‘Life of the Party’ Star and Co-Writer Melissa McCarthy on Starting a Character “Wig First”

     February 5, 2018

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Last year, a group of fellow journalists and I visited the set of the upcoming Melissa McCarthy comedy Life of the Party. The movie, which reunites McCarthy with director/co-writer/husband Ben Falcone (Tammy, The Boss), follows a housewife who goes back to college and lands in the same sorority as her daughter. On the day we visited, we saw the scene where McCarthy’s character, Deanna, gets dumped by her husband, Dan (played by Matt Walsh), immediately after dropping their daughter off at college. Click here for my coverage of that scene.

During a break in filming, we got to sit down and talk with Melissa McCarthy. We talked about her process for finding a character like the one she plays her, what she and co-writer/director Ben Falcone learned on their past projects, juggling multiple projects, working opposite Matt Walsh, getting to reteam with Maya Rudolph six years after Bridesmaids, and more.

Check out the full interview below. Life of the Party opens May 11th.

life-of-the-party-posterHow do you approach playing a character like this?

MELISSA MCCARTHY: This is what I spend my time doing. I don’t know what that says about me, but I love the … I always start with the look of the character. That’s usually based on someone that I kind of love, and I thought of this as my mom and my grandma.

You have a fashion … You’re a fashion designer, you studied it.

MCCARTHY: I do. I have a clothing line, yeah.

And like you were saying-

MCCARTHY: It does not look like this.

No … This is just going to turn into an advert halfway though, and that’s it.

MCCARTHY: Yeah.

And that’s where you start a lot of character, based on wardrobe?

MCCARTHY: I do. A lot of times I’ll go wig first. And once I get the wig, I have a weird thing where I immediately know, like specifically, almost everything. And then it’s a matter of finding it and trying to make it happen, but I have a real weird thing of who I would, I’m immediately like—I’ll get her. She wears cropped pants, like just at that height is too short to be really flattering, right?

What did this, when you kind of got into the look of the character, what did it, in your mind, tell you about who she was?

MCCARTHY: I loved her so much, because I thought she was such an optimist that had kind of been … I mean, Ben came up with the original idea of going back to school, and doing it with your daughter, and then we had a weird thing where I felt like four times in like an eight day period, I felt like somebody said, “We’re not really restaurant people,” and “we’re not really go out movie people.”

People kept making these strange sweeping statements, and I don’t remember why, but I had the weirdest reaction to them, like every time somebody said the words, I was like, “Oh, so like what do you do?” We’re 35 and I was like, “Like at 70 you could move to, I don’t know, you could move to Portugal and raise goats.” I was stuck, you don’t know what you’re going to do, you may have 50 years left of your life, you’re not even halfway.” And it kind of kept, I don’t know … I went down a wormhole with it, with people just at way too early age being like, “Well, we’re done. We’re done, this is what it is, we can’t evolve anymore. We can’t change anything about ourselves.” I just thought … I find that so sad, and just a weird thing that you can buy into, and everybody does it in their own way, but I don’t know, I went down …

That’s what this was all about, like really could like restart the clock, and I think I always kind of imagined that’s what like the second chance thing, or the fifth chance, or the sixth chance, it was, I don’t know. It’s kind of where we spun out, from there.

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