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Professional prankster, Tom Mabe, is a pro at handling annoying telemarketing calls. This time when he gets an ‘unknown’ call on his caller ID, he correctly assumes it’s a telemarketer calls, and instantly takes the roll of a 911 operator. He scares the telemarketer into thinking she has just called 911 and is in trouble with the law.
Alex Borstein is used to being off to the side, in a writers’ room, or in a recording booth by herself. Yet she’s currently starring on HBO’s Getting On as Dawn, a deluded, oddly sexed-up, earnest, officious, sometimes kind nurse in the geriatric wing of a rundown hospital. For years, she has been an on-camera actor (MADtv, Good Night, and Good Luck, Shameless); a voice actor (Lois on Family Guy); and a writer (Family Guy, Shameless).
Will Scheffer, who with his husband, Mark V. Olsen, adapted Getting On from the BBC original — they were also the creators of Big Love — did not undersell Borstein’s talents in a telephone interview.
“I told Alex at the premiere, I grabbed her and I said: ‘I’ve worked with Ellen Burstyn, I’ve worked with Sissy Spacek, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Chloë Sevigny. I’ve worked with all these amazing actresses. And I think you’re the most talented actress that I’ve ever worked with.’”
Scheffer continued: “She’s a brilliant talent. I hope this show helps her be seen as that.”
Getting On, which also stars Niecy Nash and Laurie Metcalf, has been under the radar (though Scheffer said, “We’re looking good for our second season.”). The original British series has continued, and this week won best sitcom at the British Comedy Awards. Here, the half-hour comedy is midway through its short run; its fourth episode (of six) airs Sunday night. I met Borstein for coffee recently in Pasadena, where she lives with her husband, Jackson Douglas, and their two small children. We discussed her disbelief over the grieving for Brian on Family Guy; why she wasn’t allowed to be Sookie on Gilmore Girls; and Seth MacFarlane.
And we especially talked about her love of Getting On, about which she said before we even sat down, “It’s just astonishing. I love it. I’m always shocked when anyone likes anything I like.”
You had just had a baby, your second kid, when you auditioned for Getting On. Were you looking for work?
Alex Borstein: I was writing. I was developing for BBC at the time. I got an email a week or two after having the baby about this audition — for the BBC. My first thought was A) I just had a baby, so fuck off and B) how tacky, I’m developing something else for the BBC. If I audition, they’ll think I have no faith in the thing I’m writing. But it turns out they poached me from their own thing, and said, “What about Alex Borstein for Dawn?” We literally went downstairs into the kids’ bedroom, and my husband put me on tape.
I never understand exactly how it works. You have sides from the script, and you just record yourself doing them?
AB: Yes. I was barely holding it together — no sleep, and the breastfeeding. It was really ridiculous on my part. But I was, like, I’ve got to do this. You literally just have the papers in your hand, and my husband had the camera. He was playing the other parts.
When we were shooting the show, I constantly felt like my instincts were wrong on this. We would do a take and I’d be, like, I think I nailed that. And they would run up to me and say, “That’s great. But it’s all wrong. Stop what you’re doing.”
The material is so interesting tonally, and the tone seems hard to achieve. What is a wrong take on it?
AB: There was one scene where I’m talking to Laurie Metcalf’s character. And she’s crushing my dreams in this moment about this raffle. While I’m talking to her, I was getting very upset and having my dreams being crushed. And Mark and Will came onto the set, and they were, like, “Mmm-mmm, mmm-mmm. You’re not upset. You can’t even fathom that’s what’s happening. You’re delusional. When someone’s crushing your dreams, you’re not even aware your dreams are being crushed.” I spent the first couple of minutes going, Fuck, they’re so wrong. They’re going to ruin the show and they don’t know what they’re talking about! Then I do it, and it’s like, Ucch, absolutely. They were absolutely right and I’m an idiot.
I have to ask about the translation scene, which is one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. How did you do it?
AB: Honestly, you wouldn’t believe how it was shot. The woman playing the part of the Cambodian was really not an actress; I don’t know where they cast her from. Will was laying down under one of the beds telling her when to talk and when not to talk. She had to find what she was going to say, figure out how many times she was going to repeat it, and then no matter what happened between her and Will, Niecy and I had to continue saying whatever she was going to say. And sometimes she would say a little, sometimes she would say a lot. It was never the same twice. So I don’t know how the fuck they pieced it together. It’s a Christmas miracle. And Niecy’s face — there were sometimes when I had to look past her. It was really fun.
