As Midge Maisel’s dogged agent, Susie Myerson (Alex Borstein) has fought everyone from gangsters to deranged comics to help get her gal to the top — and at last, she and Midge (Rachel Brosnahan) get what they’ve been angling for in the series finale of The Marvelous Mrs Maisel.
In an interview with EW, Alex Borstein chatted about what it was like filming that final episode, if she feels like Susie got the ending she deserved, and the unexpected Family Guy reference in the series finale.
Warning: This story contains spoilers about the series finale of The Marvelous Mrs Maisel, “Four Minutes.”
We bookend the pilot with Midge bailing Susie out of jail, instead of Susie bailing Midge out. What was your reaction the first time you read that?
ALEX BORSTEIN: We all loved that too. We’ve really come full circle, and I’m the one having a bit of a nervous breakdown now. It’s not just jail, it’s symbolic of when she fell apart, I was there, and now here we are and I’m falling apart. The next scene that you see in the automat, I unravel a bit and she’s there for me and I finally let her be there for me.
Were you surprised by how much she reveals in that automat scene?
ALEX BORSTEIN: I was very surprised and very worried about how to do it and how to have it feel real that Susie would let that much out. That she would be that vulnerable. It was tricky trying to balance it with that much heart and that much vulnerability and to be able to temper it with some comedy. It was real tricky for me to try to do that. That’s what made it very believable to me, that she could allow that much truth to slip out.
What did you find to be the saddest detail of the story about Hedy?
ALEX BORSTEIN: There’s two. One is the eight words this woman said to her — “But I just wanted to talk to you.” That somebody showed interest in her for the first time in her life and you see her crack when she even relays that. Then, the moment when Midge says, “I think you’ll find love again.” And Susie looks at her and asks if she was ever a blonde. She has found her love again. It will always be platonic with Midge, but it’s the greatest love of her life because she’s the one that sticks around. That moment’s very heartbreaking to me, that after being asked if you’ll ever love again, Susie asks if she was ever a blonde.
Switching to something funnier, I love the scene where you’re just yelling “Mike” over and over again. How fun was that to film?
[Executive producer] Dan Palladino and I wrote together on Family Guy. He was my boss there. It was very reminiscent in my head to “Mom, mommy, mom, mom, mama, mom, Lois, mommy,” which we were all there for in the room when that came up. That’s kind of what I had in my head, trying to be equally as grating and annoying. We had to do it so many times too.
We kept referring to that as The Graduate moment — when she sees him through the glass and that close-up of her pounding on it and then pushing in on him. That was a really fun thing to shoot, but it was a lot. We were also able to play with it in ADR when we do the additional dialogue in a booth. I was able to change them up or add more. I think she had me add more. That was annoying for the whole crew. I think they were pretty sick of hearing “Mike, Mike, Mike” by the end of that.
We get to this exchange between Midge and Susie, where she gives her blessing to go rogue. Susie says, “You started your career by getting on a stage no one told you to.” How did that hit you the first time you read it?
We couldn’t get through it. Even at the table read, it felt so dense, it felt heavy. It was hard to get it out. While we were rehearsing it, I started crying at that part. My character’s already teary, you can see her. It was like, “Oh my God, there’s no disguising this.” But it’s so true. At that point they just felt like, what the hell do we have to lose? There’s nothing to lose and everything to gain and why start caring what people think now?
Were you even able to process that that was going to be the last time you were gonna tell Midge “Tits up?”
Yes, I was processing it and it was very hard to get out, as you could hear. Knowing, as an actress, that it was the last time I was going to be on that set. As Alex, it was the last time I was going to be looking into Rachel’s eyes. I don’t know that we’ll ever work together again. We probably won’t. It felt heavy and important and like the world was at stake and that’s what the scene required. So it was perfect.
We saw more of the trajectory of Susie’s life in episode 6. From the beginning, she was never chasing romance. She was never chasing fame. She just wanted respect and financial security. Do you think ultimately she was pleased with the way her life turned out?
