From Best Friend to Breakout

Sonja Flemming/CBS

After more than a decade in supporting roles, Melissa McCarthy turned a cross-eyed character into her Mike & Molly lead.

The Groundlings (1997-2010)

McCarthy performed with the comedy troupe for more than a decade, retiring in 2010 to focus on her CBS series Mike & Molly. Among the troupe's fellow alumni: her husband, Ben Falcone, along with Bridesmaids' Kristen Wiig, Annie Mumolo and Maya Rudolph.

Gilmore Girls (2000-07)

McCarthy spent seven seasons in the supporting role of scatterbrained chef Sookie St. James on the WB series, a departure from the physical comedy she was doing on the Groundlings' stage.

Samantha Who? (2007-09)

She quickly slipped into another supporting role, this time as the needy best friend to Christina Applegate in the ABC comedy that lasted two seasons before getting canceled.

Life as We Know It (2010)

McCarthy turned up as the all-knowing neighbor in the Greg Berlanti-directed Katherine Heigl-Josh Duhamel romantic comedy, which grossed only $53 million at the domestic box office.

Mike & Molly (2010-present)

McCarthy's first leading role, as a schoolteacher who falls for a man in her overeaters support group, was won after the show's creator saw her playing a cross-eyed genius in a reel.

Bridesmaids (2011)

McCarthy served up her Groundlings-trained comedy chops in a scene-stealing role of larger-than-life Megan in the Judd Apatow-produced summer hit, which grossed nearly $170 million domestically.