Samantha Who?'s Melissa McCarthy Fills in the Blanks
Melissa McCarthy, Samantha Who?
loves her job. And it's no mystery why. The veteran film and TV actress, best known for her seven-season role as Sookie on critical and cult fave Gilmore Girls
, is now part of another
trove of talented comedic actors on the hit ABC sitcom Samantha Who?
(now airing Mondays at 9 pm/ET). McCarthy had much to tell TVGuide.com about how Dena, the long-lost childhood friend of Christina Applegate's amnesiac, differs from the Girls
gig, how the writers strike has affected the show, and what (or who
) has her giggling like a silly schoolgirl.
TVGuide.com: I'm really loving the show.
Melissa McCarthy: Oh, good! I am, too!
TVGuide.com: I really like how childlike Samantha is, and how everyone in her life treats her like a child.
McCarthy: As it goes on I've noticed that same quality, and it makes sense. She's relearning everything — what she likes, what she doesn't like — and it's kind of interesting to watch someone go through that process. And I love how Christina is playing it.
TVGuide.com: Even though it's a comedy, and everyone can relate to wanting to start over, you see her go through these experiences and it's not easy and not always fun.
McCarthy: Yeah, a bunch of us were talking about that — that people say, "Oh, I wish I were 20 again." But if you really think about it, those were hard years. To learn everything through the process of failing certain things, that wasn't all fun! Maybe you want to go back and have key moments. And that's why [the show] works. People ask, "How are you going to keep doing the amnesia [storyline] every week?" and it's not really about that. It's about getting a second chance, and if you had the chance to do things over and make better choices. That relates to everyone.
TVGuide.com: Tell me about the friendship between Dena and Samantha.
McCarthy: I really enjoy the relationship between Dena and Sam because it really is based on something real. You have those friends that you were so close with all through grade school and really have a history with them. That stuff still counts, and I think that's what gives them their nice relationship.
TVGuide.com: Sam has two best friends, Andrea and Dena. Andrea seems selfish and jaded, a friend in name only. With Dena, is she naïve, or is she just spunky and hopeful compared to Andrea?
McCarthy: I think [writer/exec producer] Don [Todd] wrote a cool character with Dena because she seems so bubbly and sweet on the surface. But when you think about the way she kind of weaseled her way back into Sam's life in the pilot, that gives her a little more grit.
TVGuide.com: So maybe Dena is selfish too, wanting to mold Samantha into her perfect best friend.
McCarthy: Yeah, into the friend that she had. Even though she's an adult now, that was a 10- or 12-year relationship all through school. This is her second chance to have that best friend back. And deep down she knows that Sam is a good person, even though she took a wrong turn and has been behaving badly for quite some time. And at the same time, Dena has stepped into this cool-girl world that she's never been in before, and that keeps it funny.
TVGuide.com: On Gilmore Girls, you played Lorelai's best friend Sookie, and here you're Sam's best friend. Comparing the two, do you see similarities or mostly differences?
McCarthy: At first I was afraid they were going to be pretty similar because they're both pretty bubbly and kind of high-energy. But the more I get into Samantha Who? I think it's the possibilities of Dena that make them very different. It started right with the pilot: She's lying to the family of a woman who's in a coma!
TVGuide.com: Yeah, I don't think Sookie would have done that….
McCarthy: I loved playing Sookie but right from the beginning [episode] that made me think, this has a lot of different ways to go. That's when I knew I wanted the part.
TVGuide.com: Dena does seem to be getting an edge recently. We found out that she used to smoke and she's starting to stand up for herself around Andrea. Do you see more of that in her future?
McCarthy: I hope so. Anytime Dena and Andrea can spar a little more, it's really fun and it's good for Sam to watch that happen. It's great to have these polar opposites go back and forth. And Jennifer [Esposito, Andrea] just kills me. There are so many takes that we can't get through because she gives me a look of such disgust and makes us laugh so hard!
TVGuide.com: What's it like working with this cast?
McCarthy: Oh, my gosh! I have to say — and I know this always sounds completely made up when people say it — I've never had such a great time at work in my entire life. And I've had great jobs! Kevin Dunn is just ridiculously funny, and Jean Smart... I was so freaked out to meet her!
TVGuide.com: Freaked out? You were on Gilmore Girls!
McCarthy: I don't know [that] I was intimidated; I was just so excited. Especially because I'd done Gilmore Girls for seven years, so getting into another television thing I was a little.... Everyone was saying, "Well, you'll never have that again, you'll be lucky if it gets picked up. This will be your real first experience with TV." But the more the cast was accumulated, a lot of people's opinions changed. I have to say it seems like a nutty job!
TVGuide.com: And you all just started and have only aired a few episodes!
McCarthy: Yeah, it seems like we've been doing it longer. From the first table read it seemed like everyone had been doing these characters forever and the writers were writing specifically for characters that were already developed. Everything felt like second season. Everyone is so funny, it's more about concentrating to get through something. I'm really bad with Kevin Dunn. For some reason everything that Kevin does, I'm suddenly in the fourth grade. [Laughs] It's terrible, I laugh through a take -- it's highly unprofessional!
TVGuide.com: Will Dena have more interaction with Sam's parents?
McCarthy: Jean and I have something coming up. [Her character] Regina wants to be friends with Dena and she starts taking Dena under her wing. Jean basically gets this big makeup kit and... let's say the wheels come off the cart! We may get into some wine. There may be some intense amounts of makeup applied, and then things really go wrong. You've never seen Jean Smart look like that. I literally was just crying at one point. And all I can say is that it didn't matter to my makeup at all!
TVGuide.com: Will there be anything between you and Todd (Barry Watson)? I feel like there was something there.
McCarthy: I know, right? I'm pitching it! I feel like anytime Todd comes in, Dena does get very nervous. I think she thinks he's super cute.
TVGuide.com: And she's trying to flirt.
McCarthy: Which she does so poorly! Not only was she not hanging out with cool girls, Dena was not hanging out with hunky Barry Watsons! [Laughs] So when he comes in, she just goes completely dingy. And I love how Barry sometimes stares at her like he's slightly afraid.
TVGuide.com: How do you feel about the writers strike? I mean, in a weird way it's advantageous to your show because it still has so many new episodes to air compared to some of the other comedies.
McCarthy: It's true. We were really fortunate — if you can really say "fortunate" — to have a much later start date, so we have a lot [of episodes] that are already filmed. Our writers are amazing and I'm behind [them]. I wish they could come to a fast agreement and do what's right and fair and everybody will be taken care of. I miss our writers terribly, and I have so many friends that are out there picketing. It's not good for anyone. I really worry about the crew all coming back. We had such an amazing group — cast, crew, producers, everybody involved — it kind of all clicked. But people may leave to do movies or something else, so to have that go away is a little nerve-racking.
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