Michael Zegen owns more baseball caps than you’re likely to spot at a Yankee doubleheader; they hang in clusters, like rogue plants, around his one-bedroom apartment in the West Village.
Mr. Zegen, who plays Joel, the estranged husband of the title character in the Amazon series “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” is pretty crazy about the national pastime. There you have reason No. 1 for his impressive cache of baseball haberdashery.
And now here is reason No. 2: Mr. Zegen, 39, labors under the quite mistaken impression that he can pop on a piece of brimmed headgear and go forth into the world, wholly unrecognizable to all who behold him.
Best of luck, pal, what with the long longed-for second season of the Emmy-winning “Mrs. Maisel” set for release on Dec. 5.
“I was just in London, it was nighttime, I had a baseball cap on and more of a beard than I have now, and from half a block away, someone asked, ‘Are you Mr. Maisel?’” Mr. Zegen recalled. “I’ll be walking down the street in my neighborhood, and people will say, ‘That looks like Mr. Maisel.’”
Mr. Zegen attracted no such attention when he moved to New York from Ridgewood, N.J., in the fall of 2001. He lived first on 123rd Street, between Seventh and Eighth Avenues, with three roommates. But as his star rose with parts in series like “Rescue Me,” “The Walking Dead” and “Boardwalk Empire,” he began signing leases farther and farther down the West Side.
In the summer of 2010, Mr. Zegen co-starred with John Larroquette in a play downtown, at the Cherry Lane Theater, and was captivated by the neighborhood. “I’d never really explored the West Village before,” he said. “It had always seemed confusing to me, because it’s not on a grid. But I fell in love with the area and knew I wanted to live down here.”
Michael Zegen, 39
Solo act: “I don’t think I really envisioned that far ahead in my career. I had three roommates twice. Success to me meant I could have my own place. I did it. I made it.”
He searched almost daily with a broker for two months. All the apartments he saw had three things in common: They were too small; they were too dark; they were too expensive.
“I had been living in pretty decent one-bedrooms, and I wasn’t going to trade down just for location,” Mr. Zegen said.
Just before New Year’s Eve eight years ago, he answered an ad on Craigslist for a one-bedroom: no broker’s fee; $500 cheaper than any other place he’d eyeballed; reasonably sunny; recently renovated because the previous occupant was the daughter of the building’s owner.
Mr. Zegen, who looks young enough that he probably still gets clucked on the chin by a passel of aunts at family dinners, is still waiting to hear the catch. “The elevator is slow. That’s one of the drawbacks,” he conceded. “There is no laundry in the building, but you weigh the pros and cons….”
You don’t need to spend much time in the apartment to learn that Mr. Zegen is a hunter and gatherer of no mean talent, a gift he said he inherited from his mother, a habitué of garage, estate and yard sales, who scored the red-and-black rug on the floor in the living room.
Pre-owned T-shirts sit in tall, tottering stacks in the bedroom. Mr. Zegen scoops them up in vast quantities at thrift shops, he said, “but I wash them before I wear them.” (Mom would be proud.)
The side of his refrigerator is chockablock with magnets and pictures of shows he has worked on. The walls are covered with framed vintage movie and theater posters and charming caricatures clipped from the pages of the 19th-century British version of Vanity Fair magazine.
The shelf atop the desk is crowded with toys and figurines, among them an orange Snoopy, a robot and a lead cat that, as best as Mr. Zegen can tell, was given to audience members on March 20, 1894, to commemorate the 100th performance of the Broadway production of “Charley’s Aunt.”
“I collect a little theater memorabilia, so that’s cool,” he said. “From when I was a little kid, I’ve been into knickknacks. Tchotchkes make me feel good for whatever reason.”
He must feel very good.
The furniture is of the hand-me-down variety, but with some nice history. The table in the kitchen is from a diner that Mr. Zegen’s maternal grandfather owned near Madison Square Garden. The off-white, curved sectional — partly covered by a red blanket borrowed, that is to say lifted, from the set of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” (but don’t tell) — has its own story and is also very comfortable. Mr. Zegen falls asleep on it nightly while watching television.
A dozen years ago, his father, a lawyer, was involved with the estate of a woman with many heirlooms but few heirs. The sectional was a sitting duck for a Goodwill store, “but at the time I had no money, so I took it and it has really treated me well,” said Mr. Zegen, who also carried off a lamp and two end tables (one of which has since gone to its final reward).
“If that woman haunts her furniture, then she’s taken a liking to me,” he continued. “I’d never thought about connecting my apartment to my career, but maybe she’s brought me good luck.”