By Darlene Donloe
More than 15 years ago, while at the improve company, The Groundlings, Melissa McCarthy conjured up a character named Michelle who was a tough as nails, no-holds-barred, doesn’t have a filter business mogul, whose business acumen and rough exterior didn’t garner her any fans.
McCarthy bristles at the notion that her red-haired business maven is the female equivalent of GOP front runner Donald Trump.
On April 8, McCarthy’s alter ego, Michelle, makes her feature film debut in the comedy, The Boss, starring McCarthy, Kristin Bell, Peter Dinklage, Kathy Bates, Cecily Strong and McCarthy’s husband Ben Falcone – who co-wrote (McCarthy, Steve Mallory) and directed the film. This is Falcone’s second time at the helm of a feature – the first being his wife’s 2015 film, Tammy.
(l-r) Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Bell
The premise of the film goes something like this. After her release from prison for insider trading, Michelle, a business mogul (Melissa McCarthy) must move in with a former employee (Kristen Bell) and the woman's daughter. On a mission to rebrand herself and regain her millions, Michelle Darnell decides to compete with the cookie-selling Dandelions girl troop by selling some delicious brownies. In the process, hilarity ensues.
I recently caught up with Kristin Bell at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills to talk about her role in the film. The perky actress, who is married to actor Dax Shepard, is perky and excited to talk about her latest celluloid excursion. She’s dressed, rather stylishly, in an orange dress and beige stilettos.
Q: You have a crazy boss in this film. You can’t get rid of her. Have you ever worked for someone who you thought was somewhat like her?
KB: No, I have not had a bad boss. If I did, maybe I blocked it out.
Q: How would you deal with someone like Michelle Darnell?
KB: I’m non-confrontational. If you offend me, I’d ignore it. I would deal with it in a similar to my character Claire. I’d deal with it and then have a breaking point. Big business people have big egos.
Q: In this film you spent a lot of time playing the straight, concerned mom character. Which side of the comedic coin do you like to play?
KB: I adore playing an energetic weirdo. My energetic weirdo is not as funny as Melissa’s energetic weirdo. Comedy is in the imperfection. You need a straight man. I’m part of the joke being a straight man. I enjoy being a straight man against Melissa because she’s a comedic genius.
Q: Have you ever had a mentor or been a mentor to someone?
KB: I don’t know that I’ve actively tried to mentor someone. I tried to live a life I could defend in a court of law. I’ve had a lot of mentors in my life - more than just one person. A lot of people I’ve learned from.
Q: So many scenes you have to just stand there and take it. Which one was the toughest to keep straight face for.
KB: I would take it from Melissa anywhere anytime til the end of time. I love that woman so much. It would be the teeth-whitening scene. She was shown a picture of a girlfriend getting it done. She wrote that scene. She had it in her mouth for two hours. Don’t know how she did it and her face didn’t go numb. When she inproved, I didn’t know what she was saying. I was biting the inside of my cheeks to keep from ruining it.
Q: Comedy is a boys club. Do you think Hollywood is changing?
Yeah, maybe I’m just an optimist. I don’t think it’s a boys club anymore. Tina (Fey), Amy (Poehler) Julia Louis Dreyfus, Amy Schumer, Sara Silverman, they all changed the game. I can name off more successful entrepreneurial comediennes than I can male comedians. That’s how it was for a long time. The tide is changing.
Q: Regular world jobs - were you good?
KB: I’m not creative or talented enough to be a weirdo savant in daily life. I’m normal. I was good and average or above average. I’m a good rule follower. I have always taken direction for a living. I don’t buck the system. I worked at J.Crew and a yoga shop. I always did OK. I was a fine, average employee.
Q: In the movie you make a lot of brownies. How many brownies did you blow through while shooting this film?
KB: I made a commitment not to eat the brownies. They were appealing by the first seven days. By month two, when they were on the tray coming out of refrigerator, I was over it.
Q: You play a single mother in the film. Can you imagine being a single mother?
KB: I can try. Can I get accurate about what they face, I don’t know. My mom was a single mom. When I got older, she shared her hardships and struggles. I suppose I can imagine. Child rearing is difficult. It has pros and cons. Doing it alone, I think probably isn’t fun. I see why they say it takes a village. Don’t know how I’d do it without a support system. They are super women.
Q: Were you a Girl Scout?
KB: I was a Brownie for a couple of years. It was great. Perfect after school activity.
Q: Melissa’s character is self-confident. As a mother of two young girls, what important things should parents do to raise strong females?
KB: What I’m learning is that both my kids are different. One piece of advice doesn’t work for everyone. Some are born with high self-esteem and some aren’t. I say do whatever your child needs for them to blossom. I’m raising my girls to be unique. If you’re unique you’re irreplaceable. If you fall in line, you’re just one of millions. It’s more fun to walk through life like that.
(l-r) Kristen Bell and Melissa McCarthy
Q: How do you balance being a helicopter parent with being a free range parent?
KB: Well, for me it’s 50 percent instinct ad 50 percent what I’ve read. I’ve disregarded some and some books I’ve loved. I think that your kids can have an infinite amount of friends, but only two parents ever. It’s important to be a friend but more important for me to be a mom. It’s important for them to do things on their own. I want my girls to fall and fail. I want them to know what failure and success feel like.
Q: Brownies are in the movie. Is there a sweet specialty you make at home?
KB: I make zucchini muffins. We don’t do a lot of sugar. Kids are insane on sugar. So am I, so is my husband. We try to stay clear of sugar. Zucchini muffins. They are a great bargaining chip. It’s how I get them to get ready in the morning. It’s a great reward.
The Boss, Rated R (Universal), opens nationwide April 8, 2016.