The Boss is the new comedy brainchild of Ben Falcone and Melissa McCarthy in which the former is directing and the latter stars as a disgraced media mogul forced to rebuild her reputation from the ground up with the help of her former overworked assistant, who is also a single mother, played by Kristen Bell.
We were recently invited to the film’s press day where we sat down with Falcone and McCarthy, who are married, and Bell to talk about their experience working on the film; parenting; jobs they had and bosses they’ve worked with; the current state of women in comedy; what it was like for the two actors to work together, and more.
Check out here below the top eight things we learned at The Boss press conference.
1 – Parenthood
There is a lot that the cast and director can relate to in this film. They are all parents. In the film, Bell plays a single mother, who couldn’t imagine what it would be like if she was like her character, a single mother, and says that her imagination wouldn’t be as accurate as the actual struggles that single moms face. “My mom was a single mom and in my later years has shared with me a lot of hardships that she felt and a lot of struggles that she went through,” said Bell, “I know child-rearing is difficult and it has its pros and cons, but it is very very difficult. Doing it alone I can imagine it’s not always fun. I give a lot a credit to single moms and single dads, to be honest. I think that there is a reason they say it takes a village because it literally takes a village to raise someone. I don’t know how I would do it without a support system. I think single moms are superheroes… and single dads.”
As far as parental advice goes, she believes that the “advice should specific for the child.” Because some can be introverts and some can be extroverts. “Do whatever your child needs to blossom,” says Bell. “So finding what makes you special is… it’s a lot more fun to walk through life like that. Whatever that is, because I don’t want to attach a good or bad. Maybe being a super introverted writer or jewelry maker is what is going to make one of my kids happy, and maybe like tap dancing on stage is what is going to make the other one happy. I think it just takes all kinds.”
For McCarthy, she wants her kids to be exactly who they are. “I try not to do those repetitive things,” says McCarthy, “a biggie for me is ‘take the compliment.’ It’s a little building block, but I hope it is one of many ways I show my girls like it’s okay to like who you are and it’s okay that everyone is different, you’re not also supposed to be the same. I always say to my girls, ‘If we were all the same we would be robots. You would be bored out of your mind.'”
2 – Women In Comedy
Previously, mainstream comedy used to be a male-dominated field. However, the times have changed, and for the better, because women can be funny as well. Bell addresses how comedy isn’t a boys club anymore and how comedians like McCarthy, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Amy Schumer have changed the way we perceive comedy.
“Maybe I am just an optimist. Maybe I am just naive and I see what I want to see. I don’t think it’s a boys club anymore. I think people like Tina [Fey], and Amy [Poehler], and Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and Melissa [McCarthy], and Amy Schumer, and Sarah Silverman, those women changed the game, and in truth, personally, I could name off a lot more successful entrepreneurial comedians on the top of my head than male comedians. I think that stigma stuck for a long time and I think that was it was for a very long time, but I think the tides as changed.”
3 – Working Regular Jobs Before They Became Stars
When working in a regular world job, Bell admits that she is “not creative or talented enough to be a weirdo savant in daily life.” She adds that she is “pretty normal.” “I was good and average, and maybe above average at each of the jobs that I have held,” says Bell, “because I am a good rule follower. Which is why I transitioned to acting so well cause I take direction for a living, and I sort have always taken direction for a living. I don’t instinctually buck the system unless I feel like I should. Certain people are like that, my husband is like that. He bucks the system no matter what the rules are.” Among the regular jobs that Bell has done, she says she worked at a yogurt shop, a J Crew, French Connection. “I was a very fine average employee.” She says she would never try to up-sell any of her customers, but says “if they leave and their tab is too high, that’s on me.”
Bell says she has never had a bad boss before. Although when asked how she would deal with one she said:
“I am pretty non-confrontational. I talk a big game, but in real life, if you offend me, I’ll tend to ignore it. It’s when you offend my friends that I will step up. So I will probably put up with it for a while. I would deal with it in a similar way to Claire. I would deal with it for a long time and hit a breaking point. That’s fairly common to give someone the benefit of the doubt. Because often times, very successful business people have big egos. You know. It kinda comes with the territory.”
McCarthy advises kids that are just exiting college to work hard and not expect too much. “You have to work your way up,” says McCarthy, “I think that it is something at that age, and there is such instant gratification now. I think most people I know who worked their way up are better at their jobs, are more adjusted in the world. Don’t come in and expect to be the CEO. You gotta work for it.”
4 – What Ben Falcone Has Learned Since His Directorial Debut
Among the things that Falcone has learned since his directorial debut — 2014’s Tammy — is that he doesn’t need to answer questions right away. But getting into question seriously, the director talked about how he was able to see the “bigger picture.” “I was able to see the bigger picture and kind of what I needed in coverage and shot or where we were going to go a little bit more clearly,” said Falcone, “so it made me feel even less stressed which is generally I think a good thing in your life in any case, and especially when you are putting together a comedy like I felt more under control in my own skin. The first movie, it’s hard not to feel like ‘Oh my gosh, they let me get in here. I hope they don’t fire me today.’ So with this one, I felt 30% less likely to be fired.”
