Exclusive: Melissa McCarthy Shares What Makes ‘Tammy’ So Gangsta

Ben Falcone, Susan Sarandon, Melissa McCarthy

Melissa McCarthy stars in the hilarious new comedy “Tammy” out today, July 2. 

McCarthy is one of the most sought after actresses in Hollywood. She has starred in “Bridesmaids,” “This Is 40,” “Identity Thief,” “The Heat,” “The Hangover Part III,” and now it is time for Tammy to shine. This is a personal project for McCarthy, because not only does she star in it, but she co-wrote it with her husband, who is also the film’s director, Ben Falcone. Melissa is also a producer on the film. Read our exclusive interview with her below:

First, congratulations on the movie.

Thank you! It’s amazing that it’s finally here and getting released.

In the trailer Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise” is used. What makes Tammy so gangsta?

 Because she’s doing what she has to do. She’s making the wrong decision, but she’s doing it to protect and get her grandma out of a really bad situation. And, it’s not a good decision, but I like that she’s being so tough because she’s trying to do the right thing in the wrong way. She’s pretty badass. 

What was the inspiration for the film?  

Ben came downstairs one morning and he had a really vivid dream. He came downstairs and the first thing out of his mouth was “I had this dream. I think I want to write it as a movie. You were on a road trip and it’s your grandmother and she drinks a lot, sleeps around and I think I’m going to write this movie.” And he was literally like – hair all over the place, still blurry eyed and he had not done that before and I was like, “Oh, ok. Want some coffee first?” And he couldn’t get it out of his head and the more we started talking about it, we knew. We were like “Ok, let’s actually write it.” So it literally came to him in a dream and we went from there. We spent like a good five, six years working on it. 

A six year project?

Yeah. I think when we first started, we were always kind of working on it, but we didn’t have the opportunity to show anybody. We were hoping, but it was more of, “oh well.” We’ve always written together and we kind of wrote things that we wanted to write just to write them, and you hope somebody would read them, but we didn’t have a way. And then New Line came to us and asked “Do you have anything you want to do?” And we were like, “Oh my gosh yes! We actually have something.” And they read it and they were in and it was all kind of fantastically timed out. 

This is your first time writing a movie. What was that process like?

You know what? I really kind of loved it. Ben and I, we met at the Groundlings Theater in LA and we met writing and performing together so it was kind of something we’ve always done, but when we really got closer and when we knew we were actually going to make it, you start doing massive rewrites and I really saw how much work goes into that. It’s like a domino effect – you take out one little thing and you think you’re changing this and then you go back and you’ve changed fifteen things. And those fifteen things change ten more things and I don’t know – I really kind of love, strangely, how complicated it was. It was kind of like a puzzle – if you move one of the pieces around it affects everything. But I weirdly kind of liked that part of that.

What was it like working with Ben in more than just an onscreen acting capacity, but as writers and producers?

For us, it works really well. We have a pretty similar way of working and we’ve worked with each other since the day we’ve met but there were no big surprises. It wasn’t like, “Oh! Once you’re at work you’re completely different and you have this completely different style.” We knew exactly how each other works and that’s how we became friends and how we fell in love. We met doing all this stuff so we’ve always written and worked very easily. So luckily it was the same on this.

You worked with Susan Sarandon and Kathy Bates, what was it like working with each of them?

Bionic and mystical. They’re both two of the coolest women I’ve ever met in my life … I mean everyone knows they’ve done a million incredible movies, they’re brilliant at what they do but they’re also really cool women. Like, they’re fun to hang out with, so kind of getting to know them better was pretty dreamy.

Were there any moments where you just couldn’t believe you got Susan or Kathy to act or say certain lines? 

Well I couldn’t believe any of it. Frankly, like first day when I was between the two of them, I would look at them and wonder, “What the hell is going on. How is this possibly happening that I am standing between Susan Sarandon and Kathy Bates?” It feels nuts. I mean just meeting them, I was trying not to geek out and make a fool of myself. But they’re so good and it was a really creative collaborative set. I think Ben’s whole style of directing like, “Here’s what we’re looking to get, what do you think?” It was always kind of nice and open and kind of like a free exchange of what everyone wanted to do and what the goal was. And I think it kind of made everyone feel very loose and they could throw out any idea they wanted and they improvised a lot and everyone was really good at that and it just made for a really fun day.

What were some of the scenes you improvised?

We improvised on almost everything. Not meaning we would totally go away from the script, but it was kind of the way we liked to do it was that we had the script as your road map, you usually shoot the script version and then we all feel kind of free enough to slightly vary left and right of the line. If you want to go off a little, if someone says something, you respond to it, so there’s always a kind of freedom to have a little play. That way if you do say something and you get it on film, you said something you didn’t know you were going to say, the person you’re in the scene with, they don’t expect it. If everything lines up, if the stars line up right and the camera gets it, you actually get to capture a real spontaneous moment, which are some of my favorite stuff. But a lot of the stuff was improvised but always sticking to the basic map of what we had but we really gave everyone the freedom to. They all were so good and they all knew their characters so to say something else in character, Ben was like, “Please do.”

Where did your passion for comedy come from? 

I think it came from a funny family. My mom and dad are funny – my dad can crush a story. He tells the same story twenty times in a row that you’ve heard already but each time it’s really, really funny. I don’t know – I grew up with a real appreciation of it.

You are on a winning streak including your Oscar nod for “Bridesmaids.” What are you planning on next? 

I’m going to cross my fingers and hopes it keeps going. I’m knocking on every piece of wood I walk past. I want to keep writing and acting and challenging myself for different stuff and if I can keep working with the people I got to with Tammy, I will be forever happy. You can’t physically stop me since I’ll keep going. 

You were recently picked by the Hollywood Walk of Fame to receive a Sidewalk Star. How does that feel? 

Crazy, Absolutely crazy. It hasn’t fully set in it, but I am beyond shocked and super, super honored and I think my mom and dad would be there for it and the whole thing is kind of mind blowing. That was a biggie – that kind of blew my mind.

We also spoke with the film’s other star Susan Sarandon at the film’s New York premiere at Landmark Sunshine presented by Rolling Stone Magazine. Melissa is currently on the cover of the magazine. Read what Susan had to say about the project below:

Tell us about your character.

She had a child very young and that child had a child very young and that’s Melissa and she has a big appetite, she has an addiction problem, but she’s very feisty and she’s got a great sense of humor and I like her … It was a very liberating experience [playing Pearl], I think that you can tell that we were having a  good time and it was so different and such a stretch, so it’s really fun.

What was your favorite scene with Melissa?

We had a lot. I don’t know if there was one favorite scene. We really had a good time. I think that if you see the movie you can feel that we genuinely liked each other and that we genuinely had a good time.  There was so much improvisation, it was always fresh and always new. Ben did a really great job at making us feel safe, so we could make big mistakes and not worry about it, which is a wonderful way to work.

What did you think of your character’s wardrobe?

I thought it was so appropriate. Wearing very high jeans with elastic, really takes you somewhere that I hadn’t been.

Speak about working with Kathy Bates.

Kathy was living with me during the shoot, so that was really fun, too. We had a house together. I thought she did a brilliant job in the movie and I’ve always loved her work.

What do you hope people will take from this?

I hope children will take road trips with their grandparents and everybody.

Also check out this slideshow from the film’s LA premiere:

Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

-Catherina Gioino

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