For niche audiences, Melissa McCarthy was always a known quantity. She played Sookie, Lorelei’s best friend on Gilmore Girls for three years and basically the same role in the Sandra Bullock’s The Back-Up Plan and Katherine Heigl’s Life As We Know It.
But then, when Chuck Lorre realized that TV was ready for a comedy about two plus-size people, who better to cast than Melissa? Her co-starring role in Mike and Molly quickly established her as a bona fide TV star. But it was Paul Feig who saw in her true potential. Cast as the unapologetic Megan in Bridesmaids, she 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, earning a Golden Globe nomination in the process. Soon enough she switched to the big screen, proving herself a public favorite, playing opposite Jason Bateman in Identity Theft, Sandra Bullock, again, in The Heat, and Jason Statham in Spy, all box office hits.
And now she’s a Golden Globe nominee for Best Actress - Drama for the transforming role as celebrity writer Lee Israel who resorted to forging celebrity letters to keep a roof over her head. The movie is Can You Ever Forgive Me? and it covers the true story of her deception, her apprehension, and ultimate conviction.
At her HFPA press conference she was asked, did she always believe in herself and her, at first hesitant, answer was, “I grew up on a farm, we didn’t have neighbors. So sometimes I really do wonder if being alone, although I did have a sister, spending so much of my time by myself pretending different things, and sometimes, asking myself, why not me if I work hard enough? I don’t think I expected it. I was just looking to get a job, and I thought. My God, if I can just do this as a living, which I wasn’t able to do for a very long time. But I don’t think you ever look for the fame of it. All I wanted was to get a job that I love, and if somebody would pay me to do that, I had hit the jackpot.”
And hit the jackpot she certainly has, in the process breaking important barriers for plus-size actors. She regularly collaborates with her husband, Ben Falcone, whom she met twenty years ago when they were both doing improv with The Groundlings and started writing together. Eventually, they married and have two daughters. The secret of their successful union: be kind, and everything will fall in place. Together they’ve made four movies including Tammy, The Boss, Life of the Party and the upcoming Superintelligence.
As for playing Lee Israel, Melissa had no prior knowledge of the author, but once she did her research, she just loved her. “I loved the story of her and Jack, two very unlikely people becoming such good friends, both so lonely in different ways, and even though you think of New York as a magical and bustling city, because there’s so much going on there, you could feel alone in the middle of 5,000 people. So, I love that these two people came together.” Rather than pass judgment on them, she suggests we should ask ourselves: If our way to survive is taken away from us. what would we do?”
Richard E. Grant who plays Jack is also a Golden Globe nominee for best supporting actor.