Melissa McCarthy Gets Real With Us About The Boss, Butts & Gilmore Girls

Photo: David Slijper/Trunk Archive.
Sure, Melissa McCarthy writes, produces, and stars in blockbuster comedies, but what the Oscar nominee really wants to do Lucky for her, a perk of being a triple threat at the top of Hollywood's A list is that she can make her dream come true with a few phone calls, a couple weeks in a practice studio, and one giant phoenix rigged with pyrotechnics.

In one of the first scenes in The Boss, her new movie out April 8, McCarthy's character, Michelle Darnell, floats down onto an arena stage on the back of just such a firebird. Then she raps a verse from “All I Do Is Win,” accompanied by T-Pain, while busting some sick moves.

“I felt so old and white, but it was also like, ‘Finally, this makes sense. This was what I thought I'd be doing with my life,’” McCarthy told us during a recent chat in Los Angeles. “That's one dream off my bucket list. I love to dance. I love it. Going to dance rehearsals for two weeks was the coolest. I can't tell you how often I said [to people], ‘I gotta go, guys. I've got dance rehearsal.’ And they’d be like, ‘You're not going for another hour.’ I was like, ‘I know, but I got to say it. Because in two weeks, I won't be able to say it again.’”

Making a stadium full of extras put their hands in the air and stay there — up and down, up and down — was just the start of awesome for McCarthy. The comedy, which McCarthy wrote with her husband Ben Falcone (who also directs), offered her a chance to flesh out one of her favorite characters from her Groundlings days: Michelle Darnell, the brash, ambitious, cocky, unfiltered titan of industry-turned-motivational speaker who does six months for insider trading, then moves in with her single-mom colleague (Kristen Bell). It's a tale of business, betrayal, branding, brownies...

“And boobs,” McCarthy said. “Poor Kristen, I was all up in there fondling her parts.”

Never a dull moment when you sit down with this Emmy-winning leading lady.

Let’s get right to it. Admit that
The Boss is really just a thinly veiled takedown of the antiquated Girl Scouts and a feminist manifesto about leaning in. Or am I reading too much into it?
"Ha! No, because it was [conceived] pre-leaning in. Michelle Darnell was born to me 15, 16 years ago at the Groundlings. Not that I don’t love those women that are [leaning in], because we do not have to apologize for being successful and smart and all of those things. I love showing that [kind of] woman in the movie. I also love showing that there's no fault in needing people. No one wanted Michelle. She built up this wall. She was capable, smart, and did everything she wanted. Then when that all falls apart, when she goes to jail, she’s like, ‘What do I have left?’ If power and money go, you need people. People need people. So really, it's a movie about Barbra Streisand. My next one is all about 'Evergreen.' Gonna continue the Streisand theme.”

Photo: Courtesy of Universal.
Melissa McCarthy in "The Boss."

I'm interested in your process. What usually comes first? The character? The plot? A specific scene or joke?
"I had a very strange thing when I first had her pop into my head. It was immediate. I was like, Yep, I know what she looks like. She's a redhead. She wears turtlenecks. French-tipped nails. I know how she stands, how she uses her hands, how she runs a business. It was literally like someone put a port in my head. It was really fun to play her at Groundlings because I was doing a seminar on how to make money and using people in the audience. All these years, I couldn't let her go. It’s fun to play someone who kicks in a door and takes no prisoners, because it's not how I live my life. My kids control me. I have no power at home."

There's a scene when Kristen Bell has to stand there while Michelle insults her date-night outfit, then fondles her saggy chest.
"I don't know if anyone's had a boob fight [on screen before]. I can't think of one, but if there's been a boob fight, it's been like, slap-and-tickle pillow fights at sororities. To me, that's the kind of thing that at, like, 14 you learn is inappropriate. But Michelle never had friends. Twenty years later, she’s having weird teenage stuff happen. It was like, ‘I guess you help your friends with their boobs.’”

