Melissa McCarthy in a scene from Life of the Party. Supplied by Roadshow Films.
Melissa McCarthy in a scene from Life of the Party. Supplied by Roadshow Films. Hopper Stone

Actress goes back to her roots in Life of the Party

Melissa McCarthy channels her inner "cool mum” in her new comedy Life of the Party.

The comedy actress co-writes and stars in the film, which follows long-time housewife Deanna's decision to go back to college after her husband suddenly dumps her.

Deanna throws herself into the campus experience and ends up in some of the same classes as her daughter, who's not entirely sold on the idea.

It's the third collaboration between McCarthy and her husband Ben Falcone, who first directed her in the 2014 comedy Tammy. She also sings the praises of Australian actress Jacki Weaver, who plays her on-screen mum Sandy.

Q: What drew you to Life of the Party?

A: This film is all about second chances and reinventing yourself. I love when people tell me they're starting over, doing something like moving to a foreign country. I'm from a small farm town where most people can't do that.

As I grew older, I realised you can really do anything. You can change - your location, your job, how you see the world, what you love ... anything. The possibilities are endless and exciting, and it's a recurring theme with several of the characters I've played, even when it's not the driving force for the character. It's something I always think about in terms of where the characters are in their lives, and where do they want to be?

Q: Deanna becomes a "cool mum” in the movie. Did you know any cool mums when you were growing up?

A: I think my mum is cool. She was always there for me, no matter how crazy I dressed or the dumb things I did, I knew she would always love me. And, believe me, I sometimes pushed it as far as I could! (laughs)

I know lots of cool mums now. Of course mums in Los Angeles, where I live now, are very different from the mums where I grew up. We're all a little more of the moment.

Q: You worked very closely with Molly Gordon, who plays your daughter in the movie. Did you bond with Molly, as Deanna and Maddie do in the film?

A: We bonded immediately. If someone doesn't click with Molly Gordon, I'd be careful of that person. People have an immediate response to Molly. Meeting her and the other young women in the cast gives me hope for the world. These young people are so caring, smart, kind and professional. They're inspiring and awesome! It was a running joke on set that I was always hugging Molly. I was always fixing her hair, but she never seemed to mind (laughs).

Q: Your mum and dad in the film, Sandy and Mike, are played by Stephen Root and Australia's Jacki Weaver. Are the characters anything like your parents?

A: I named the two characters after my mum and dad, Sandy and Mike, who are exactly like the parents you meet in the film. When writing the script, we said, "Let's write exactly what my mum and dad would say.” It's a complete parody, if not dead-on recording of my parents.

There's a lot of my mum's sweet nature in Deanna. My mum should be made of marzipan because she's the kindest, sweetest person I know. And like Sandy in the film, my mum loves to talk about sandwiches. Jacki Weaver asked me, "So, your mum really likes talking about sandwiches?” Having Jacki, an amazing, powerhouse actress, say things my mum always says was a surreal and incredible experience for me. The same with Stephen Root - there were moments working opposite him where I was thinking, I can't believe this is happening; this is dreamy!

Life of the Party is in cinemas now.