“I grew up with strong women and I have a great dad that supports strong women. That’s why they’re in my film. We tried to write what we know!”
So says Melissa McCarthy, 43, the Irish American comedienne who latest movie Tammy opens July 2.
In New York City for the film premiere last week McCarthy told IrishCentral about some lessons she learned growing up in an Irish American family in Plainfield, Illinois.
Onscreen and in real life she’s clearly at her ease among other strong minded, spirited women and Tammy’s cast list (which includes Susan Sarandon, Kathy Bates and Toni Collette) shows she’s not kidding around.
Is this preference for vivid characters a product of her own Irish background?
“I would say so. My grandmother and grandfather both came over from Ireland. They had a tough go of it. But family was important to them and they pulled themselves up by their bootstraps and kept it intact and took each day at a time. I strongly relate to that.”
“Being Irish is part of the way I approach the world,” McCarthy, adds. “Well, we’ve had a rough enough time you know? We’ve had a rough go of it but I think there’s a sturdiness that comes from that too and I think that there’s a really realistic way of looking at the world that comes from it.”
There’s certainly something that’s undeniably Irish about McCarthy’s jaundiced take on life in Tammy. When the film starts her character isn’t just having a bad day - hands down she’s having the absolute worst day of her life including getting fired, getting dumped and almost getting killed.
The sheer avalanche of bad news is what starts to make the film so funny, a viewpoint that’s as typically Irish as if she grew up in Cork (where her grandfather came from) or Kerry (where her grandmother came from) rather than Illinois.
There’s only so much bad news a girl can take in one day, after all. But pile one disaster on top of disaster and things start to get – well – hilarious.
McCarthy describes Tammy as “underdeveloped, stunted, and immature. She’s a train wreck. But with a good heart.” Her co-writer, director (and husband) Ben Falcone goes further: “We’re immediately clued into the fact that Tammy usually takes the easy road, does the minimum required to get by. And that ripples throughout the rest of her world.”
Working with actresses like Sarandon and Bates must have been incredible. Were they her first choices for the roles?
“It was a dream. Every single person that we dreamed about somehow was available and willing to do it. By the time we cast it was all of our dream picks, so I don’t know if that will ever happen again but I’m going to enjoy it does.”
But isn’t it a bit Irish to expect more trouble down the road? McCarthy laughs in agreement. “I don’t know, I think we like to root for people. And I think to really get behind somebody and root for them to get back up you gotta watch them fall.”
Tammy opens nationwide July 2.