Melissa McCarthy remembers ‘volatile, hostile’ set that made her ‘physically ill’

Melissa McCarthy smiles slightly in an outfit with pink flowers and black tulle
Melissa McCarthy and Ben Falcone, her husband and frequent collaborator, now vet potential co-workers with what they call a “crazy check.”
(Chris Pizzello / Invision/Associated Press)

Melissa McCarthy and her “The Little Mermaid” castmates have only gushed about their positive experiences working on the Disney reboot.

However, the “Bridesmaids” star hadn’t always been so fortunate in her career.

In an interview with Britain’s the Observer, McCarthy opened up about a toxic film production she worked on previously that emotionally and physically traumatized her and others on set.


Melissa McCarthy was terrified of Ursula’s song, ‘Poor Unfortunate Souls,’ in ‘The Little Mermaid.’ Until, that is, she stopped trying to sing it as herself.

May 19, 2023

“I did work for someone once who ran such a volatile, hostile set that it made me physically ill,” the “Spy” actor recalled without disclosing the name of the filmmaker or project. “My eyes were swelling up, I was absorbing all of this nuttiness.”

McCarthy said, “There were people weeping, visibly so upset by this one person.

“And I think that’s why the manipulation worked, because to get to me, this person would fire people I loved, which kept me quiet,” she continued. “It was very effective. Then 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.”

‘The Little Mermaid’ star Melissa McCarthy is the cover girl defining beauty as ‘owning who you are’ and ‘allowing other people to be who they are.’

April 25, 2023

The experience had become an example of how not to shoot a project. Now, alongside her husband and frequent collaborator Ben Falcone, the pair vets people before hiring them with what they call a “crazy check.”

“We demand it,” the Academy Award-nominated actor told the Observer. “You know, 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.‘”

McCarthy stars in Disney’s live-action take on “The Little Mermaid,” in which she plays the spellbinding villain Ursula alongside Halle Bailey’s Ariel. McCarthy told the Observer that she had long admired the character, originally voiced by Pat Carroll in the 1989 animated feature, and had fought hard for the part once the live-action remake was announced.

Bailey opens up about facing racist trolls, protective fans, grueling stunts and more to take on the role a million little girls dreamed of.

May 12, 2023

“Having just gone through COVID, I was like, aha, this is a character who has been in isolation for long enough that she is not in the healthiest mental state,” McCarthy said. “I started to love her in a whole new way. And she’s also been alone for years with two eels? She’s not solid on her tentacles, so to speak.”


“The Little Mermaid” hits theaters on Friday.

Times staff writer Nardine Saad contributed to this report.