How do you feel the show’s been treated by HBO? It’s running at a weird time of year; the finale episode runs a few days after Christmas.
AB: Maybe I’m stupid, or maybe it’s the Dawn in me. But it never dawned on me — like, I read some reviews that said, “It’s too bad they’re burning this off during the holidays.” Maybe I’m just delusional or a dreamer.
I have no idea! They don’t have the same model, and they have only so many Sunday nights.
AB: I don’t know what to think! I don’t know if we’re going to get a second season. I don’t know anything yet.
What are your Family Guy duties these days?
AB: You said “doody.” Thank you, that’s my Family Guy mentality.
We switched just like that.
AB: Misogyny. Bush. Doody. Boobs. I’m not writing on the show anymore. I’m just doing voices; I was just there this morning recording. I was hoping to go back and write again this season. It’s kind of fun, I get to just keep creating new characters. But it was just impossible to figure out how to make that work. For them to get their money’s worth, they need a commitment.
So if you did a Family Guy episode today, when will that actually air?
AB: Nine months. Really a year.
So the episode you did today was for fall 2014?
AB: That’s why doing interviews about Family Guy is so difficult. They say, “What can you tell me about what’s coming?” And I’m so fucked up; I’m not sure what I’m allowed to talk about. We just had the episode where Brian was killed off.
I was going to ask about that.
AB: Good lord! How are human beings still functioning when the reaction that I’ve seen to a talking cartoon dog’s death is — there’s been more outrage than anything I’ve ever experienced in my life. The hate mail I’m getting on Twitter. Oh my god, it’s insane! Like, the responses I’m getting are, “Bring back Brian, you bitch!” Wait a minute!
That’s a humanitarian right there.
AB: “Brian better show up again next week, you fucking cunt!” It was insane. Really angry. And at me Like, dying. God bless America.
You started as the voice of Lois. At what point did you become a writer on the show?
AB: I was working on MADtv. I met the woman who was developing Family Guy with Seth MacFarlane because she had also developed MADtv, Leslie Kolins Small. She hooked us up. I did his pilot for him. He was a 25-year-old who had written what he thought a mom and daughter would sound like, and it was a 25 year-old male’s perception. There just wasn’t that much there; he readily admits they were the least developed characters. After it got picked up and it was a show, I was in the booth and one of the writer-producers Chris Sheridan was there, and I improvised something. Just fucking around. And he laughed, and Seth laughed. And he said after that record session, “Would you ever consider writing on the show?” Are you kidding, I would love it. I was still doing MADtv, but we worked out a deal so after the table read I would go to Family Guy on Monday afternoons and consult as a writer.
What were those early days like there?
AB: Those days were magical. We were all so young, and no one had kids yet. In those days, it was such a family experience, going from 11 in the morning to 11 at night. With some of the funniest people I’ve ever worked with. Just the brains in the room: so smart and twisted and different. You were always chasing each other. It made you smarter and it made you quicker. Definitely more jaded and darker. It was like comedy school, man. It still is. It’s still just the funniest fucking people. And so smart. They keep finding new stories, and new ways to tell old stories.
What’s it been like to watch Seth MacFarlane’s ascension?
AB: It’s been kind of astonishing. It feels like a sibling. It’s probably how Eric Roberts feels; I’m the Eric Roberts of the MacFarlane family. I should show you this fucking picture of Seth and I from the very first record. For some reason we both have terrible bowl cuts. We’re just these idiots. Now he’s like a styled movie star. He’s the smartest, funniest person I’ve ever met. He’s got a different brain from the rest of us. He’s like an Amadeus.
With Amy Sherman-Palladino’s Gilmore Girls, you were the original Sookie, the part that Melissa McCarthy ended up taking over because MADtv wouldn’t let you out of your contract.
AB: I wanted to do both. They wouldn’t share me.
Was it a coincidence that Jackson Douglas, your husband, played Jackson on the show?
AB: One of our showrunners was Dan Palladino — he was a phenomenal Family Guy showrunner. He at one point said to me, “You know, Alex, you should read my wife’s pilot.” I was, like, “Why? It’s just going to depress me. I didn’t write it.” I read it and loved it. He said, “Could you audition for this?”
