For Alex Borstein, 'Getting On' Is the Icing of Her Acting Career
By Stacy Lambe
Most actors might not want a TV series to come to an end.
Especially one such as HBO’s Getting On,
a critically acclaimed and Emmy-nominated comedy about medical professionals working
to keep life together at a Long Beach, California geriatric ward, which is
finishing its run after three short seasons. The series returns for its final six episodes on Sunday, Nov. 8. But for Alex Borstein, who
plays head nurse Dawn Forchette, it’s not entirely an unwelcome situation.
“My preference really is to be able to move around,” the
42-year-old actress tells ETonline. While sad the show itself is drawing to a close, Borstein is comfortable shifting her focus on new projects, such as Fox's upcoming animated comedy, Bordertown, and the holiday film, Love the Coopers.
During her 20-plus years in Hollywood, most of which has
been spent off-camera voicing popular animated characters, Borstein has built a
career as a character actress, appearing for a scene (or episode) or two on any
given project. Fans will also remember seeing her bid on John Goodman in Coyote Ugly, take down Will Ferrell in Kicking and Screaming, as the harpist on Gilmore Girls, or her various
characters on MADtv.
Sure, she’s not the marquee star, but Borstein is usually
stealing all the laughs -- even if she doesn’t always view it that way. “The
term ‘scene stealer’ supposes that you are taking something that’s not yours,” she
says, relishing more in being able to impress directors with what’s been handed
“The joy of being a character actor is that you usually get
to come in and do a beautiful piece of icing -- and there are a lot of other
people, structurally holding up the cake -- and you get to come and accent it
wonderfully,” Borstein adds.
Of course, she’s most popular for lending her voice to Lois
Griffin for 14 seasons on Family Guy.
It’s the one role that seems to contradict her preference to keep things
moving. But there is an appeal to the part, which she’s helped write over the
“Lois is one of the greatest sitcom moms of all time,”
Borstein says, “because she plays the voice of reason, she has to sometimes
harp and be a mom, but she’s also got this dark underbelly, this wonderful
sexuality and great heaving relationship with her husband, and you don’t get to
see that a lot in sitcom moms or female characters.”
Returning as a writer for the series in season 14 renewed Borstein’s
creative instincts, keeping things fresh for her as she creates new layers for
the personality she’s developed for nearly two decades. “I love being part of
the guts of something,” she says. “It’s so much fun to be on the inside and
watch it kind of flourish. It’s like planting seeds -- you feel so invested.”
But it doesn’t seem to satisfy her in the same way acting
does. “Being on screen affords me the ability to use my entire body, to throw
myself completely into a character, and I get to work opposite real, live
humans next to me,” Borstein says of acting opposite her Getting On co-stars Laurie Metcalf, Niecy Nash, and
The show itself is also something of a masters class in
restraint, especially for an actress like Borstein, who has become known for
her sometimes loud, broad characters. “It’s so challenging as an actor,” she reveals.
“Every single time I came to set, I would kind of throw myself into the hands
of [show creators] Mark V. Olsen and Will Scheffer and say, ‘Please, direct me, let me know where I am. What’s too much? What’s too little? How does
"You really lose yourself in it,” she continues. “It’s so
Having overcome the hurdles in front of her, she’s caught
the attention of Hollywood. The show, like it has for Nash, has opened new
doors for her. It was what inspired director Jessie Nelson to cast Borstein in Love the
Coopers, opening on Nov. 13. “I didn’t even have to read for it,” she
reveals. “That’s never happened in my life.”
And for Borstein, that’s really the icing on her acting
“It provided a little key to something that I hope
continues, but that’s not really the goal,” Borstein says. “For me, Getting On was the goal, and I achieved
it, that was my magnum opus really. I think that’s the best project for me as an
To see how much Borstein
and her co-stars have to hold back on Getting On, watch an exclusive,
sh*t-filled gag reel of them making season two, which is available on Blu Ray/DVD on Nov. 3. Warning: NSFW language.