Michelle's comeback plan after prison involves building a brownie empire with school girls. How many brownies were harmed in the making of this film?
"So many. They were real brownies, and I ate a lot of them. Our prop guys, Tim and Jim, who work on Mike and Molly, are amazing. And Tim's wife is a bionic chef. So he was always like, ‘They're all fresh.’ And I was like, 'Knock it off, Tim! How about you bring in a boatload of stale, crappy brownies? That's what I need from you.' We're not even rolling, and I was like, glug, glug. I was just staying in character."

Where on your bucket list did having Kathy Bates call you a cocksucker, shit stain, and fuck-face fall? I'm guessing near the top.
"Pretty high up. The fact that this is my second movie with Kathy Bates is amazing. My fear is, I am in a fever dream and I'm going to wake up and be like, 'I'm an actress and I know Kathy Bates!' And they'll be like, ‘You've been out for seven years.’ Having her do that long run of profanity was mind-blowing. I can't remember if we gave her 'shit stain,' by the way. I want to say that one came straight from the source."

Women should not apologize for getting in there and taking what they want.

Melissa McCarthy

You often work very closely with your husband, Ben. You share scenes, write together, produce together, and he directed you in this and
Tammy. How is your working relationship? Do you ever worry about too much together time?
"No. I don't know if that makes us crazy. It’s fun to work together. We spend a lot of time making sure our sets are fun. We met doing this, and that’s how we became such good friends. When [we had to] pick somebody to write with, we always picked each other. To this day, I still feel like we always see the same thing. We always have the same stupid arc in our heads. We don't have to explain it. He is so incredibly steady, smart, funny, and logical. Neither one of us are precious. If the line or joke doesn't work, he's like, ‘I think we can try something else.’ He just took all the pressure. I don't have to be self-editing; I can just do my job."

I was joking before when I said this was a feminist manifesto. I understand that it is meant to entertain first and foremost. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t good nuggets in there about women being bosses and asking for what they want — or even that it is okay to be a sexual being. Can you make people laugh and send messages at the same time?
"I hope so. That’s the grand plan. Like I said before, women should not apologize for getting in there and taking what they want. They should not apologize for wanting equal pay or equal rights. They should not apologize for wanting it all, but they should be willing to work for it. I remember calling my parents at 20 and being like, ‘I'm not going back to school. I tried stand-up last night. I'm going to be an actress.’ And they were like, ‘All right. Well, work your butt off. It's going to be hard, but you can do it.’ And I think I buy that. If you work hard enough, you can achieve, and I hope that message is in there."

Photo: Courtesy of Universal.
Kristen Bell and McCarthy in "The Boss."
Do you consider yourself a role model? Obviously there is a world of plus-size women who look to you as a successful standout in an industry dominated by stick figures. You even started a clothing line, another industry that often tells curvy ladies we are no good.
"I know I am not the 'norm.' It never occurs to me in terms of being a role model, though, because I don't know any perfect women. If I, off the top of my head, name 20 of the most amazing women in my life, it's all shapes, sizes, ages, colors, jobs. I can only go off my reality. What people pass off as 'normal,' I just have to keep in my head that it's bullshit. It’s all fictitious, made-up stuff. I know some of those women in those magazines who get called perfect or whose butt is supposedly better, and often they don’t even look like that in person. And they would die — they don't want you to compare who wore it better. They would be more horrified than anybody else that you're pitting them against each other and judging. You don't do that with guys. You don't see two guys next to each other and somebody going, ‘Who's got the better knees? Who's got old knees? Who's got weird feet?’ I want to get rid of constantly categorizing. Lists give somebody a way to shove and tear down women. Those women that are always shown, that we're all supposed to be like, is like .000009% of human beings. That's crazy. That's like saying, ‘We're all going to get a perm and get green hair, right?’ You'd be like, ‘All of us?’ No, knock yourself out with your perm, but if we all did it, that would be bizarre."
Do people in the industry still try to put you in a box? I assume it helps that you are in a position to write and produce stuff for yourself.
"Oh, for sure, because there are still so many scripts out there that give no real description for the female characters. I read scripts and go, ‘I can't play that woman. I've never met her.' It's like she's a robot. You've given no human characteristics, no human qualities, no flaws. There are no quirks, tics, habits, failures. You need all of the things that are wrong with a person. That’s almost how you build them. You can't play 'beguiling.' You can't play 'leggy.' And again, not something they do to men. It's like, 'Tom is a workaholic with a lisp and a tortured childhood. And he's an alcoholic.' Then it's like, 'Beth has long legs and dreamy eyes.' Well, how the fuck do you play that? I am not good enough to go in and play a perfect woman. I'm a character actor, so I need character traits until I'm actually playing a robot. Which, even then, I'll still probably have a weird backstory: She wasn't oiled enough as a child. I actually would kind of love to play an eclectic robot. So when someone says that maybe she should be more like whatever, I say, ‘No, because that's not the human we wrote.’ Please don't tell me 'brunette' when I'm talking about a character trait. I keep shoving that back in people's faces: physical attributes versus character, and hiring a person that’s best to play that character. I think the more I shove… Baby steps."

