Alex Borstein has been working on television for a very long time, and her comedic turn as an aspiring talent agent on The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel proves she deserves recognition and maybe even Emmy gold. There are few actors out there that can truly deliver a droll line–the kind that hits you with its cleverness and then you realize how much you’ve been insulted. Alex Borstein is one of those actors, and she shoots zingers in every scene she’s in for Amazon’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. The new comedy is sure to collect a basket of Emmy nominations this season, but Borstein should not be left behind.Susie doesn’t seem very happy at her job at the Gaslight when we first meet her. She is surrounded by jerk men who run the scrubby bar, and she has to deal with lame talent who are trying to grab their moment in the sun. When she meets Rachel Brosnahan’s Miriam ‘Midge’ Maisel, she writes her off for the pampered princess she is, but Susie’s aspirations get a spark when Mrs. Maisel drunkenly takes the microphone to vent about her broken marriage.
One of the funniest moments comes in the second episode when Susie follows Midge around her luxurious apartment. She can’t even focus on that she is mad at Midge for standing her up for a meeting, because her eyes are glazed over by where she is: “Where the hell are we? What is this? Fucking Versailles? Where’s your airplane, in the back? I had no idea the Queen of England stood me up. I should’ve understood!” After her tirade, she takes a second to admire an adorable cake. Susie may be gruff, but she can appreciate something dainty.Throughout the season, Susie becomes Midge’s mentor, and the two create one of the most charming relationships between two women this season. They clearly need each other, but they never get explicitly wishy washy about it (there is a brief discussion about them being friends, but the show doesn’t hit you over the head). Susie admires Midge because of her spontaneity and her nerve. Watching Borstein smile while she watches Brosnahan perform stand-up feels genuine and sweet. Susie knows what’s funny, but she won’t let Midge get off easy. She wants her prized client to learn about the business. Hell, she even sets her up to bomb a set just so she can understand how to grow from it. Susie herself is naturally funny–how the heck do you think she recognizes talent in other people.
Borstein makes Susie unashamed and fully self-aware. When she makes business cards for herself, she lets people look at them, but she never lets people take them. She only has 4 after all! Men rule the comedy world, so she knows how difficult she has it as a talent agent representing a woman who tells jokes, especially when men only want to hear women sing songs. Towards the end of the season, Susie arranges for a prominent agent, Harry Drake, to come watch Midge perform. He represents another female comic, but Midge goes rogue and tells the truth about one of Harry’s clients on stage. He storms out, and tells Susie that both her and Midge are dead in New York. There is a level of hurt in Susie’s face that is surprisingly sad. You want to fight for her, but she doesn’t need you fighting her battles for her.Borstein has never won an Emmy. She was nominated for voice work in 2013 and as a producer in 2008 for Family Guy. Her performance as Susie Meyerson is a literal example of someone putting in the work and deserving recognition. It’s fantastic to see her in such a succinct, hilarious role in a smartly written comedy. It’s marvelous even.Season 1 of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is available now on Amazon Prime.