For niche audiences, Melissa McCarthy was always a known quantity.
She played Sookie, Lorelai’s best friend on Gilmore Girls for seven years and the same role basically in Jennifer Lopez’s The Back-up Plan and Katherine Heigl’s Life As We Know It.
But then, when Chuck Lorre realised that TV was ready for a comedy about two plus-size people, who better to cast in the female lead than McCarthy.
Her co-starring role in Mike And Molly quickly established her as a bona fide TV star.
But it was Paul Feig who saw a different potential in her.
Cast as the unapologetic Megan in Bridesmaids, McCarthy stole the movie from some of the best comedians in the business and quickly established herself as a one-of-a-kind with a singular gift for outrageous physical comedy.
Soon enough, she switched to the big screen, proving herself a public favourite, playing opposite Jason Bateman in Identity Theft, Sandra Bullock in The Heat and Jason Statham in Spy, all box office hits
At the moment she’s headlining her biggest movie yet, the summer blockbuster Ghostbusters. She may have lost 35kg (which cost her her Mike And Molly job) but she retains her buoyancy.
It’s hard to believe, but she’s been treading the boards for almost 20 years now. For the past 11 years, she’s been happily married to her soulmate (and occasional director) Ben Falcone, and they have two beautiful daughters, aged eight and six.
By casting four women the film has generated a lot of controversy, even hate mail. Were you shocked?
I don’t read any of that stuff. We hadn’t even started the movie, it was just a concept at that point, and people were critiquing it.
It was very strange, like critiquing a book you haven’t read. How about you read it first!
So, I don’t read any of that stuff ever because I don’t think I can improve myself from it. If somebody has a good point to make, I am the first to listen. But if someone just wants to spew hate and tear down women or tear down anybody, I prefer to keep that out of my life.
And you don’t read your reviews either?
I try not to. I read a review once that made me burst out and cry because it attacked me, and it said something so awful against my children, and I thought, no good comes from that. So, you just learn not to care about that stuff.
You’ve worked with Paul (Feig, who also directed Ghostbusters) four times now. What makes him so special?
First of all, he’s incredibly smart, incredibly funny and he loves women. He thinks women are funny, so every day on the set is a delight. And he’s willing to take any suggestion you make.
The message of Ghostbusters is friendship. Do you have people in your life like that?
I think the friendship aspect of the movie is incredible. I am still friends with my best friend from high school and the two guys I met when I was 20. All my friends go back some 25 odd years. I have some new friends but I think it’s always good to have those people who know you backwards and forwards.
Is it difficult piloting a hot career and having two young kids to nurture?
It’s the same for any other working mother. You try to balance it as best you can. My main goal once I get home is not to answer the phone and give them all my attention.
Are your daughters aware of your fame?
They know what we do; they are often on set with us, and every time (husband) Ben and I do something together, we travel as a family. We love to work together, that is how we met.
Where was that?
We were doing improv with Groundlings. When we found out we both were from Carbondale, Illinois, a town no one had ever heard of, we kind of hit it off right away. We started writing together, and discovered we had met 10 years earlier.
So it’s a family business?
It’s all part of keeping the family together. We are a carnival act, we travel together. And the kids know we love what we do, they know we work hard.
Are they aware of my fame? I don’t know if they quite get it yet. Kids are not very impressed with you. If I come home and if I have been gone working all day, I literally can’t get them to look at me.
I will do something totally silly, and they are like, “Yeah, anyway.” And I am like, “This is what I do for a living,’ and they are like, “Can you go in the other room?”
Have they seen any of your movies
This is the first movie of mine that they will see, which I am very excited about.
Have they inherited your sense of humour?
They definitely have. They are very funny, confident girls, and I am raising them as best as I can.
Boy, I wish there was a magic trick. I work every day on making sure they are not hearing (negative) things that could alter them. I try to counter that by not making too big a deal of it; it’s the constant, your hair isn’t right, your legs aren’t right, you have a strange nose, blah, blah, blah.
So, I won’t let them apologise. “Oh I am so sorry, that was dumb.” Don’t say you are sorry and don’t say it was dumb.
I am a stickler for that, even for grown-ups. I say, “Don’t apologise for a thought, say the thought and then we can deal with it.”
They are strong, confident girls, and my hope is to keep them that way.
How are they funny? Do they make you laugh?
They are incredibly funny, they are the two funniest of the family. Because kids have no censors, they say things even I can’t, things that float into their heads.
Ben and I are always like, “What? What did you say?” And then they are off, and they don’t care.
But that’s how they see the world. Every single weird comment they make, I am like, “Well, that’s one way to look at it.”
You and your husband have a great marriage. What makes it work?
We follow the golden rule in our house. Be kind, and everything will fall in place.
You’re known to be anal retentive. Everything has to be neat and clean. What does your house look like?
I try to keep things neat. It’s hard to be creative if your house is messy. But I’m also an interior decorator fanatic. I’m always trying new things.
I like to renovate houses, buy the worst house on the block and completely renovate it. We once moved four times in six years, but Ben put a stop to that.
Talk about your clothing line (which offers “Chic styles for every size”)
The clothing line has been a blast even though it’s so much work and it means learning a whole new business. In the last year, I have learned so much. It takes up a good 60 hours of my week, but I absolutely love it.