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Life lessons with Melissa McCarthy


Melissa McCarthy attends the "Spy" New York Premiere at AMC Loews Lincoln Square. Photo by Gary Gershoff

Melissa McCarthy attends the "Spy" New York Premiere at AMC Loews Lincoln Square. Photo by Gary Gershoff


Melissa McCarthy attends the "Spy" New York Premiere at AMC Loews Lincoln Square. Photo by Gary Gershoff

Melissa McCarthy, 44, is an actress and comedienne from Illinois. Having begun her career on the stand-up circuit, Melissa moved into television securing roles in the likes of Gilmore Girls and Mike & Molly. In 2011, she was Oscar nominated for her role as Megan in hit comedy Bridesmaids. Melissa is married to writer and actor Ben Falcone, with whom she co-wrote comedy caper Tammy which was released last year. The pair have two daughters, Vivian (8) and Georgette (5).

There's a scrappiness to the Irish that I can very much relate to. It's a kind of working class, not afraid to get your hands dirty, take care of a situation kind of thing. Being Irish means being self-sufficient and doing whatever is needed. My Dad's friends in Chicago were all Irish and we grew up thinking of ourselves as Irish. His Dad was a Carty, but the name got changed to McCarthy when he emigrated. I'm truly a Carty.

When I was given an Oscar Wilde award in LA a few years ago, I was so proud. It made me think of my grandparents and the struggles they had, emigrating to a new country. It would have made them very proud. I've got about a million Chicago Irish cops in my family and if things hadn't worked out for me as an actress, I could have seen myself as a teacher.

I am always looking to see if there is a nun coming from behind me when I'm swearing! I think my Catholic education does kind of inform what I do and even sometimes when I push it in playing some of the characters that I could never get away with in real life.

I learned the Golden Rule of being kind and respectful from the nuns and from my parents. I certainly hope I kind of keep that with me. I try. I spent 12 years in Catholic schools and I think I learned a lot of great stuff. I learned you don't walk up on people when they're talking. I had a nun who would yell at me for that and I never did it again. I've never walked up to someone in the middle of a conversation since I was in first grade. She said "did we invite you in?" I said "you really didn't". She said "go stand over there until we're done talking". I carry that with me to this day.

There's something really fun about working with other women. Especially Kristen Wiig and Sandra Bullock. They are so good and it's really fun, so you have to keep your focus. Then it's almost like a sporting event, you have to really stay engaged to keep up with them and that's fun. I have gotten incredibly lucky with those women, who are also some of the nicest people I've ever met. It doesn't matter if the work you're doing is funny or dramatic, if you're working with someone who is nice and lovely.

No one knows anything in Hollywood. You're told you're too tall or you're not tall enough or you have the wrong accent. I find it all batty. I mean, I never want to watch one visual. I think the point of us actors is that you should forget you're watching actors. It should be like a slice of life - whether that's a beautiful person or a regular Joe.

It's harpy or hot for women. There's nothing in between. Don't all these people live with interesting women, quirky women, neurotic women, funny women, smart women, challenging women? So much of it gets cut off at the knees and it doesn't make it into the movies. I know all you funny writers have funny wives, yet you don't write a funny wife or a funny boss.

When everybody starts to look alike, I tune out. I'd rather watch someone that I'm like, just to break up the monotony of everyone being perfect at all times. I think it's not good for young girls to just see one visual all the time. That's not realistic. I also don't think everybody should be thin.

I try not to focus too much on diet.

I chase two kids, that keeps me pretty active. It turns out I don't need a lot of sleep, so that's pretty handy - or else I'm really tired and I don't know it! I think I try to do what everyone else does. I try to take my vitamins and chase after the kids and do pilates when I can and hope for the best.

I think the thing that keeps me healthiest is I have a great husband who makes me laugh all day and I've got great kids.

I think if you stay happy you stay healthy.

Ben's a great cook, he's a delight and everything about him is great. His family is Italian, although we haven't gone to Italy yet, although it's something we're planning. We've been to Ireland, which we both loved, especially Galway and Dublin. Ben's parents lived in Galway for a while many years ago.

I am a dork for tools. Get me a good drill and I'm happy. Someone had a big hammer on set one time and I now have one! It's like Thor's hammer, you really have to bring it down. Every time we need to hammer something, I'm like, "I got it! I got it!" and I run and get this really inappropriate staple gun.

I would love to make my own furniture. One of my friends bought me a course at a woodshop and I am really excited about doing it. I'm not saying I'll be any good at it, but the idea of butchering my way through a piece of furniture is wildly exciting.

Go to any weird junk shop and you will find me under a table. I am a psychotic antique vintage shopper and the crazier the store the better. That's the joy of my life, finding weird old chandeliers. Yesterday, I found one under the table in one of these shops. There's something about scrounging around that I find wildly captivating.

My eldest daughter Vivian is just like me. She'll be drawing up floor plans and saying, "we should put a hammock here and a chandelier over here".

I got starstruck at the Golden Globes.

I was going up to present an award and I was trying not to trip. They were moving scenery around back stage and I was walking very carefully, when I saw Prince! I was not very cool. I just kept going "Prince! Prince!" He had no expression. I wanted to say something a lot cooler, but nothing good came out of my mouth. It was not good. He looked amazing, but he just stared at me with no expression and then he was gone.

I always assume a day-and-a-half from now, I'll never work again. I finish one job and go on to the next. I was pretty happy with just being a working actor. To be able to let go of all my side jobs was the big goal. But now… To be able to work with exactly who I want to work with, my God, I can't really put into words how it feels because I still can't believe it's happening.

Interview by Patricia Danaher. Melissa McCarthy's latest film, Spy, is in cinemas now

Weekend Magazine