We shot the pilot in this tiny town called Markham near Toronto, Canada. My husband was there because we were traveling together. Dan and Amy, his wife, Amy Sherman-Palladino, we became friends. We had a blast and just laughed our asses off. They found Jackson to be quirky and interesting, and our relationship to be funny. They ended up writing him in as Sookie’s love interest.
So you had the freedom to go and do this pilot, but then what happened that stopped you from being on the show?
AB: I was loving MADtv, and thought there’s got to be a way to do both things. And Amy said, “Let me call them, I know we can work this out. I will shoot Sunday through Thursday so I can shoot you Sunday.” I was so hopeful. Everyone was leading me to believe it was possible. The exec producer at MADtv at the time was, like, “Yeah, yeah, there’s no reason we can’t make this work.” What I didn’t know was the emails behind my back were, like, “Absolutely not.” I think it was a Fox-WB thing. So it kind of blew up. Very disappointing. But now I feel — I’m not mystical or anything. But it worked out really fucking well. I wouldn’t have been that comfortable with Jackson and I — they had them getting married and having kids. I don’t think I would have wanted to do that on screen with my real-life husband. And Melissa is fucking amazing. And the two of them got along. I think it was better. And there were all these opportunities I wouldn’t have had. I got to do Good Night, and Good Luck, and it was the coolest. It’s all good. At the time it sucked! I was so pissed. And then going back to MADtv, I was a petulant teenager.
Did you feel they were out to get you?
AB: These fuckers! How dare they value me! How dare they want me to stay on a show that I signed a contract to stay on! A little bit of an asshole. I was. It just hurt.
Who would you want to work with?
AB: I think Lena Dunham’s brilliant. Vince Gilligan — Breaking Bad, I know it’s boring to say now, but it’s brilliant. He’s a genius. But I don’t feel like I need to work with him; I just want to watch what he does next. Here’s the scary thing: Right now, I feel like I could just be done. I feel like I’ve done everything I’ve wanted to do. I’d love to have something I’m writing go. But Getting On is just the pinnacle. For me, it’s exactly what I’ve always wanted. I don’t care if it leads to movies. This is just perfection. Good material. Incredible people I’m working with. There’s no drama, there’s no bullshit. It’s just cool. Isn’t that sad? I’m done. I can just retire.
Wow. No more aspirations.
AB: Isn’t that weird? What do I do?
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Fears of civil war over the separatist peninsula are growing. Yanukovych is defiant.
Updated — 7:30 p.m. ET:
SEVASTOPOL, Ukraine — Ukraine appealed to Western powers and the United Nations to help resolve the spiraling crisis in Crimea after unidentified armed men seized two airports and Russian troops were spotted making ominous movements around the peninsula.
Even as Ukraine’s ousted, pro-Russian president called for investigations of his ouster in a press conference from a southern Russian city, Ukraine’s parliament asked the United Nations Security Council to hold a special session on the situation in Crimea and appealed to the U.S., Britain, and Russia to uphold a 1994 agreement to guarantee the country’s territorial integrity. Russia has said that it wants to maintain Ukraine’s territorial integrity, but spent several months flagrantly violating another point of the agreement, which agrees to refrain from pressuring Ukraine economically by threatening to cut aid if the country drifted out of the Kremlin’s embrace.
Acting President Olexander Turchynov, who is also the speaker of parliament, presided over an emergency Ukrainian security council meeting as reports trickled in of Russian troop movements. Russia, Turchnyov told reporters, had used a military drill as cover for an “Abkhazia scenario,” referring to a breakaway territory of Georgia Russian troops occupied after a four-day war in 2008.
“I am personally addressing President [Vladimir] Putin to stop the provocation and call back the military from the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, and work exclusively within the framework of the signed agreements,” Turchynov said Friday evening. “The whole civilized world supports Ukraine. We demand to stop this provocation, we demand to normalize the situation.”
Acting Interior Minister Arsen Avakov wrote on Facebook that the groups of armed men who took control of Simferopol and Sevastopol airports Friday morning were Russian soldiers and accused the Kremlin of an “armed invasion and occupation.”
“This is a direct attempt to provoke armed bloodshed on the territory of a sovereign state,” Avakov wrote.
U.N. diplomat Robert Serry met with Turchynov on Friday and told him the organization was “ready to offer all and any help possible to solve the difficult situation that has arisen in Crimea,” Turchynov’s Fatherland party said in a statement. The U.N Security Council was set to hold a closed-door meeting later Friday.
