Alex Borstein knows misery, which is why it’s highly appropriate that she was calling from New York, just a few hours before seeing her friend Laurie Metcalf perform opposite Bruce Willis in a new Broadway production of “Misery,” an adaptation of the Stephen King novel that takes all the romance out of a snowbound weekend in small-town Colorado.
The medical team in HBO’s “Getting On,” which stars Borstein and Metcalf, would be so lucky to have patients as warm and tender as “Misery’s” psychotic Annie Wilkes.
Borstein’s character, down-on-her-luck nurse Dawn Forchette, is not well suited to treat the patients on the female-only geriatric ward, most of whom are just four Jell-O servings away from meeting their makers. Dawn is more in need of Prozac than anyone on TV, marrying a hospital security guard last season more out of loneliness than love.
“Dawn is missing that chromosome that allows her to connect with other human beings,” said Borstein, 42, who returns to the role Sunday in the dark comedy’s Season 3 premiere. “She must have had some kind of terrible relationship with her mother. Maybe that’s why she clings so much to older women. She’s fearing that she’s going to grow old alone.”
Forchette is a sharp contrast to Borstein’s decidedly more upbeat character Lois Griffin, whom she has voiced on “Family Guy” for 16 years. As the wife of self-centered Peter Griffin, Lois could easily be a cartoon version of Edith Bunker, dashing to the fridge every half-hour to fetch a beer or, in Peter’s case, a six-pack. Instead, Lois sets her own agenda, working out of the house when she wants to, swearing freely in front of her kids and even emerging from an affair with Bill Clinton without an iota of guilt.
“Dawn acts out of fear, but Lois is extremely confident,” said Borstein, a charter member of creator Seth MacFarlane’s repertory company, lending her lungs to his now canceled “The Cleveland Show” and the upcoming series “Bordertown.” “She really is the best sitcom mom.”
Borstein, who also spent time recently in the writers’ room for Showtime’s “Shameless” and has a supporting role as Ed Helms’ wife in the soon-to-be-released comedy “Love the Coopers,” didn’t get to be in high demand overnight.
The Illinois native first burst onto the national scene in 1997 as a player on “MADtv,” the raunchier version of “Saturday Night Live,” getting the strongest — and angriest — buzz over her breakout character, Ms. Swan, an Asian-born manicurist who could turn a simple fast-food stop into an international incident. Borstein said there are plans to reprise the character, but wouldn’t go into detail.
The exposure landed her a role as amiable confidante Sookie St. James on “Gilmore Girls,” but she had to pull out due to her “MADtv” contract. The part went to Melissa McCarthy, now one of film’s biggest comedy draws. No hard feelings; Borstein played several recurring parts on the critically acclaimed series and says she would be thrilled to be part of its long rumored reboot, despite the fact that she recently separated from Jackson Douglas, who played Sookie’s husband on the show.
The end of ‘Getting On’?
The breakup of her marriage helped her better get under the skin of “Getting On’s” Forchette, who starts the new season with a health scare.
“The show came at a moment when I was riding this very emotional roller coaster,” said Borstein, who had her second child just before the show was launched three years ago. “It wasn’t like I came home and couldn’t get rid of the character, but I think I walked away with some of Dawn’s vulnerability.”
HBO has announced that the show, long underappreciated by viewers and Emmy voters, will leave the air after this season’s six episodes. When asked about the series’ near-death, Borstein displays a bit of Lois Griffin’s positivity.
“I’ve always liked shows like ‘Arrested Development’ that have tiny lives, but mighty fan bases,” she said. “It’s like I’m part of this very special, incredible secret.
“That being said, I’d love for this season to blow the doors off and cross the finish line a little more known to the masses.”