Whether you first fell for her on Gilmore Girls, or like her salt-of-the-Earth charm on Mike & Molly, or are intrigued by her gruff weirdness in the Bridesmaids trailer, it strikes me as impossible not to root for Melissa McCarthy. In a recent conversation, the 40-year-old actress talked about her love for her delightfully odd Bridesmaids character, her frustration with the usual spate of hack women’s roles, and her hit show Mike & Molly. (And can I get a Hell Yeah! for her disgust over the bitter screed “Should Fatties Get a Room” that ran on Marieclaire.com last fall.)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: When were you first invited to audition for Bridesmaids?
MCCARTHY: Back in 2006 I had done the table read for the first draft of the movie. Now in that one I played a completely different person. I played a bridesmaid who just kept crying all the time, who kept getting overwhelmed. Totally different character, a much smaller part. And in this party I didn’t think there was a spot for me. So when they called with this one, strangely, I think Megan is exactly in my wheelhouse. Those are the women at least at Groundlings [the famed L.A. comedy troupe] that I spent 10 years just enjoying so much portraying. So [Bridesmaids co-writer] Annie Mumolo called me and said ‘We want you to come in for this, can you come in and read for [producer] Judd Apatow and [director] Paul Feig?’
Had you worked at all with either of those guys before?
I had never really met them before. I was a big fan of Freaks and Geeks and I’ve always really liked Judd’s movies. I love that you always root for those characters. They always have a good amount of heart in them. I don’t like wacky and I don’t really love snarky stuff. So I always thought with Judd, well I always thought, a few more women wouldn’t kill ya! I can’t say that I haven’t said that all along, but his movies are really funny.
I’ve read a lot of finger-wagging online that the movie makes the heavy character the butt of the joke.
I always feel like they didn’t watch the movie. Did you just see a weird trailer? I love that character. I am the last one on Earth to play something as a sight gag or raunchy for the sake of raunchy. I thought Megan was the most well-adjusted, the happiest with her life. To me she was the most confident one. Whoever is saying she was the mess-up or the this or that, I don’t know what movie you were watching. That’s their own perception just because I didn’t look a certain way. Well, not everyone who’s successful and has a happy life looks one way. Being happy has nothing to do with how you look, or whether you wear weird pants or athletic sandals or if you have a carpal tunnel wristband on. And frankly I know a lot of women that are married, have kids, and that is how they look.
Paul Feig told me it really felt like Hollywood was watching and waiting to see how Bridesmaids performs, that there’s a real sense that it could lead to better roles for women?
In my opinion I think it’s a game changer. If you see a script with two great female parts it’s a win. But six! Six in a movie, six fully formed great characters. So often I see these scripts or these movies and think what are they talking about? They’re fighting over ‘I saw him first and that’s my nail polish and you can’t wear that color.’ It’s the silliest little girl arguments. I have never had that conversation and I don’t know anyone who has. Everyone I know is always like ‘Who the hell are these women?’ There’s always that sense of well, women are kind of horrible to each other and that’s just how it is, but you’re still friends with them. No, my friends are actually wonderful. I think in lieu of a character or a point of view it’s become these four different choices: the bitch, the slut, the door mat, and the people pleaser. That’s it. You get four types of women. I think in Bridesmaids, Kristen and Annie sat down and said “Okay, who are these women specifically?’ This movie is just something so dear to my heart. I mean, I love my show. I love Mike & Molly. The cast all came to the Bridesmaids premiere!
What was your first response to the idea of Mike & Molly?
Somebody first sent it to me when I was pregnant and I said ‘I have no interest.’ How it was presented to me at first was that it was supposed to be more about weight. Absolutely no. I just think it’s a real boring topic. They said who was doing it, who was writing it, so I said ‘Oh God, okay I gotta read that.’ And then when I read it I was like ‘Oh it’s not about that at all.’ It’s a romantic comedy and it really is romantic and it’s really funny. It’s funny, when we did the first press conference for the show, all these questions were on weight. The creator Mark Roberts looked at me up on stage and at one point he looked at me and said ‘Why do they keep asking this stuff? I’m writing a romantic comedy.’ I knew it was coming and he said ‘I had no idea. I’m not writing that show!’ I thought it was so sweet, he was really surprised. ‘I think I’m writing a romantic comedy, what’s everybody talking about?’ When that show started I had just–just!–had a baby. We did the pilot eight weeks after having the baby. I knew the questions were coming.
Did the much-maligned blog, “Should Fatties Get a Room?”on Marieclaire.com, that complained about the prospect of watching overweight characters sting or just make you fighting mad?
In all honesty my first thought was I hope she doesn’t have kids. And I don’t say that glibly. It hit me so viscerally. But then after a second, I thought what a sad, troubled person. You’re making such a shitty judgment on people. And then to have your comeback the next day to be like ‘Oh, I have issues.’ I almost wish she hadn’t done that. I say more bullshit to that. You sat down, you worked on it, you thought out those sentences, you corrected it. You didn’t write off the top of your head and send it out. That was done with great care and at least own it. You chose to be that horrible, to say those horrible things. Don’t take it back the next day. My gosh, I have really small, young children. They’re 1 and 3. If they were older and were at the point in their schooling where that was being talked about… Gosh!
Speaking of your family, your husband has a great cameo in Bridesmaids playing your airplane seat mate.
Isn’t he so cute! As if it wasn’t great enough and then one day Judd was on set and he’s like ‘Hey Melissa, I think I’m going to have Ben on the airplane. He doesn’t look anything like an Air Marshal.’ And then he kind of walked away laughing. And I was like ‘What!? What!? You’re going to kill me if this experience keeps getting better. I’m going to explode from joy.’
You’re already getting such raves for your work in Bridesmaids. Do you have a sense yet if it’ll bring more and different opportunities?
I’m a writer. I’ve written for 10 years, but I’ve always been on something and never really had the opportunity to do it. The opportunity is delightfully now presenting itself for the first time. I’m writing something with [Bridesmaids' co-writer] Annie. Ironically, and this is not in any way trying to duplicate what we’ve done, because it actually came from a script idea that my husband wrote, is another a female ensemble. It’s really funny and it’s again not what I think what most people would expect from women and I just love it. We’ve had four or five meetings and the response has been great!
And now Paul Feig says he’s developing a romantic comedy project for you?
It’s really overwhelming. If Paul asked me to come over and vacuum his house, I would be like ‘Ab-so-lute-ly! Do you need your closets reorganized?’
I have to say, it’s so encouraging to watch a person in this business hit such a stride when she’s 40 rather than 20.
I’m 40, I feel 22. Maybe there’s more pressure on women where their main thing is their beguiling beauty. But I’m always like ‘Oh, can I wear a weird wig and maybe black out my front teeth?’
For more on Melissa McCarthy, pick up the issue of ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY that goes on stands Friday, May 13.