Gilmore Girls may have been about Lorelai and Rory, but Sookie was another fan-favourite character. The show would not have been the same without Melissa McCarthy playing the accident-prone chef at the Dragonfly Inn. In fact, McCarthy almost didn’t step into the crazy town of Stars Hollow. The iconic Sookie St. James nearly had a different face!
The original pilot of Gilmore Girls featured the talented Alex Borstein, who would later star as Susie Myerson, a character that felt tailor-made for her, in the multiple Emmy-winning Amy Sherman-Palladino creation, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.
At the time of the Gilmore Girls debut, Borstein was already a rising star on MADtv, a popular sketch comedy show. Unfortunately, her commitment to MADtv conflicted with her availability to play Lorelai’s best friend and later business partner, Sookie. Thus, casting directors embarked on a search to find the perfect replacement.
In a 2020 Vanity Fair interview, casting directors Mara Casey and Jami Rudofsky revealed that they auditioned numerous actors for the role, but McCarthy stole the show. Rudofsky said, “But then Melissa McCarthy walked in, and it’s Melissa McCarthy. She’s comedy gold, and she brought things to the character that were so inventive. Her physical comedy, everything she did was above and beyond, and that was it.”
Although Borstein didn’t play Sookie, she remained connected to Gilmore Girls. In various episodes of the show, she appeared as different characters like the disgruntled harpist Drella and the fabulous designer extraordinaire Miss Celine.
Borstein is multi-faceted and multi-talented, and it was inevitable that Sherman-Palladino would work with her again. That happened with The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.
Borstein’s portrayal of Susie, Midge’s manager and partner-in-life, earned her two Emmy awards. Borstein’s partnership with Sherman-Palladino always seemed like a destined match made in television heaven, waiting to burst out to create magic on a different canvas.
In another interview with Vanity Fair, Borstein revealed, “I can’t imagine my career without Dan and Amy. They’ve both been responsible for my ability to grow past sketch and animation,” Borstein continued, “They had a vision. They squeeze performances out of people that they didn’t know were in there. I treasure them. I would do anything that they came to me with.”
McCarthy was charming as the lovable and sweet klutz in the kitchen. Sookie quickly became an integral part of the series thanks to her. It is difficult to imagine Gilmore Girls without McCarthy, but if Borstein had stayed on, she would have definitely brought a whole different flavour to the play.