in the dugout, cleaning her glove. “Fortunately, they didn’t have to adjust my placement on the team too much. And I’ve had some amazing stunt doubles and body doubles.”
Despite all the time on the bench, she really felt like a player. “We became sort of teammates on and off the show,” she said of her co-stars, adding that they went on a river cruise and she attended a Pirates Phillies festival with Jacobson and fellow Philly native Melanie Field. game participated. “We put lotion on her,” Ephraim boasted. “We were that rude bunch of Philly girls up there just screaming and all those pirates [fans] looks at us angrily.”
In September, Ephraim – then seven months pregnant – and Evan decided to tie the knot. Her co-stars gave her a surprise bridal shower before she headed to her parents’ beach house for the ceremony. “We called the drive back to western Pennsylvania — dinner at a subway rest stop — our ‘honeymoon,'” she recalled. She continued filming in Pittsburgh until her doctor ordered her back to LA before the baby was born.
“I didn’t finish all the filming that I set out to do, but I also thought, ‘We have to go! I don’t want a baby in midair!’” she said. Their daughter Zia was born on December 1st.
“I’ve been so fortunate to be working while pregnant and working so much while pregnant, so it’s also been nice just having some time with my kid,” she said. Ephraim also wrapped up the second season of HBO’s gritty Perry Mason reboot and, in the meantime, is hoping for another season of League.
“I don’t know when, where, how that would happen, but I think we’re all crossing our fingers for that,” she said. “I think people will really like it. You know, you get all the fans that are kind of old-school from the original film, but it’s definitely appealing to a newer audience.”
Photos: Joe Schmelzer; Stylist: Gaelle Paul/A-Frame; Hair: Ericka Verrett/A-Frame; make-up: Loren Canby/A-Frame; Location: Dream Hollywood, 6417 Selma Ave
https://nypost.com/2022/08/06/a-league-of-their-own-star-molly-ephraim-steps-up-to-the-plate/ ‘A League of Their Own’ star Molly Ephraim steps up to the plate