Just in time for today’s release of the one of the summer’s best comedies, Bridesmaids, we caught up with one of the stars of the film, Wendi McLendon-Covey. She took a few minutes away from working on set for her upcoming arc on CBS’ Rules of Engagement to tell us about her pistol of a character, Rita, and share a little about her longtime friend and costar Melissa McCarthy in light of recent Emmy win.
It’s kind of an incredible cast put together here. How did you fit into that? How did you get involved [with Bridesmaids]?
They wrote—this is what they said; they keep saying it, so I believe them now—they said they wrote the roll with me in mind. I knew Annie [Mumolo] and Kristen [Wiig] from the Groundlings. In fact, I met Kristen and Maya [Rudolph] and Melissa at a wedding shower, of all things, ten years ago because of the Groundlings. So that was weird.
Yeah, right? So, they wrote it. And five years ago, I went to the table read and I read this character. So, it was really fun. And then the movie was on, and then it was off, and blah, blah, blah. Then, last year, I was called into audition for it. And I thought, “Oh my gosh, it’s so nice that they’re even bringing me in.” You know? Because I’m not an A-lister, and obviously with Judd Apatow, you can get A-listers. I came in and read for it a couple of times. Every time I went in, there was someone else more famous in the waiting room. But I kept coming back, and eventually it was mine. I was thrilled. And it was great, because I got to work with a lot of my friends, and I know how they work, and we can all improvise really well together. It was such a blessing.
Did anything from that original wedding shower make it in, as some sort of inside joke, to the Bridesmaids wedding shower?
No. All of that was completely fresh!
Your character is one of the most interesting characters—well, they’re all incredibly interesting. She’s very unique. What was your favorite thing about playing Rita?
My favorite thing is that I’m not a mom myself. So all I did was listen to other people, eavesdrop; some people say such horrible things about their kids. And then they wonder, “Why do my kids hate me?” It’s like, “Well, I hate you just listening to you now. You’re awful. You’re an awful person.” But I like that as a character to play because we all know someone like that who complains and complains and complains. And there’s nothing really wrong, you know? She’s got a perfectly nice husband. She’s rich. She’s got kids that could be under control if she would do something about it. And all she wants to do is complain about how bad her life is. Like one of the Real Housewives of Orange County. I took a lot of attitude from that.
You watch a lot of Bravo?
Oh yes. Oh yes I do. So, that was really fun.
There’s a part on the DVD where there’s a sort of Line-a-rama. It’s largely yours. It’s the different ways of describing the smell in Rita’s house.
Oh yeah. [Laughs].
For someone who’s not a mother of three boys, there’s quite a world of descriptions in there. Where did you get those from?
Well, you know how sometimes you go to someone’s house and they can’t smell it anymore, but there’s a lot of weird smells that converge? And maybe you haven’t had the wherewithal to break them down, but I do that. “Ew, it smells like mascara and frozen peas!” You know what I mean? And I spend time thinking about these things. So that’s why I had all these things at the ready. Different people’s houses smell like different weird things. God forbid someone should come and nail down what my house smells like. It’d probably be a litter box…sweaty socks…and burnt bacon. That probably is what it smells like.
It sounds like onset you guys were pretty free to ad lib at will.
Oh yeah. Totally.
Was there anything that you were particularly proud of—or something someone else said—but that didn’t make it in, and that you were just dying to see again?
Oh, yeah. There was a whole run of mine and Ellie’s [Kemper] characters on the plane when we were ramping up to that kiss of ours. It got so ugly and stupid and drunk and…just crying, and snot flying, and I thought, “Oh, this is gonna be hilarious.” And I don’t think it made it even onto the DVD, which breaks my heart, because it sure did feel hilarious. And we got a lot of compliments on it the next day, so I thought, “Oh! This is gonna be it!” But it was funny.
Maybe you could use that for inspiration for the sequel.
Maybe so! Oh, I hope there’s a sequel! I really hope there is. I want to work with those girls again. But who knows what’s going to happen?
Have you thought of what you’d want the sequel to be about?
Oh, I’ve got nothing but ideas for a sequel, but you know what? I’ll wait ‘til someone actually asks me. But listen, I’ve got Rita’s character all mapped out. There’s a deep well—for such a shallow lady—of ideas.