If I name 20 of the most amazing women in my life, it's all shapes, sizes, ages, colors, jobs. What people pass off as 'normal...' it's bullshit.

Melissa McCarthy
And yet, given that you have recently lost a bunch of weight, I’m guessing that was the first question from lots of reporters today.
"I have, but I'll be back again. I'll be up, I'll be down, probably for the rest of my life. The thing is, if that is the most interesting thing about me, I need to go have a lavender farm in Minnesota and give this up. There has to be something more. There are so many more intriguing things about women than their butt or their this or their that. It can't be the first question every time, or a question at all. It's like, ‘Can you imagine them asking some of these guys I work with, 'How do you keep your butt looking so good?' It would be like, ‘What the fuck are you talking about? Why are you asking about the shape of my butt?’"

Do you fight the same battles as a clothing designer?
[McCarthy's line, Melissa McCarthy Seven7 is available in stores and on her website.]
"Sometimes. I think every time I take a baby step, someone says, 'We've done incredible polling with [plus-size] women, and they actually love the convenience of going upstairs to shop in their own department.’ And I'm like, really? They like being segregated? I bet you get a different answer if you ask a different question. Do they want to be by the tires or do they want to shop with their friends? I know I'd like to go shopping with my friends."

How about when the skinny salesperson acts like she doesn’t even know where the plus section is?
"As if you asked her, ‘Do you have the panda suits?’ And she’s all, ‘I don’t think we have that.’ And gives you the face. You're doing something with your face that makes me want to punch you. Just jerk my fist up real fast. I don't mean to. But this thing's getting real close. It's so itchy right now. I'm so sorry that I made contact with your face."

Photo: Courtesy of Universal.
McCarthy, Bell, and Ben Falcone in "The Boss."

As a fan of
Gilmore Girls, I would be remiss if I didn’t ask if things may work out and an appearance in the reboot is going to happen?
"It’s not. They didn’t ask. And once this came out, because people were starting to say, ‘Oh, you won't do it. You're too big and busy now.’ I was like, ‘No. No one invited me to the party. I didn't get a single call.’ And then after that, it was kind of, ‘Well, she'd like to do it, you guys can call us.’ I have to call and ask? And now I can’t make it happen. I thought it was the strangest thing. I am really proud of that show. I can’t wait for my kids to see it."

You are quite the controversy-magnet lately. There’s also the whole "Ghostbusters is racist because Leslie Jones is the only one not playing a scientist." Do you sometimes think people are just trolling for ways to stir the pot?
"Yes. Even today, people kept asking if Michelle Darnell is inspired by Trump. That’s just not true. I don’t follow stuff like that, or I try not to, but that thing about being racist is so off-base. Paul [Feig, the director] said that part was originally written with me in mind. Leslie was like, ‘What? Huh? No. Loved my character.’ And we couldn’t have had a better time filming that movie. We are all super close. Paul is like the most progressive... Just stop trying to stir up the craziness."

Unfortunately, a lot of people are just looking for provocative stuff to write about.
"It can never be positive. It always has to be negative. It’s like whoever can throw shit the farthest gets their two minutes. You know you could flip that and shine a light on something and write a great story and still get your two minutes. I wish it was as fashionable to raise people up as it seems to be to take them down."


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