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For Melissa McCarthy, the leapfrog over better-known nominees to win an Emmy for her role in CBS’ Mike & Molly marked the official Hollywood coronation of an actress so outside the realm of convention that it gave the awards broadcast one of its few genuine surprises. Indeed, it would seem McCarthy has plenty working against her — she’s a plus-size fortysomething (41 to be exact) in an industry that traditionally favors sample-size females two decades younger. But what she lacks in dewy ingenue sex appeal, she makes up for with depth, comedic timing and sheer likability. “It’s truly her moment,” CBS Entertainment chief Nina Tassler tells The Hollywood Reporter.
So what’s it like to suddenly be in the white-hot center of Hollywood desire, especially after nearly two decades of trying? THR senior writer Lacey Rose caught up with the star just days after her major Emmy win. Included in the news from this week’s THR cover story:
SHE’S WORKING ON A DARK COMEDY WITH ‘THE HELP’S’ TATE TAYLOR, AND A ROADTRIP COMEDY
McCarthy and The Help writer-director are halfway finished with their dark comedy script. McCarthy knows Taylor from when both were in the the L.A. comedy troupe The Groundlings. But it’s a project called Tammy that she says has her heart. “It’s so funny, and it also kind of breaks my heart,” she says of a film script of hers centering on a woman who is leading an exceptionally unfulfilled life. The character wakes up one morning as things are crumbling around her and decides she has to get out of town — and the only way to do so is in her grandmother’s car. When her heavy-drinking grandmother insists on going along, they end up on a wild road trip to Mount Rushmore. “It’s these two women who are not where they thought they’d be, and they kind of band together,” she says, her excitement on display.
MCCARTHY HAS A SLEW OF OTHER PROJECTS ON FILM AND TV
She and her actor husband Ben Falcone recently sold a multicamera TV comedy project to CBS about a woman having a midlife crisis, and she’s co-writing a movie with Bridesmaids writer Annie Mumolo for Paramount, which will star McCarthy as the mastermind of a plan to hijack the Stanley Cup in order to cheer up her sick husband. She’s also in negotiations to star opposite Jason Bateman in the movie Identity Thief, while Bridesmaids producer Judd Apatow cast her in his untitled Knocked Up spinoff and Bridesmaids director Paul Feig has set up his movie Dumb Jock to feature her as the star. “She’s really one of my new heroes,” Feig says of McCarthy. “I’ll do anything to keep working with her. When you find someone like her, you don’t let them go.”
SHE AND HER ACTOR-HUSBAND ARE LAUNCHING THEIR OWN PRODUCTION COMPANY
Now, McCarthy and Falcone, a Goundlings Alum who played Air Marshal Jon in Bridesmaids, are setting up a production company. The pair is leaning toward naming it On the Day, a phrase McCarthy utters often. “Whenever someone wants to really rehearse a part, I always say, ‘Oh, on the day, on the day it will be fine,” says McCarthy, referencing her distaste for over-rehearsing. It’s a fitting next step given how many projects McCarthy has in the works, a byproduct of her recent success. “To have the opportunity to start developing and being on the creating side of stuff, for me, is one of the most amazing and exciting things that’s happened,” she says. “I’ve been writing for 15 years, and now, suddenly, people are like, ‘Oh, what’s in that drawer?’ It’s like, ‘Well, I’ll show what’s in the drawer.’ ”
AFTER MAKING HER OWN EMMYS DRESS, SHE IS BECOMING A FASHION DESIGNER
McCarthy is using her raised profile to launch a line for other plus-size women. “Trying to find stuff that’s still fashion-forward in my size is damn near impossible. It’s either for like a 98-year-old woman or a 14-year-old hooker, and there is nothing in the middle,” she laughs, recalling her recent struggles to find a dress for the Emmys. After combing through “9 million dresses with taffeta or shiny bows,” she opted to channel her teenage passion to become a fashion designer and design her own Emmy gown (with couture dressmaker Daniella Pearl.)
MCCARTHY HATED HER ‘BRIDESMAIDS’ AUDITION
McCarthy went into her audition for Bridesmaids wearing Dockers and no makeup. The character of Megan, which was initially conceived as a nervous oddball, McCarthy reimagined as an uber-confident misfit. In her mind, she was channeling past Groundlings characters with the physical appearance of the Food Network’s Guy Fieri, from one of her favorite shows Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. She remembers leaving the audition horrified by her performance: “The whole ride home, I was like, ‘God, you get one shot, and you go in and you act weird,'” she says. “I was like, ‘You idiot, you idiot.'” Fortunately, Judd Apatow and Paul Feig, along with writers and former Groundlings members Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo, appreciated her take on weird. “My jaw hit the ground,” recalls Feig of McCarthy’s audition. “I remember watching the first time, and we almost couldn’t laugh because we were like: ‘Oh my God. What is she doing? This is amazing.'” That her improv skills were similarly top-notch — Feig is fond of telling the story of a scene that didn’t make the cut where McCarthy’s Megan starts ad-libbing about a squirrel infestation in her house, revealing there’s “a squirrel burrowing its way into her vagina and living inside her” — made her casting a no-brainer.
SHE CRIED AFTER ‘SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE’ ASKED HER TO HOST
Earlier this summer, McCarthy was out rug shopping with Bridesmaids’ Annie Mumolo when McCarthy’s “team” called to see if she was up to do episode two of SNL‘s 37th season this Saturday. “I went into such an embarrassing, weird, inappropriately loud cry,” says McCarthy of her response, laughing about a story she shares often. “Annie was running in circles. She thinks something horrible is happening because I’m bent over, literally, in the rug section of Living Spaces wailing.” Mumolo cracks up at the story’s retelling, adding, “I thought someone had died.” She claims she’ll fly to Manhattan with a trunk filled with sketches and characters from her decade-plus tenure with L.A. improv group the Groundlings. Among them: Marbles, a cross-eyed, eccentric genius she’d love to work into a skit on SNL. “If I get Marbles on SNL, you can hit me with a bus right after that and I’ll be OK,” jokes McCarthy.
BECOMING A MOTHER MADE HER LESS INSECURE ABOUT HER LOOKS
She has been less bothered by criticism of her physical appearance since becoming a mother to daughters Vivian, 4 — who has been parading around for days with her mother’s Emmy tiara — and Georgette, 1 1/2. “The stupid stuff like what I wear or how I look I can’t control, so I just try not to give too much energy to it,” she continues, noting later that after having her second child, her body is a work in progress. “At 20, I would have been like: ‘Don’t they like me? Was it my hair?’ At 41, I think the things that define me, I hope, are a lot more than those kinds of petty things.”
Read the full THR cover story here.
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