Melissa McCarthy may be best known for her comedy work in popular films like Bridesmaids, Ghostbusters, and The Heat, but the actress shows fans a much tougher, more serious side of herself in her latest movie, The Kitchen, co-starring Tiffany Haddish and Elisabeth Moss. The Kitchen is based on a comic book of the same name and let’s just say it has nothing to do with an actual kitchen.
The Kitchen takes its plot from the DC Vertigo comic book series of the same name and follows the story of three housewives who take over their husbands’ Irish mobster business after their spouses get sent to prison. But while they may be relatively new to running a criminal organization, these women soon develop a real taste for the excitement and easy money that comes along with it. The whole thing takes place in 1970s Hell’s Kitchen (the titular Kitchen) with McCarthy, Haddish, and Moss assuming the roles of the housewives-turned-mafia overlords.
But the film isn't a one-to-one recreation of its source material, as McCarthy explained to Refinery29 at The Kitchen press junket. The comic ran for just eight issues, so co-writer/director Andrea Berloff had room to take creative liberties. “It's a very small story,” McCarthy says. “So I think Andrea being able to take that as a jumping off point and expand these into three very real, complicated full stories of these different women that you do believe that their own this kind of neighborhood together. That was a big job. It wasn't like it was already there and we just changed everything for us.”
There is one notable change from the page to the big screen, however. Haddish’s character was originally a white woman in the comics, which, according to the actress, alters how the character is treated and interacts with others throughout the story. “It didn't change too much of anything for the character except for the dynamics of how she was treated, maybe by her mother-in-law and by other people that live in the kitchen who might feel a certain type of way about black people back then in the '70s,” Haddish told Refinery29 during the same interview.
When it comes to the initial inspiration for The Kitchen's characters, however, don't go looking for any real people. Well, at least not specifically. There was quite a bit of mob-related crime in Hell’s Kitchen during the ‘70s, mostly thanks to an Irish gang called the Westies, which dominated that particular neighborhood throughout the ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s. They had a reputation for being bloodthirsty and violent. According to IrishCentral.com, Rudy Giuliani once described the group as being “The most savage organization in the long history of New York.” So it’s possible these characters and storyline serve as a general representation of the fear that gangs like the Westies once elicited.
When asked about the inspiration behind The Kitchen comics back in 2014, creator Ollie Masters told USA Today that real-life crime did ultimately play a factor in his creative process. "We've all loved doing the research for this book, because everything about that time just seems so dangerous but exciting," he told the outlet at the time. "Crime was rampant in the city, the Mafia and Irish gangs like the Westies in Hell's Kitchen were a more prominent part of people's day-to-day life than they are now. You had this kind of gangster Wild West happening in the streets but you also had a boom in creativity and a feeling that anything could happen."
Anything? Perhaps even something as unexpected as three '70s housewives taking control of their husbands’ mafia business?