The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel star Alex Borstein: ‘My batmitzvah was my only profitable show!’

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The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel star Alex Borstein: ‘My batmitzvah was my only profitable show!’

 Francine Wolfisz speaks to Family Guy actress about her latest role in the Golden Globe-winning series from Amazon

Francine Wolfisz is the Features Editor for Jewish News.

Whether it’s turning up at a comedy club with freshly-cooked brisket, drowning sorrows with a bottle of Palwin No. 10 or joking about “shrimp in the egg rolls” at the wedding banquet, The Marvelous Mrs Maisel never fails to deliver hemische humour in every scene.

This week the punchy Amazon show from Gilmore Girls’ creator Amy Sherman-Palladino and executive producer husband Daniel Palladino about an America-Jewish housewife in the 1950s picked up a Golden Globe for best television comedy.

Rachel Brosnahan, who also took home the best actress award for a television comedy, stars as the eponymous Miriam “Midge” Maisel, an upper-middle-class New Yorker who seemingly has it all – until her failed stand-up comic husband Joel (Michael Zegen) unexpectedly dumps her just hours before Yom Kippur.

Embarking on a drunken rampage, she heads down to Greenwich Village and spontaneously takes the stage at her husband’s comedy club. She leaves nothing unsaid during her ribald act – or unseen as she reveals her breasts – and soon has the audience howling in their seats.

The Marvelous Mrs Maisel features a stellar supporting cast, including Tony Shalhoub, Marin Hinkle and Kevin Pollak, as well as actress Alex Borstein, who plays Midge’s misanthropic manager Susie Myerson.

Rachel Brosnahan and Alex Borstein star in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Borstein is no stranger to comedy, having starred in the American comedy sketch show, MadTV, before landing a long-running role as gravelly-voiced Lois Griffin on the animated series, Family Guy.

When The Marvelous Mrs Maisel came along, the 46-year-old actress was more than happy to sign up to a show that tapped into her American-Jewish roots and recalls the script “just felt like home to me.”

“It felt comfortable and familiar and that was nice,” says the 46-year-old Chicago-born actress, who today lives in Barcelona.

Known for her droll manner, Borstein continues: “The most attractive thing to me about playing the part of Susie was the shoes. I only choose roles now based on the level of comfort my feet will experience.

“Oh, and the hat, too. A hat means very little time having to have your hair done. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the writing of the show and the character were a pretty big draw as well.”

Setting the show in the 1950s appealed to Borstein, who describes this era as “a pivotal time in my family’s history.”

Rachel Brosnahan this week picked up a Golden Globe award for best actress for her portrayal as Miriam “Midge” Maisel

Her Budapest-born mother Judy first arrived in the United States shortly after the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, having survived the Holocaust. While the 1950’s brought “some good things: the hula hoop, the microchip and the beginning of the civil rights movement”, for Borstein’s mother and grandmother it was a decade they were simply “busy surviving.”

The talented actress, who shares two children with former husband Jackson Douglas, acknowledges their experience ultimately changed her own outlook on life.

“My mother is a child survivor of the Holocaust. Her mother was a survivor of the Holocaust. Being the daughter and granddaughter of survivors made me a survivor.

“It also gave me a great drive to have children, to bring people into the world to hear their story and continue to tell it.”

She reveals her mother and grandmother partly-influenced her portrayal of Susie, a tough, brusque lady, who has not enjoyed the same comforts in life as Midge and is in many ways also a “survivor” of her tough environment.

As for Borstein’s empathy with Susie working in live comedy, that’s certainly something she knows plenty about.

Having trained in improvisation, Borstein started out her career on the stand-up circuit.

“The hardest part about performing in front of a live audience and making them laugh is performing in front of them and trying to make them laugh,” quips Borstein. “Humans are unpredictable creatures. And then add alcohol…”

Brosnahan with co-stars Tony Shalhoub and Marin Hinkle

She adds: “I can’t say if being Jewish has influenced my comedic side, but it has afforded me many holidays on which I could practice my public speaking.

“Each Passover was an opportunity to perform and the bat mitzvah was my first one-woman show. It was also the only profitable one-woman show I ever did.”

Away from The Marvelous Mrs Maisle, the actress is of course best known for her recurring role as Lois Griffin on Family Guy, which will reach a milestone 300 episodes later this month.

Family Guy has been an amazing gift,” adds Borstein. “Not a day goes by that I don’t realize how lucky I am. Not just to be a part of such a long running show, but to be an active participant in a show of its high quality.

“It makes me laugh every time I read and record a show. And that is so rare. The writers are so, so talented and Seth is incomparable. It’s a privilege to work with him.”

The Marvelous Mrs Maisel is available to view now on Amazon Prime Video

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