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'Family Guy' star Alex Borstein on her new HBO show 'Getting On'

Fom left, Laurie Metcalf, Alex Borstein, and Niecy Nash, in a scene from the HBO series,
Fom left, Laurie Metcalf, Alex Borstein, and Niecy Nash, in a scene from the HBO series, "Getting On."
AP Photo/HBO, Colleen Hayes)
Fom left, Laurie Metcalf, Alex Borstein, and Niecy Nash, in a scene from the HBO series,
Actress Alex Borstein of the film 'Billy's Dad Is a Fudge-Packer' poses for portraits during the 2005 Sundance Film Festival on January 22, 2005 in Park City, Utah.
Carlo Allegri/Getty Images

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Actress Alex Borstein is a TV legend, with 12 seasons on a show that's been a cultural touchstone of politically incorrect comedy, "Family Guy."

Though her voice might be recognizable — she plays Lois Griffin on the show — you will soon be able to see her face regularly on HBO's Americanization of the British comedy "Getting On," opposite Laurie Metcalf and Niecy Nash.


Like the British original, the U.S. show takes place in a hospital's all-women geriatric ward. Borstein, Metcalf and Nash play nurses who have to juggle the many personalities, egos and needs of their patients. Tess Vigeland talked to Borstein about her role as Lois and what to expect from her new show. 

Interview Highlights:

On the most surprising thing about doing 'Family Guy":
"The most surprising thing I think is that every time I show up for a table read, I laugh out loud. And that's surprising because honestly most of the time in TV, you get a script and you have kind of seen everything and heard everything and every single time there is something new in there that makes me guffaw. Like I laugh out loud or I'm shocked or I'm pleasantly surprised."

On how "Getting On" is both a comedy and a drama:
"That's what I love about it. That it's just real. People will say, 'Oh, do you love getting to play drama?' I don't feel like I'm in a drama. I'm just playing a real person. A real, fully dimensional character and we all are. These women are dying and it's very real and people in life tend to not want to think about that death is going to happen to all of us and we are all going to lose our mommies, and no matter how old you are that doesn't get easier. So, I think the show is just real. You're laughing out loud sometimes at something and then you're kind of bummed out and touched. 

"One of my favorite things about the show is that it has a gritty kind of documentary film that you are kind of a voyeur, you're peeking into something you shouldn't see, that people don't want to see. And we're kind of pulling the curtain back, but at the same time we are not looking at camera or aware of a camera. I just think it's a neat fly on the wall kind of show."

On looking for a show that would push different buttons:
"I knew that I wanted to play something that was just really well rounded, very real and it's really hard at my age to find something that affords you the opportunity. A lot of times you are relegated to just being a mom in a sitcom, which is great work and can be so funny, but you tend to kind of hit the same notes again. You're the wet blanket, the voice of reason, you nag, you complain about not having sex. It's so cool to be playing this character who, yes she is still lonely and she is a disaster in terms of relationships, both friendships and anything intimate. But it's more than that. She has all these different sides, and all these bizarre wants and desires and she is a fully realized person. So I just feel so lucky to have the opportunity to play someone like this."

On whether she's experienced what its like to be in an assisted-living facility:
"My grandmother was in a facility at the end of her life, and I think it will be seven years in December that she passed away. It's so hard to watch, but there are also really funny moments. That's what I love about the show, that it captures the reality of what happens in those places…the indignity of aging. I have a 1-year-old. The baby was 2 months old when we shot the pilot, and you're in the thick of wiping bottoms and taking care of this little helpless creature and you just can't help but see that it's the same thing.

"Somehow, one end of it we find terrifying, fearful and we feel ashamed. We don't want anyone to see us that way and the other we think is adorable and we take pictures of. My husband and I would snap photos of large number twos that the baby had that went all the way up her back because we thought it was hilarious. Why do we have such a difference of opinion when it's on the other end of the spectrum?"

On working with a diverse, female-heavy cast:
"It just feels good. I like women. Not just in this business, you hit a certain age and roles dry up and there's not a lot. That's changing, but it still holds true. But in real life a woman in her 60s and 70s are invisible. Old people are invisible, and especially women. I love that this show is shining a light on those faces. They cast these women with these faces that are just phenomenal. They are real and they have lived and they tell such stories and they are beautiful. No one is going through hair and makeup and no one is going through wardrobe fitting. Everyone is just comfortable and in these gowns and robes and slippers. It does feel a little revolutionary. It's just something really freeing about it and daring."