LOS ANGELES—Before Bridesmaids, the 2011 Kirsten Wiig vehicle that reshaped the conversation about gender roles in comedy, Melissa McCarthy was best known as a television actor for her work in Gilmore Girls and Mike & Molly. Good gigs, sure, but nothing that was going to make her a household name.
Then Bridesmaids captured both critics and audiences alike, leading to the rarest of things for a full-blown comedy: Academy Award nominations. One went to Wiig and co-writer Annie Mumolo for Original Screenplay; the other to McCarthy in the category of Best Supporting Actress for her performance as the lewd, diarrhea-prone Megan.
McCarthy became an overnight star, her own brand even. With a gigantic fan base behind her, she became the main attraction in films like The Heat and Identity Thief, efforts that were largely despised by critics but that made $100 million dollars more in North America alone than either cost to make. The immediate result of all this is Tammy, a film that stars McCarthy in the title role as a small town woman who loses everything and decides to go on a road trip across the country with her booze-swilling grandmother Pearl (Susan Sarandon).
Co-written by McCarthy and her husband Ben Falcone (who also directed), the actor tells a media conference in a Beverly Hills hotel how Tammy came to be.
“Ben came downstairs, just having woken up, and literally said, ‘I had a weird dream and I think I have to write it. You go on a road trip with your grandmother and she drinks and she sleeps around. So I’m going to go write that movie,’” McCarthy recalls. “And I thought, ‘Alright.’ That was about six years ago and that began the whole thing. He just says things and I go, ‘That sounds great!’ I just agree with him and it all works out.”
Because she’s now a worldwide star, McCarthy and Falcone were able to wrangle a laundry list of highly coveted actors for their feature (Sarandon, Kathy Bates, Dan Aykroyd, Gary Cole, Toni Collette, Sandra Oh, Allison Janney, to name a few). But it could also be the case that they respond to her humility; something that transmits loud and clear when McCarthy talks about putting the film together.
“We had been working on it for years before it even was anything,” she says, her tone suggesting that she still finds it hard to believe that the project happened at all.
“I think we just thought, ‘What if, what if, and can you imagine?’ It sort of came in stages. When people started reading it, like when I found out certain people had it… When I knew it actually got to Kathy, I physically was, like, coming apart at the seams. I was, like, ‘I don’t know if she’s ever going to read it but the fact that it’s in her house is making me have weird breakdowns all throughout the day!’ Every step of it, it’s still dreamy.”