While he can see himself directing a feature without his wife, directing involves a lot of travel and the filmmaker doesn’t have a lot of interest in being away from McCarthy and his kids for four months at a time.
5 – Using The Right Amount Of Mature Language
Being an R-rated comedy can be creatively liberating. You have free use of dropping any number of f-bombs. However, Falcone feels like they have to come from the right place. He doesn’t use it as freely as you might think. For him, the swear words have to be in there for the right reasons.
“When you know you have an R rating, you know you can say a lot of things. I also like for every — this is going to sound crazy — I like every swear word to have value. Like if somebody is just dropping F-bombs for no reason, I usually think it is a little bit lazy. Not that it’s wrong or whatever, I am not a prude. But for us, we actually did a pass towards the end post where we were like ‘do all of these need to be here?’ We actually took a bunch of swears out just because we felt like if Michelle was going to swear or if certainly the kid is going to swear, that it better have an impact, it better funny, it better be jarring, or do what we wanted to do otherwise we are leaving it in there for the wrong reason. But it is definitely freeing. I mean you can say what you want. That means you have a lot more ammo on the day.”
6 – Chemistry Between Kristen Bell and Melissa McCarthy.
When asked if she enjoys playing the energetic weirdo or the normal person more, Bell said she enjoys playing the energetic weirdo, although it isn’t as funny as McCarthy’s. “It depends on the situation. I think in comedy you need certain things for the recipe to work. You can’t have perfection because comedy is in the imperfection and the faults. You always need the straight man. I’m still a part of the joke being the straight man. I don’t necessarily distinguish one from the other. I enjoy both. I enjoy being the straight man particularly against Melissa because she is such a comedic genius and just lovely to watch work and be around.”
McCarthy says she had first met Bell in passing, and know her husband Dax Shepard, whom she has known since her work at The Groundlings. But that first moment they met, they just clicked. “I don’t know anyone who doesn’t click with Kristen, I mean it’s kind of hard not to. She’s easy and really smart and really funny. That was just kind of a blast. We were just as silly as can be. Other than ruining a lot of takes by making each other laugh, we just kind of had a great time.”
7 – The Working Dynamic Of A Married Couple
Falcone has worked with his wife on more than one occasion and first met while at The Groundlings. Since then, they have shared scenes in films like Bridesmaids, Spy, and Heat. With the actress starring in his second directorial effort, Falcone talks about their working dynamic.
“Our behavior towards one another on the set is very much the same off the set, so it’s less of a dilaniation as you might think. We try just to treat each other everyday respectfully and we also mostly try to make each other laugh. That’s pretty much it. On set it is pretty much the same thing. She knows I have a job to do, which is look at the monitors and figure out what is going on in terms of shots, and she knows she has a job to do which is that she’s acting in virtually every scene in this movie, and that’s a lot on her plate as well. I think that we just try to have a really great time, which is the same thing we do in our marriage.”
8 – Taking Michelle Darnell From The Groundlings To The Big Screen
The character of Michelle Darnell actually originated from McCarthy’s work at The Groundlings in the late 90s, where she met her future husband Ben Falcone. Darnell is a self-help motivational guru who is arrested for insider trading. The tale somewhat mirrors Martha Stewart’s story of being a great DIYer who goes to jail for insider trading. Now that the character has to hit the big screen, McCarthy is able to flesh out Michelle even more, giving her more of a backstory and personality. The actress talked a little bit about that and her attachment to that character:
“You know, I could just never let her go,” said McCarthy, “I took that as a sign of I wasn’t done with her. I had hoped that since I had loved her so much for all of her flaws and good and bad points, I just kept thinking about her. Ben [Falcone] and I would be talking about something completely random, and I remember one time, he probably did not totally feel like I was focused, but we were talking about one thing, and I just went, ‘I think Michelle is an orphan. I think she had no one ever really love her,’ and he’s like ‘We were not talking about that at all.’ The more I thought about her, I loved that kind of unbridled confidence in that ‘I’m gonna wear what I want. Do what I want. Say what I want. And we don’t get to see that a lot in female characters, and for me the joy of playing her was to know and to try to show why she’s like that, which that’s why I really love her. She’s like that because she was kind of hurt enough to build up a wall, which is like that with most people. Most people who are like that are like ‘I am the only one that exists. I don’t need anyone.’ Some people hate that, I wonder ‘God, what made them like that.’ Like I always want to know what made them build up that wall, there’s a pretty interesting story there.”
The Boss opens in theaters on Friday, April 8, 2016.