As a viewer—you were obviously on the other side when you were making it—but when you finally got to sit down and see the final product, what was your favorite part?
Let’s see…I thought that the whole introduction, the whole engagement party bit, was pretty well put together. I didn’t miss a lot from that. I thought the whole scene was pretty great. From our introductions to the toasts, I thought was pretty great. I would say, the bridal shop scene was pretty good. I was pretty fond of that. But a lot of other stuff that was cut out that I was bummed about was the stuff with her roommates, Kristen’s roommates. The brother and sister. Because they were so weird. But I guess they were just too weird for American audiences. They just didn’t get them? But I love Matt Lucas, and I love Rebel [Wilson]. I was wishing there was more.
Maybe they’ll get their own spinoff.
Maybe so! Maybe.
Were you terrified when you found out about the bridal shop scene?
I wasn’t terrified, but I thought, “Ohh, really? I don’t know…” But then, it was fun! I gotta say, I had fun doing it. I really thought I was gonna hate it, but I loved it. Because I knew it would be funny. It felt funny when it was happening, so…
You were in a tough spot, too, because you were the recipient of someone else’s…illness?
Exactly. But you know what? If that has to happen? Might as well be Ellie.
That was a pretty hilarious combination. Of all the people. Moving onto the bigger picture of what Bridesmaids offers as far as women’s comedy, a lot of people are pegging it as breaking ground in this barrier between male comedy and female comedy. Where do you think it fits in that sort of spectrum?
You know what? At the end of the day, funny is funny. I hope to see the end of all the female clichés that are written in a lot of comedies that are named chick flicks. I even hate that distinction. But to say…there were a lot of discussions like, “Wow, it looks like women really are funny,” blah, blah, blah. Oh, come on! That’s an insult! Tell that to Mary Tyler Moore and Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams. Mae West, Carol Lombard. There’s been plenty—oh, tell it to the cast of Sex & the City. They managed to do very well. It’s just ridiculous. It’s like…I don’t know who’s sitting there figuring out these things, but hopefully what it means is that there will be more interesting casting choices made. I think that’s where Bridesmaids hit the nail right on the head. They went to the unexpected placed with their casting, and it really paid off.
You’ve seen everybody before, but not so much that you were sick of them. Not like, “Oh, I know who she’s sleeping with,” or, “She’s married to so-and-so…” There’s not a big tabloid following of any of those girls. You could just enjoy the story and get lost in the characters. I think that’s the biggest thing that Bridesmaids did.
Definitely. Some of your cast mates recently shot up in popularity. Last night, Melissa McCarthy got her Emmy. Did you predict that? Did you see that coming?
Well, Melissa—you know what’s weird? I’ve only seen her play characters like Megan. We came from the Groundlings together, so I’ve seen the freaky side of Melissa for years! So the weird thing for me is seeing her play a normal person. So now it’s like, great! Now you people can see what she is willing to do. She is fearless. We were all fearless. I think they saw a different side to Rose Byrne, definitely, who only did drama before. And a different side to Kristen [Wiig], a different side to me…I think, you know, Bridesmaids: thank God for it. Thank God they let us do what we do. They were very collaborative with us. Judd Apatow and Paul Feig. They were very gracious about listening to us when we said, “No! Girls don’t do that! Girls would do this! We’re telling you! We have more experience being girls than you do!” And they said okay! It’s been good for all of us.
Would you say that working with Paul, there’s a unique aspect to it? Was it collaborative?
Oh my gosh. Working with Paul? It was just a dream. Because he’s an improviser, too. And he has an acting background. He understands. Sometimes, you’ve got to get into it a little bit. You can’t just say action and expect it all to show up. Especially when you’re improvising. You’ve got to gear up to it. And he’s really good with women, and women are really good with him. He understands girls and he understands actors. Whatever he’s doing, I want to do it. I’ll do an unpaid web series with Paul. Whatever he wants, I’ll show up for it.
I’m sure everyone would love to see that. Get that in the works! Get that going!
Well, I’ve said it, and now it will manifest!
We also chatted with Covey about her upcoming arc on Rules of Engagement and her guest spot on Fox’s new series I Hate My Teenage Daughter. Check back next week for the second half of our interview.