Melissa McCarthy said she worked for someone in Hollywood who created a set so “volatile” and “hostile” it made her physically ill, but that the experience led to her learning how to advocate for herself in Hollywood.
The Little Mermaid actress spoke about the experience in an extensive interview with The Guardian, in which she also talks about her breaking into Hollywood, dealing with critics of her performances and running her production company, which she does with husband Ben Falcone.
While discussing how she and Falcone vet hires for their productions, she admits that kindness on their sets is part of the deal of working with them. “We were so astounded and grateful at getting to build our own little worlds, we were like, ‘We have to build the one we’ve always talked about, where everybody gets to have an opinion and everyone is really nice. It’s going to run a lot better with no screamers or crazy egos bumbling around. Why would we risk destroying that?’”
When asked whether she’s dealt with those kinds of unpleasant personalities, McCarthy reveals she has. “I did work for someone once who ran such a volatile, hostile set that it made me physically ill. My eyes were swelling up, I was absorbing all of this nuttiness,” she recalled. “There were people weeping, visibly so upset by this one person.”
The actress added that she believes that’s “why the manipulation” was so successful, “because to get to me, this person would fire people I loved, which kept me quiet. It was very effective.” It was an experience, she said, that changed how she wanted to operate in Hollywood. “One day, I was like, ‘It stops today!’ I just kept saying to them, it stops, it stops. And I know now I’ll never keep quiet again.”
In an interview with CNN back in March, The Little Mermaid actress Halle Bailey shared that McCarthy was the one who helped her learn how to stand up for herself on the job — after the Bridesmaids star opened up about her own experiences.
The Grammy-winner shared how the Ursula actress revealed that as she got older and continued working in the business, she learned to “speak up and [say] what works for” her. It was advice that was helpful when Bailey needed to advocate for herself to get a break or to have space to “clear her head.”
“She was telling me, ‘Yeah, I had to learn. I wasn’t always this way, and when you’re young, you’re timid,’” Bailey said, adding that it was “really cool” to see her co-star “come onto set and be just so comfortable with who she was in her skin and [to see] her standing up for herself.”
McCarthy also addressed the bigoted backlash to The Little Mermaid and what Bailey faced after the Black actress was cast as Ariel. The Heat star had already faced a similar situation with her 2016 Ghostbusters movie, which was met with racist and sexist trolling.
“I hate any kind of injustice, and people attacking someone for just trying to be who they truly are. What does it matter to them? Do no harm, be kind — if everyone just followed those two rules, we’d be fine,” she said, before speaking to the current climate of book bans and school officials and politicians banning the learning of histories of certain American communities. “Not ‘you can’t read this book,’ ‘You can’t talk about certain histories.’ I don’t have any patience for all that.”
The Nine Perfect Strangers and Gilmore Girls actress spoke to her frustrations over being people being hateful while also reflecting on drag bans. It’s something that is personal to McCarthy, who performed in drag as a queen named Miss Y while performing stand-up in New York after she moved to the city to study fashion. She even took a public stand on social media, posting pictures of films like Some Like It Hot and writing that “you’ve been entertained by drag all your life. Don’t pretend it’s a problem now.”
Those posts were met with backlash, including online abuse. McCarthy called the responses “absolute lunacy” and described drag brunches as “delightful.”
She added: “Of all the scary and dangerous things going on in the world, they want to concentrate on this?”