Melissa McCarthy interview: A comedy bridesmaid no longer

The star of 2011’s hit romcom has gone on to become one of Hollywood’s movers and shakers 

Melissa McCarthy is bamboozled. I’ve just asked her if she feels she’s been on a remarkable run since Bridesmaids saw her nominated for an Oscar two years ago. “Are you kidding? I have blocks of wood all over my house; I spend all of my day knocking!” Luck, though, has little to do with it. Following Bridesmaids and a string of other hits, the 43 year-old McCarthy is arguably one of the most in-demand comediennes in Hollywood right now.

Just glance at the numbers. Between them, Bridesmaids, The Heat and Identity Thief have taken almost $700m across the globe; that’s blockbuster-sized takings, the sort of receipts that Jim Carrey once commanded. Such is the confidence in McCarthy, her latest vehicle Tammy is being released just ahead of the July 4th weekend in the US – studio executives clearly confident that her broad appeal will draw punters in over the festivities.

When we meet, McCarthy and her real-life husband, Ben Falcone, who together co-wrote Tammy, are pressing the flesh at Las Vegas CinemaCon – where studios present footage to cinema exhibitors. The likes of Clint Eastwood and Christopher Nolan are here – yet another head-spin for this former farm-girl from Illinois, who is more used to gracing the stage of Saturday Night Live. Falcone, though, has absolute confidence in her. “She’s very chatty,” he confides. “I get nervous whenever she stops talking, because I think there has to be something wrong!” Still, that’s exactly what’s required. In an industry where you need to shout loud to be heard, she’s cultivated a screen persona that screams for attention. She’s brash and lewd, “a wild woman,” as Falcone puts it. Blessed with a gift for physical comedy – check out her SNL host stint where she arrives on impossibly high heels – in the Judd Apatow-era of Hollywood comedy, McCarthy also goes further than most, not least that scene in Bridesmaids where she, ahem, relieves her bowels in the sink.

With her plus-size figure, she’s not your typical Hollywood female star either – which perhaps makes her success all the more heartening. New York Observer critic Rex Reed branded her “tractor sized” and a “hippo” in his review of Identity Thief; McCarthy later responded by telling the New York Times, “I felt really bad for someone who is swimming in so much hate… I just thought, that’s someone who’s in a really bad spot, and I am in such a happy spot.”

Of that there is no doubt. She’s been married to Falcone for nine years. “He makes me laugh a lot,” she tells me. “I have – which I think will prolong my life for years – three or four really, really good belly laughs a day because of him. There’s always that couple at a restaurant where you think, ‘oh my God, they haven’t talked for 20 minutes!’. And they just look like they never ever chat or laugh. I don’t know how you do that; we couldn’t do that. We can’t be that serious.”

They first met 16 years ago at a writing class at Los Angeles’ famed improv school The Groundlings. “We met putting on terrible wigs and doing really hideous characters,” she adds. “I thought ‘if we actually liked each other and wanted to date after seeing each other do the most hideous creatures, there’s got to be something there’. So we’ve just kind of always done it.” They have two daughters, Vivian, seven, and Georgette, four. “It’s not a very serious household!” she smiles. “They’re really funny girls.”

Tammy’s genesis started in the home too, when Falcone came down for breakfast one morning with the idea. McCarthy plays the titular character, a woman who loses her job and discovers her husband is cheating on her and so decides to take a road trip with her grandmother Pearl (Susan Sarandon) to Niagara Falls. “They’re not just crazy, nutty women,” she says, gleefully. “They’re really flawed women; they’re making bad choices. We watch the full train-wreck happen to both of them.”

She and Falcone started writing the script six years ago, even before she became a television staple with her Emmy-winning role in Mike & Molly – about a couple who fall for each other after meeting at a weight-loss group. But then came Bridesmaids, which also featured Falcone (in the air-marshal scene). “It gave us the [key to the] door,” she says. “When we said we have something, there was suddenly someone there to listen. That’s a pretty huge change.”

Her subsequent upwards curve has also sent a lightning bolt through a beauty-and-weight obsessed industry. For the Oscars two years ago, so McCarthy claims, she approached several designers – “very high-level ones who make lots of dresses for people” – and all turned down the opportunity to make her a dress for the event, a shocking revelation that caused McCarthy to create a plus-size line of clothing with Daniella Pearl, who designed her Emmy dress.

Raised in a big Irish Catholic family, in Plainfield, Illinois, her upbringing was isolated – her father Michael moving her to the country to keep her away from the big, bad city. When she was 20, McCarthy moved to New York, where she’d initially considered a career in fashion. “I had wanted to do women’s clothing,” she admits, though when she arrived, crashing with a friend from high-school, her life took an abrupt turn. “He said, ‘You’re going to do stand-up tonight.’ And at 20, you’re dumb and fearless, and I said ‘OK!’” Finding an open-mic night, she went on stage without writing anything. “I went up once, got some laughs and thought, ‘uh-oh, I know what I want to do!’”

While she started doing stand-up, she “moved quickly” into theatre in New York. “I did nothing but dramas for seven years in New York. I didn’t really start anything comedic until I moved out to LA and found The Groundlings.” A recurring role in TV’s Gilmore Girls established her.

A decade on, and she’s ticking off just about every comedy legend going – Dan Aykroyd in Tammy, Bill Murray in the forthcoming St Vincent and, er, Miranda Hart. McCarthy and the ubiquitous British comic are about to work on Spy, the new CIA comedy by Bridesmaids director Paul Feig. “I am so crazy-excited to meet her, I can hardly stand it,” she gushes, claiming that Hart’s own stand-up tour success is “just something remarkable”. The two might just take Hollywood by storm.

‘Tammy’ opens on 4 July

Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010

GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Arts and Entertainment
Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May on stage

Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

    The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

    How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
    Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

    Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

    'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

    How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

    Art attack

    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
    Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

    Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

    Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
    Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

    'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

    Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
    10 best wedding gift ideas

    It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

    Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
    Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

    Paul Scholes column

    With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
    Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

    Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

    Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
    Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

    Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

    The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
    Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
    Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

    Fifa corruption arrests

    All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
    Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

    The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

    In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

    Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
    Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

    How Stephen Mangan got his range

    Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor