Melissa McCarthy recalls ‘volatile’ set experience that made her ‘physically ill’

Melissa McCarthy has recalled how she once worked for someone who created such a “hostile” set environment that it made her “physically ill”.

The US actor, screenwriter and producer currently stars as the evil sea-witch Ursula in Disney’s live-action remake of The Little Mermaid.

In an interview with The Observer, McCarthy, known for her comedy roles in hit films including Bridesmaids (2011) and The Heat (2013), recalled how she’d experienced her share of egos in Hollywood.

“I did work for someone once who ran such a volatile, hostile set that it made me physically ill,” the 52-year-old told the publication. “My eyes were swelling up, I was absorbing all of this nuttiness.”

Asked about what she witnessed on set, she remembered: “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. 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.”

McCarthy did not name the person in question. Her comments come after her The Little Mermaid co-star Halle Bailey, who plays the lead role of Ariel in the film, praised McCarthy for encouraging her to speak up for herself on set.

“She was telling me, ‘Yeah, I had to learn. I wasn’t always this way, and when you’re young, you’re timid,’” Bailey, 22, told CNN. She added that MCarthy told her that as she got older, she’s learned how to “speak up and (say) what works for” her.

Bailey said that it was “really cool” to watch McCarthy “come onto set and be just so comfortable with who she was in her skin and (to see) her standing up for herself”, admitting that she initially found it “intimidating” to do the same.

Melissa McCarthy as Ursula in ‘The Little Mermaid’ (Disney)
Melissa McCarthy as Ursula in ‘The Little Mermaid’ (Disney)

Early reactions to The Little Mermaid have been largely positive, following its premiere in Los Angeles on 8 May.

Many have compared it favourably to the 1989 animated original, with particular praise for Bailey.

Jodi Benson, who voiced Ariel in the original version, hailed Bailey for her “purity of heart, vulnerability and bravery” in the role, adding that she was “so proud of her”.

Writer Zoe Rose Bryant was similarly appreciative, tweeting: “The Little Mermaid is a live-action remake that retains the heart and soul of the story we know and love, and it’s elevated even further by a note-perfect star-making performance from Halle Bailey – she was born to be on the big screen, and she’s why this new take is worth watching.”

The Little Mermaid will be released in cinemas on Friday 26 May.