Melissa McCarthy’s latest film, Can You Ever Forgive Me?, isn’t the high-energy knee-slapper type we’re used to seeing her in. But, as with everything the comedy queen touches, it’s still funny. In the dark comedy that’s based on a true story, McCarthy plays writer turned literary forger Lee Israel.
And now that she’s reached the point in her career where she’s crossing genres, the superstar is recalling how it all began. She paid homage to her early champions during an AOL Build Series interview on Tuesday.
“The biggest lucky stick I got hit with was, two female friends of mine, Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo, wrote Bridesmaids,” McCarthy said. “They wrote a story that all of us didn’t know if anyone would go see … and they called me in for it, which never ever would have happened if these two women hadn’t written a story about real women that people completely underestimated that anyone would go to see it,” she shared. “I was working before then a little bit. I had steady work. But I think that was the first thing that allowed me to … they didn’t give me a part that I couldn’t relate to.”
She won’t take the credit for changing the landscape for comedic women, though. “I have to say, I watched Jane Curtin, and Gilda Radner, and Carol Burnett, and Madeline Kahn. I always felt like they paved the way.” She did help repave it, however. “I think we got off track for a while where it was like, hey, where are those parts that I grew up watching?”
Those are the parts that McCarthy found, the latest of which is a grumpy, struggling writer. Can You Ever Forgive Me? is about the lowest point in the biographer’s life, based on the writer’s memoir of the same name. It also looks at a friendship between two gay friends, a man and a woman, but very subtly, and McCarthy liked it that way.
“I think you’re always on the right path with something when you’re just showing people who are. They are this. … It’s not something they’ve picked up or suddenly acquired,” she said. “I think it’s the best of what we can do when we can show the world … as just someone is something. They’re also so many other things. It’s a section of who they are. And that it’s not something that has to be talked about, or like, ‘How do you feel about it?’ It should be like: It is,” she said.
“If a male character has a husband and it’s not on topic … I always think you show the world that you want people who maybe don’t get the chance to be around it … they can start to realize, like, oh, the world won’t explode. It’s fine,” she reasoned about presenting gay characters without any fuss or plot tie-in. “You have to start showing the real world. … I think when filmmakers do that … they show the world, and everyone just watches.”
McCarthy is a major proponent of showing real people. “I think if we stop telling stories, we lose our tether to each other. I think it’s important to watch a story about lonely people just trying to be seen, because it makes everyone who watches it, I think, go, ‘I felt like that. Which means everybody feels like that. I’m not alone,’” she explained. “We’re all kind of in this together. It spreads out the spiderweb, I think, in a way that is really good for people to see.”
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