Melissa McCarthy as Michelle Darnell in The Boss (Universal Pictures)
In her latest comedy, The Boss, Melissa McCarthy stars as Michelle Darnell, a titan of industry who is sent to prison after she’s caught for insider trading. When she emerges ready to rebrand herself as America’s latest sweetheart, not everyone she screwed over is so quick to forgive and forget.
McCarthy is joined by co-stars Kristen Bell, Kathy Bates and Peter Dinklage. Though she had met Bates and Bell already, she had never met Dinklage before. Like many of us who are not celebrities, she was anxious before their first meeting.
“I was so weirdly nervous to meet Peter. There’s just something imposing about Peter Dinklage. He radiates some kind of magic,” she says. “I went to meet him the first time after a play, and I was so nervous. He just couldn’t have been nicer. I didn’t know he was that funny. I know a lot of funny people, but that guy, he’s one of the funniest human beings on the planet.”
Once Dinklage and everyone else was cast, it was time to shoot of course. The opening scene features an extravagant song and dance number as Michelle is introduced to her fans at one of her motivational seminars, and this scene was a dream come true for McCarthy.
“That was the dreamiest thing to do because, for two weeks, I got to hang out and rehearse with dancers. It was a weird dream I always had. It made me feel a lot cooler than I am. I loved saying, ‘I gotta go to dance rehearsal.’ I threw that line around a lot because I knew I wouldn’t be able to say it for too long. Just being around that group of dancers was so cool,” McCarthy gushes. “In my life, I did not think I would rap with T-Pain. Those were two huge fantasies. I wanted that scene to shoot for three or four or five more weeks.”
Like many comedians, she got her start in the Groundlings. Not only did she meet her husband, The Boss director Ben Falcone, at the Groundlings, but that is where she came up with the character of Michelle. Though she has since moved on from the Groundlings, she could never move on from Michelle.
“I could just never let her go. I took that as a sign that I wasn’t done with her. Ben and I were talking about something completely random and I said, ‘I think Michelle’s an orphan.’ He then said to me, ‘We were not talking about that at all.’ The more I thought about her, the more I loved that unbridled confidence. You don’t get to see that a lot with female characters. She was hurt enough to build up that wall, and I think it’s like that with some people who say, ‘I don’t need anyone.’ I always want to ask, ‘Who hurt you and made you be like that?’ I always want to know the reason why someone builds up that wall. There’s usually a pretty interesting story there.”
As with her film, Tammy, McCarthy is one of the writers. She thinks it’s important for films to have female voices in front of and behind the camera.
“The world has two sexes. If you don’t have someone behind the scenes saying, ‘That’s not what a woman would do,’ then you’re limiting the scope and your credibility. Anytime you mix it up [age, gender, life experience], the world gets more interesting. When I watch something, I don’t want everyone to be the same because you learn nothing from it if everyone has the same point of reference. When you see other points of view, it opens your world up. You have to be willing to understand that you don’t know everything. If you think you know everything, you’re in a world of trouble.”
Even though McCarthy is a big star and one of the biggest comedians in the world, she hasn’t forgotten her roots. She didn’t start out as The Boss and wasn’t afraid to work whatever jobs she could to get there.
“I’m from good Midwestern stock. I’m a really hard worker. I worked since I was 15, and I always kind of liked it. My first job was in a nursing home. I just liked it. I like to feel accomplished at the end of the day. I don’t know what I’d do if I didn’t work. I’d probably drive everyone I know insane. I’d be organizing their closets and be way up in their business.”
And for all of us who want to be The Boss, McCarthy offers this advice: “Work hard. Don’t expect too much. You have to work your way up. There’s so much instant gratification now, I think most people that I know who really had to work their way up, they’re better at their jobs. They’re more adjusted in the world. Don’t come in and expect to be the CEO. You have to work for it.”
The Boss is in theaters April 8.