I absolutely do. What all of that work, all of that sacrifice afforded her to buy was peace. Peace of mind and peace and quiet. She achieved what she wanted to achieve. What she said in the pilot was, “I don’t mind being alone, I just do not wanna be insignificant.” And she was able to do that. Not many people are. She has Midge still, in a way. Midge is still in her life and still there. In many ways, she got what exactly what she wanted.
Did you establish where specifically she’s living in this lovely tropical enclave in the final scene?
It’s funny, when we had our finale celebration, my parents were there and they watched it. On the drive home, my mother said, “I just thought it was so interesting that Susie ended up in Australia.” I was like, “What are you talking about?” She goes, “Well, wasn’t that supposed to be Australia?” I’m like, “No. It’s Los Angeles.” She just ended up on the west coast. She wanted that peace and that quiet. She’s done with the horns and she’s done with the city traffic and she’s done with squeezing on a subway and she wanted space and peace. She’s a west coaster.
Then that whole final scene in 2005, I assume the table read was probably the first time you got to read the whole thing. What was your reaction? Did you expect [creator] Amy Sherman-Palladino to end it in that fashion?
No. I had heard rumblings. I knew something that she had referenced was the friendship of Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks, and the two of them watched TV together until one of them passed. That was their thing. I know that she had that up her sleeve. I did not know how it would be. I did not know that we would be across the continent. I didn’t know that they would be stuck together alone and yet not alone.
So that was a surprise. And it was worrying. I wasn’t sure if we would be able to have the connection that you would in a room together. But every scene in our show, not just the finale, every episode, every moment that someone’s on a phone call, the other actors were there. You have to come in on that day, even if you have the whole day off and do your off-camera telephone lines. It’s a very good rule when you have a scene that’s that meaningful.
And you shot that phone call before you filmed all of the Gordon Ford stuff?
Correct. Gordon Ford was the very last thing.
How was the old age make-up experience for you?
Oh, it was brutal. First of all, it’s disconcerting to see yourself aged. You know it’s makeup and you know it’s going to come off at the end of it, but it’s still jarring and unsettling. They really wanted to get it right too. There was a lot of back and forth about how something should look. They had me in to do a 3D image of my face. We did that in Los Angeles long before we went into production.
Amy asked for my mother to go with me to the thing so that they could also take a look at her face and see how she aged to see what would really happen. Of course, they aged me much more than my mother. And it’s hard to know if you’re being effective as an actor with the make-up. Susie has these little looks and little quirks, and I was very concerned they wouldn’t read or they wouldn’t be able to be seen. We had to completely trust everyone that was watching saying, “You don’t have to overact or you don’t have to do anything more. It’s working.”
Do you think it’s fitting that in the end Susie and Midge only have each other?
I think it makes sense. They were laser-focused. They burned bridges. In a different day and age, Miriam’s future would’ve been very different. If it had not been the 50s when she started out, I think it would’ve been very different. Her kids’ reaction to who she was and how much she desired to make her own way in the world would not have been an issue today. Even 10 years later. The kids would’ve been much more at ease with the tremendous want that lived inside of their mother. I found it very believable and a very well-written arc for these characters on what they went through. There’s a world where it could have ended differently, but I do think this is the most fitting.
It’s quite touching that the last thing we hear is the two of them laughing. Was that something you knew from the time you were shooting or was that a post-production thing?
I still haven’t seen the very, very end of the show, but I know that the intention was that the two of them are chatting and laughing as we go out. In post-production, they had us add a few things. The laughter became stronger and they wanted it held a little bit longer. So I’m very curious to see how it is pieced together.
How did knowing their laughter is the last thing we hear hit you?
It’s absolutely appropriate. The greatest romance, the love story of this show is Midge and Susie. And the laughter is their offspring. It’s the children they created, and that’s what they have. That’s what they share.
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