Acting with puppets adds an extra level of zaniness to performing — especially if they are the kind of puppets that are in an R-rated movie. In Brian Henson’s The Happytime Murders, Melissa McCarthy plays a detective that teams up with her former puppet partner to investigate a series of murdered puppets. Though McCarthy has appeared in all kinds of comedies, The Happytime Murders is the first time she has acted with puppets.
In an interview with Slash Film, McCarthy reveals that acting opposite talented puppeteers was a lot easier than she expected. She explains:
“What’s crazy is that I thought it was gonna be this whole tricky thing. I thought, ‘Okay, I guess it will be kinda like with a tennis ball, just ‘cause there’s no eye contact and they’re not looking at you.’ What happened about 15 minutes in was that I bumped into Phil and I was like, ‘Oh, I’m sorry, Phil.’ And then, I was like, ‘Oh, okay, I’m nuts!’ We’ve had emotional scenes. It’s also ‘cause there’s a crazy thing happening with what a good and incredibly grounded actor Bill Barretta is. They’re not putting wackiness on top of a puppet. It’s a really good, solid character. Within seconds, it goes away in your head and you’re having these lovely scenes, or you’re having fights. I’m weirdly constantly apologizing to Phil. Bill is laying on the ground and I don’t say a word to him, but I’m like, ‘Phil, I’m sorry.’ It’s a whole different thing than anything I could have expected. They’re just so good that they inhabit these puppets and they become incredibly real, immediately.”
One aspect that McCarthy that made enjoy the experience even more was that the puppeteers love to improvise. She says:
“A lot. They’re crazy! They’re crazy funny! All of them improvise. You can throw anything at them. Every time Drew [Massey], who plays several things in this, did a take, it was completely different, which both delighted and irritated me. I was like, ‘Is this written down?! I really work on this, and I think you might just be saying stuff, off the top of your head.’ And each one was super specific, really funny and completely different. I was like, ‘I just wanna see where it’s written. We’re on your eighth take, and it keeps getting better and funnier. Now, I’m just jealous.’ He was like, ‘I’m just saying stuff. Is that okay?’ You can throw anything at them. That’s what they do. You can go anywhere with them, and they’ll be two steps ahead of them, for sure.”