President Obama called Russian actions in Ukraine “deeply destabilizing” on Friday and warned that incursions into the country by Russian forces would violate international law.
“We are now deeply concerned by reports of military movements by the Russian Federation inside Ukraine,” Obama said in a late afternoon statement from the White House.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers said it looked as though Russia had taken over the region.
“It appears that the Russian military now controls the Crimean peninsula. This aggression is a threat not only to Ukraine, but to regional peace and stability,” Rogers said. “Russia’s latest action is yet another indicator that Vladimir Putin’s hegemonic ambitions threaten U.S. interests and allies around the world.”
Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters that the U.S. would watch to see if Russia “might be crossing a line in any way,” but said the White House would be “very careful” before making any judgements.
“While we were told that they are not engaging in any violation of the sovereignty and do not intend to, I nevertheless made it clear that could be misinterpreted at this moment,” Kerry said. “There are enough tensions that it is important for everybody to be extremely careful not to inflame the situation and not send the wrong messages.”
Russia’s foreign ministry confirmed in a statement that the armored personnel carriers spotted around Crimea were Russian, but said that they were only working to supply their naval base in Sevastopol, as permitted under a deal with Ukraine. The ministry added that Russia sees events in Crimea “as the consequence of recent internal political processes in Ukraine” and would not intervene.
Twenty men BuzzFeed found guarding the road to Sevastopol airport Friday afternoon were wearing civilian clothes and black-and-orange bands symbolizing the Soviet victory in World War II, which saw heavy fighting in Crimea. A dozen well-armed soldiers stood watch over them, but it was not clear which country they represented.
Andrei Sitnikov, a local villager guarding the post, said he called out to the armed men, but they wouldn’t speak to him.
“I’m out to defend my family. I’m not scared of them,” he said, as a truck towing an armored personnel carrier with no license plates drove past. Trucks BuzzFeed saw on the road from Simferopol, the provincial capital, had black Russian military plates.
Russia has backed separatists in Georgia and other nations on its perimeter, and Ukrainian leaders fear that Moscow will use the tactic to weaken the power of the central government and give it an even stronger foothold in the divided country. Russia’s parliament is to debate bills that would make it easy for Crimea to join Russia and for Ukrainians to obtain Russian citizenship, a tactic used in the breakaway Georgian territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. They have also taken in Viktor Yanukovych, who claims he is still Ukraine’s legitimate president, despite fleeing Kiev in the early hours of Feb. 22.
“Nobody overthrew me in Ukraine. I was forced to flee under threat” from Nazis “representing the absolute minority in Ukraine,” Yanukovych said. “I intend to fight for the future of Ukraine against those who are trying to saddle it with fear and terror.”
He also appeared to blame the U.S. and Europe for his ouster: “The shocks and victims are the result of the irresponsible policies of the West, which supported the Maidan,” he said, referring to the central Kiev square that has been the heart of protests.
How much Russian support Yanukovych actually enjoys is another question. During his press conference, Yanukovych said he and Putin would meet when the latter “had time” and implored him to break his weeks-long silence on the Ukrainian crisis. In conversation with British Prime Minister David Cameron, however, Putin said early elections scheduled for May 25 were “the best way to secure a positive future for Ukraine in which all Ukrainian people are represented.” That essentially means the Kremlin has dropped Yanukovych, who says the elections are illegal and is refusing to participate in them. The Kremlin said Putin told Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and European Council chairman Herman van Rompuy that any further violence was unacceptable.
Ukraine’s general prosecutor’s office asked Russia to extradite Yanukovych on charges of mass murder for violent clashes last week in which dozens died, though the Kremlin’s apparent sheltering of the ousted leader and continued recognition of him as Ukraine’s president makes the prospect of that seem unlikely.
Ukraine’s security forces have been divided on how to deal with Crimea, which is home to many members of the Berkut riot police unit widely reviled in Kiev for their attempts to suppress the months-long encampment on the Maidan. Turchnyov fired army chief of staff Yuri Ilin Friday without specifying reasons. Ilin became chief of staff last week when Yanukovych fired his predecessor for not using the army against protesters in Kiev. Ukrainian outlet Levy Bereg reported that Ilin was hospitalized in Sevastopol Thursday after suffering a heart attack. Turchnyov also replaced the head of Ukraine’s interior ministry conscript troops later Friday.
