HBO's Getting On

Alex Borstein, A Woman Of Many Voices With Just The Right Tone

By Courtney Crowder
Chicago Tribune.

“Hello?” I said into the phone, questioning whether the line’s crackling was the sign of a bad connection or a dropped call.

“Hello?” replied a voice I thought to be my own: an echolike combination of nasally, high-pitched and Midwestern-cum-Valley girl (an unfortunate remnant of my teenage “Clueless” fandom).

“It’s Alex Borstein,” the disembodied voice said after a few moments of silence, dropping my accent for her natural tone.

That’s professional impressionist, verbal improv impresario and comedian Alex Borstein.

She’s famous for her voices.

Borstein, 41, a Highland Park, Ill., native, is the woman behind Lois Griffin, Tricia Takanawa and countless other characters on “Family Guy,” as well as Ms. Swan, Cordo the Gap Troll and Jasmine Wayne-Wayne on “MADtv.” She’s also lent her vocal talents to off-the-wall animated shows like “American Dad!” “Robot Chicken,” “The Cleveland Show” and the upcoming immigration comedy “Bordertown.”

“I grew up with a grandmother from another country and having a different language in my house,” Borstein said during a recent interview, “that gave me an ear for accents.”

But with her newest role, Dawn Forchette on HBO’s “Getting On”,Borstein’s stepping out from behind the mic and hoping people come to know her real voice.

“Getting On,” which airs Sundays, centers on a beleaguered extended care ward and the nurses and doctors assigned to tend to the elderly residents. The show takes on the morbid truths of aging with moments of bellyaching laughter, abrasive candor and wince-induing awkwardness.

Borstein’s Forchette, the head nurse, has the emotional maturity of a seventh-grader, as evidenced by her bizarre jewelry, Betty Rubble-inspired hair, ridiculous pen collection and odd, immature relationship with the (possibly gay) supervising male nurse, Patsy De La Serda (Mel Rodriguez).

Forchette, a complex hoyden, combines a childish self-obsession with a heroic dedication to those in her charge. She just may be the first altruistic narcissist, and Borstein’s performance is pitch-perfect.

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