CTV.ca Q&A with the stars of 'Mike & Molly'
These former stand up comics talk about how they are driven by the energy of their live studio audience.
“Mike & Molly” is one of the biggest brand new series that debuted this past fall, and the stars are enjoying success like they’ve never seen before.
During an interview with CTV.ca, Billy Gardell and Melissa McCarthy talk about the fan reaction to the show, and why they think audiences are connecting with the series.
CTV.ca: So tell me a little about your journey to “Mike & Molly.”
Melissa: I started doing standup in New York, about 300 years ago, and moved into acting, then moved out to LA and did the Groundlings theatre, then did Gilmore Girls for seven years. Did “Samantha Who,” and had the delight of coming across “Mike & Molly,” read it, loved it, and thought “Let’s do this for a long time and hope it works.”
Billy: I was a standup comic, started in 1987 and I moved out to LA in 97. I caught a break on a show called “Yes, Dear” as a recurring character. I was on a short-lived show called “Lucky,” toiled around on guest starring parts until I was lucky enough to get an audition for this. I got the part and it has become this magical trip.
CTV.ca: How similar are you to the characters you play on “Mike & Molly”?
Billy: There’s a part of me that’s like Mike, if you’d ask my wife, she’d say I’m not that sweet.
Melissa: As your fake girlfriend, I’d disagree. There’s things about Molly that I think are very similar to me, and others are not. Especially when you love the character and the character is good, weird things start to blend together, and you lose boundaries. You don’t know if it’s the right thing for “Molly” to do.
CTV.ca: What is it like working with Chuck Lorre and Mark Roberts (Executive producers of “Two and a Half Men”)?
Billy: Chuck executive produces, and he comes in on Mondays and tape nights. Mark Roberts, the creator of the show, is with us Friday afternoon, Mondays and tape nights. It’s an amazing machine over there; they run a successful, superb team. It’s just like working in Santa’s workshop.
Melissa: A lot of people ask if it’s more nerve-wracking to work with Chuck and Mark, because it’s so established, and we’ve found it’s just the opposite. It’s taken the stress off. They know what they are doing, and it gives it a little more ease. It’s been a delight.
Billy: When you get over the initial nerves working with them, you start to, “You know what? I want our thing to be as good as your other things!” You learn to embrace that. That’s how it’s been for me.
Melissa: I agree.
CTV.ca: Do you find that your background as stand up comedians help when you tape your show in front of a studio audience?
Billy: Absolutely, you hear that live audience reaction and it’s great. Melissa’s comic instinct is so right on the money, it’s rare.
Melissa: That palpable energy you get from a live audience… I’ve done Groundlings Theatre, but I’ve only done film or single camera. To take my day job and the thing I love most, I wonder, “Why the hell have I not been doing this for 10 years?” It’s so great, because you can just amp things up. When the audience goes with you, you can’t describe it. You can manipulate a scene you’ve been doing all week, and when the audience energy is there, it can change you. For the better, hopefully. It makes it a little unpredictable. I think you read that when you watch it. I think it keeps it fresh.
CTV.ca: One of the things I found interesting about the show, is Mike’s use of the CPAP machine. It’s one of those things that’s relatively mainstream in terms of usage, but you never see it onscreen.
Billy: It’s so wonderfully comedic to play with too. I have one in real life, which makes me think they bugged my house! I think it’s cool to address stuff like that. This show has a wonderful thread where we address stuff going on in the real world. It’s just day to day stuff people go through. It doesn’t always work out, and your hair isn’t always perfect, or you don’t find a thousand dollars and wonder how you can return the wallet. It’s real stuff.
CTV.ca: What kind of reception have you been getting from fans on the street?
Melissa: It’s such a good response. Billy and I have talked about it, it’s different from other stuff we’ve done. It’s not just “I recognize you,” they’re invested in it, like “I love this show,” and people have a really warm feeling to it. It’s like they’ve really taken it personally.
Billy: I always get “I love you guys!” It’s very sweet, very genuine. As the show goes on, it’s never intrusive. I think people look at the show and think “You’re like us, we feel identifiable to that show.” Which is really cool.
Melissa: Certainly the volume of people: We’re doing fantastic numbers, and those numbers are people. I see that more people watch it, and I think 99% of actors and comics spend a lot of time working for free, or for two people in a room, doing a play for friends and family in a theatre you’ve rented, so to do something you really love and have all these people watch it, you think “God, this is awesome!” I think everyone on the show feels like that. We are not missing how lucky we are.
CTV.ca: Can you tell me about how you feel about your co-stars on the show?
Billy: I happen to work with the three funniest ladies on TV. I’m very, very grateful these women are there. And Reno, I have the most fun staring at him when something stupid comes out of his character’s mouth. He has a great, mellow presence, which I love. There’s the girl side, there’s the boy side, there’s family side and the friend side, and then they collide once a week, which I just love!
Melissa: I can’t imagine anyone else playing any of the roles. I can’t even imagine it. It’s all been so easy and right. Katy and Swoozie, they’re so insane and so funny, and if I see that we have a scene together, I feel like a little kid!
Billy: On top of that, they’re all professional and warm people. We don’t have any nutbags on our show, which is really nice.
Melissa: There’s always one, and it may be me. And until it’s official, I’ll say there’s none. We all like each other. Three of us have kids… it’s so easy in a nice way.
CTV.ca: What are your thoughts as to when we’ll start to see wedding episodes and baby episodes and that sort of thing?
Billy: They won’t tell us anything in the future, so that keeps it pretty organic for us.
Melissa: I don’t think they’re in a rush, that wouldn’t go with the tone of the show. The building of the relationship is what the show is about right now. There’s so much you can do with it, and I’ve heard them say they’re not in a rush. I look forward to getting my script every week and I don’t know where it’s going.
Billy: Me too.