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Melissa McCarthy on ‘Suffs,’ Backing Broadway Shows

Melissa McCarthy on ‘Suffs,’ Backing Broadway Shows

As if Hillary Clinton and Malala Yousafzai weren’t enough of a powerhouse duo on Suffs, Melissa McCarthy is one of the many other people behind the scenes of the three-time, Tony-nominated musical from Shaina Taub.

The actress serves as an investor in the show and was immediately “blown away” by it when she first saw it on Broadway, noting it made her laugh and cry several times.

“Sometimes, it was a heartbreaking cry,” McCarthy tells The Hollywood Reporter exclusively. “Then also sometimes there’s just like a, ‘How are we still fighting this shit?’ cry, where you’re like, ‘I’m angry for my daughters. I’m angry for so many people.’ It really runs the gamut, but it’s certainly an emotional ride.”

Suffs follows the suffragist movement as several brilliant and flawed women worked against and across generational, racial and class divides in the fight for their right to vote in the United States, eventually leading to the passing of the 19th Amendment in 1920. Together, they clashed with the president, the public and each other, according to its description. Taub stars as Alice Paul in the musical she wrote, while Jill Furman and Rachel Sussman serve as lead producers.

“Everyone told them they were crazy, that they had no point, and they showed up, and they fought for us, for me and you, for my girls, for my girls’ girls, my great-great-great-great-grandchildren to come,” McCarthy reflects on the show. “Watching that is so empowering, and it’s such a lesson of when you come together, and when you are in the right, and when you know something is not right, if you can collectively work together, you can fight for change.”

While it was her first time serving as an investor in a Broadway show, McCarthy shares that helping get a project off the ground is something she is interested in doing again. She also notes that she began her career in theater and would love to return to it one day. “When my girls are in college, I will try desperately to work live onstage again,” she says. “I just think it’s a really powerful art form.”

Below, the actress and screenwriter opens up about why she wanted to be involved as an investor in Suffs, the musical’s importance in today’s political climate and more.

Nikki M. James as Ida B. Wells and Suffs Company.

Joan Marcus

I just want to say I saw Suffs a couple of months ago, and I thought it was amazing.

I’m so glad to hear that. I was really blown away with it the first time I saw it. I just thought that cast is so like overwhelmingly entertaining, and they’re just powerhouses. It gave me the same feeling like when I first saw Hamilton and saw that original cast. Something about it, I don’t know if it’s just when one person is just creating all of it, maybe that singular point of view, but I just love it.

Talk to me a little bit about how you became involved as an investor in Suffs.

I had known about it, and I thought how insane that this isn’t taught in every school, and we don’t all know these incredible women. And then when I saw it, I just thought like, “Yeah, it’s relevant.” It’s funny, but it’s also really powerful and a part of our history that we need to know, and also they’ve done it in such an entertaining way. That is exactly the kind of stuff I want to get behind. My daughters were so moved by it. I’ve sent so many friends, and I’ve referred it so much, and everyone kind of has the same reaction. They’re like, “How don’t we know all these women? Why don’t we know these stories?” And then the funny thing is, they’re always like, “I’ve never alternated between laughing and crying so much.” I know. I had the same reaction, so I’ll get behind something like that any chance I get.

Why do you think this show is so important in general and now in this cultural moment?

I mean, in this cultural moment, it’s incredibly important, especially in a year where there is an election happening. All sides, I feel like everybody just feels like they’re not heard, and then watching a show like this where you realize how important it is to have a voice and to have a say and to be included in the conversation, I think everybody wants that. We’re just clawing at each other, and it’s not being done very successfully. So, I think when you see a show, you know we all kind of take it for granted and people are saying, “Oh, politics are crazy,” and some people will say, “Your vote doesn’t even count.” But then when you watch this, and you realize what if you didn’t even get an ability to use your voice and how important that is. And then when you think about, “My god, they fought for 60 years to just be able to participate.” I had great conversations with my daughters about how lucky and fortunate we are to be able to vote and how important it is that you use it.

Do you want to do more Broadway investments?

It’s my favorite thing. I started onstage, and it’s something I absolutely love. And I think when my girls are in college, I will try desperately to work live onstage again. I just think it’s a really powerful art form. I think there’s nothing quite like a live performance where anything can happen, and I also think that collective feeling of sitting there with an audience, you’re sitting with a bunch of strangers and collectively, you’re laughing. You’re crying. You’re having these moments of “How can this be real?” There’s something that like tethers us and keeps our humanity I think, and also just the tightrope walk of a live performance. It’s thrilling to do. It also can be terrifying because anything can happen. And I think there’s just nothing quite like it. So, I would always be interested in trying to kind of lift outside and help a show get going.

Jenn Colella as Carrie Chapman Catt and Suffs Company.

Joan Marcus

How many times have you seen the show?

I’ve seen it twice on Broadway, and I’m going back for the summer, and then I’ll see it two or three more times.

Did you also see it off-Broadway?

I didn’t, but I heard about it. I kept missing it. Every time I was there, I never had the right timing, or it was sold out, and I couldn’t get in or my timing was bad. And then I was so glad [when it moved over to Broadway]. I was like, “Oh my god I thought I had missed it forever,” and then they were like, “Oh it’s going to Broadway,” as it should be.

Would you be interested in taking a lead producer position on a show or maybe a co-producer?

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It would be a learning curve because I’ve produced film and television but not Broadway. But I think the creative process is pretty similar. I love doing and performing different projects, but I really do love the producing part of it too. I love kind of helping put together all the different pieces and getting the different cast just right. It’s kind of like the greatest, living, breathing jigsaw puzzle.

What kind of Broadway material or shows would you be looking to get involved with?

Oh, I think it runs the gamut. I just love good stories, when you can kind of combine something that really, really matters, and there’s skin in the game, and then you’re also helping shine the light on something that we should all know. I think the real balancing act is what Shaina [Taub] has done. When you can do that with humor, and with real drama, and you can mix in just like gorgeous music, it’s really entertaining. It doesn’t feel like a teaching moment. It’s a hell of a good time. I took friends to it the last time, and they were just like, “How are we still fighting the same battles?” It just brought up so many great conversations, and I think when work can make you really, really keep talking about it for weeks after that’s when you really got something special.

Shaina Taub as Alice Paul and Suffs Company.

Joan Marcus

I’d love to see you do something on Broadway.

I hope I can. There’s just nothing quite like it, that connection to the audience. There’s no real magic tricks you can do. You just have to fling yourself into it, and I don’t know if it makes me crazy, but I really love that feeling of “We’ll see how tonight goes,” because any night could be different. It’s scary but also exciting.

Will you be at the Tonys supporting Suffs this year?

I don’t know. I would love to. I don’t know yet, but that sounds very fun.

What do you think the message of Suffs is?

It’s telling the story of these real women who fought for 60 years tirelessly when everyone told them they were crazy, that they had no point, and they showed up, and they fought for us, for me and you, for my girls, for my girls’ girls, my great-great-great-great-grandchildren to come. Watching that is so empowering, and it’s such a lesson of when you come together, and when you are in the right, and when you know something is not right, if you can collectively work together, you can fight for change. We need that kind of hope now. We need to know that even when things seem bleak, there is light at the other end of the tunnel. But sometimes it’s a real tough, real long and hard fight, but it’s worth it.

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