Movies

McCarthy, Haddish and Moss raise hell in mob drama The Kitchen

They play mob wives in gritty drama, say flawed characters relatable

In the gritty women-driven mob drama The Kitchen, set in New York City circa 1978, US actresses Melissa McCarthy, 48, Tiffany Haddish, 39, and Elisabeth Moss, 37, play Hell's Kitchen wives whose mobster husbands are sent to prison.

Left with little but a sharp axe to grind, the trio take the Irish mafia's matters into their own hands - proving unexpectedly adept at everything from running the rackets to literally taking out the competition.

The Kitchen opens here tomorrow and its stars talk about their weapons training (or lack thereof) and how they bonded on set over purses and a horse.

Despite their extreme circumstances and what they do to survive, what makes these three characters relatable to the men and women watching The Kitchen?

Moss: I think it is their complexity; the fact that they are not drawn in black and white, (and are) flawed. Sometimes weak, sometimes strong, sometimes powerful and sometimes vulnerable. That is true of all humans, I find.

Haddish: (My character) Ruby always sees the bigger picture and wants a better life. In that sense, too, I am always trying to make sure I am ready for the next level. I am working on my skills, willing to learn and read up on how to be the best at whatever it is I am doing.

McCarthy: Also the feeling of being pushed into a corner or being out of choices. When that happens, who among us can really say what would you do in certain circumstances? That is certainly an element of this movie, in a big way.

Writer-director Andrea Berloff said that she did not want to give you weapons training because she wanted it to look realistic, like people who were not accustomed to handling guns. Was there any preparation you did for that?

Haddish: (Laughs.) I was just making sure that the bullets weren't real so I could look down the barrel.

McCarthy: I've had gun training for other films. I did believe (my character) Kathy has been around guns and knows how to load a gun, but I didn't want to make it seem like it is something she does every day.

I at least wanted to make sure it looked like this is not her first time with it, like, when she is loading it, she isn't thinking, "Where does this thing go?"

I am freaked out by guns. But I think for somebody who has always been kind of around them, it is just not a big deal.

This is such a dramatic, intense story. How did you lighten things up between takes?

McCarthy: We wrote our own TV show called Purses (laughs). It will help for someone reading this if you say Purses in an exaggerated whispered tone.

I have a lot of difficulty keeping a purse on my shoulder. I cannot carry a lady's handbag to save my life.

My shoulders are kind of built like a Christmas tree. And these ladies can back me up on this. It really was a problem.

They tried taping it and they tried sewing it on, and in the middle of these extreme, dramatic moments in a scene, the purse is falling 27 times, and you are thinking, "Oh my God, just keep the purse on your shoulder."

Moss: And the clutching...

McCarthy: Yes, there are scenes where it is a fun thing to watch for. Sometimes I am just walking down the street holding my purse. It clearly has a long shoulder strap, but I am holding it like an apple, just in my mitts.

Moss: Also there was some interior decorating going on. And the online shopping that we were doing.

McCarthy: Both of them encouraged me to buy this full-size bright yellow horse.

Moss: I think that was the first one we truly bonded over. She showed us a picture of this life-size horse she was considering and it was a vulnerable thing to do, and we both were like, "Yeah, you should do it."

McCarthy: They were like, "Get that horse." And the next day they were like, "Oh my God, she did it." I think it bonded us, the fact that all three of us could get behind this really bad, weird idea.

When I look at it now, I think of you guys, because the reason I got that horse was these two ladies.

Moss: And then it went on from there. It was never anything crazy luxurious, it was always like you were buying garbage bins for the bathroom.

Haddish: You got me interested in that and now I am decorating stuff, so thank you for that.

Interior design leads us to wardrobe. Was there anything in particular from the 1970s that made a real impression on you?

McCarthy: Our costume designer Sarah Edwards built a world where it doesn't look like the wacky-wacky costume shop but realistic so that every day you were there it was natural and just felt like 1978. I love how 1970s clothes are cut but I don't love polyester fabric.

Haddish: I love my slips. Why don't we wear slips any more? And I loved the outfits we wore to the disco.

Moss: To have three characters that are very different, that look different and individual but exist in the same frame in a way that makes sense, (Sarah) did an amazing job.

McCarthy: (And) the jewellery got piled on as we progressed in our rise to power. Sometimes it was so funny because it felt like I had 75 pieces on. I could barely lift my wrist. That was great.

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