Gennady Moskal, a former Crimean police captain now in parliament, has claimed that many of the armed men seizing government buildings in the peninsula were Berkut members revolting against the new government. Avakov said earlier this week that Ukraine would dissolve Berkut and only allow former members who met strict requirements to join its replacement. Then on Friday, Russia’s interior ministry said it would hire the former Berkut troops once they received expedited Russian citizenship. Russia later announced its consulate in Simferopol would give the division Russian passports.
A Russian foreign ministry spokesperson told BuzzFeed the entire 4,000-strong division would be eligible for a passport, but declined to say why Russia was offering them. A sign outside the consulate said it was closed until Monday, after which it will only accept appointments made in advance by phone.
Rustam Temirgaliyev, first deputy prime minister in the new Crimean government, said on his Facebook page that late Thursday night he had met Berkut fighters. They agreed to form a new Crimean special forces unit, also called Berkut, that would answer only to the Crimean government. Legislators in the Crimean parliament supported the decision today, according to Temirgaliyev.
It was not immediately clear who the men occupying the airports, dressed similarly to men who occupied Crimea’s parliament Thursday, were. Russian state media claimed the men were members of Crimean “self-defense” units formed in the autonomous province in response to the violent overthrowal of Yanukovych last week.
A spokesperson for Russia’s Black Sea fleet, which stations about 15,000 troops in a naval base in the Crimean port of Sevastopol, denied that it had blocked the airport there, but did not comment on the airport in Simferopol, the provincial capital. Reports trickled in of Russian troop carriers driving around near Sevastopol, where Ukraine’s border service said Russia’s military had blocked the sea border at Balaklava.
Russian media reported by nightfall that the Ukrainian government had closed all airspace over Crimea, though both airports were still open. Ukraine’s telephone monopoly lost all contact with Crimea and phone service within Crimea after men seized its nodes.
Reputable Ukrainian newspaper Zeraklo Nedeli reported that these military helicopters arrived in Crimea from a Russian base in Anapa:
Video available at: http://youtube.com/watch?v=2TVyPiHVZ1A.
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It might seem like overkill, but at least it’s not Brett Favre un-retirement rumors. ESPN:
One in-the-know coach says he has an answer to the most pressing mystery surrounding Peyton Manning — beyond what team will ultimately land him.
Duke coach David Cutcliffe, who has observed Manning work out and throw several times over the past few months in Durham, N.C., says Manning will have what it takes to play at the highest level when he resumes his career in 2012.
“It’s incredible how much progress he’s made in throwing the football,” Cutcliffe told The Tennessean of Nashville. “He’s gotten his arm strength back and his accuracy is there.
“I’m not an NFL coach, of course, but I think I know what it takes to complete passes in the NFL, and it’s clear that Peyton can make all those throws,” said Cutcliffe, who was Manning’s offensive coordinator at the University of Tennessee from 1994-97 and remains one of his friends.
Cutcliffe was also the coach at Mississippi when Manning’s brother, Eli Manning, played for the Rebels.
Peyton Manning wrapped up his latest free-agent visit Wednesday, leaving the Tennessee Titans’ complex after spending more than eight hours with team officials.
At sometime after 10 PM this evening, a robbery at a Nordstrom Rack store in the Howard Hughes Center in Culver City turned into a four hour standoff with police. The two suspects held 14 employees hostage, stabbing one and sexually assaulting another. The Center was surrounded by SWAT teams and placed in lockdown. Above the Nordstrom, the Rave movie theater was locked down and patrons who were there held in place until the situation resolved.
BuzzFeed made contact with one of the theater patrons being held inside and held the following exchange as events unfolded:
Update, 7:25 AM EST: The patrons inside the Rave theater are being told they will be able to leave within the half hour.
Update, 7:35 AM EST: The AP is reporting 14 people who were inside the Nordstrom Rack are safe.
Update, 8:02 AM EST: ABC 7 is reporting that the suspects’ car (a white Ford Explorer) has been abandoned in the area. The two suspects remain at large.
Update, 10:23 AM EST: The AP is now reporting that the hostage takers were attempting to rob the Nordstrom Rack, as opposed to hiding there after a failed robbery at another location, as earlier reported in this article. The suspects remain at large and the stab wound received by one hostage was described as non-life threatening.