Melissa McCarthy talks return to drama in 'Can You Ever Forgive Me?'

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Melissa McCarthy turns serious in a new movie set in New York City. The star is best known for making us laugh in movies like "Bridesmaids," but she began here in the early 1990s studying acting by day and doing stand-up comedy at night.

McCarthy proves a good choice to play the central character's caustic wit, but fans of her comedy won't find too many laughs in "Can You Ever Forgive Me?" The film marks a return to the dramatic acting she did before fame came.

The real character McCarthy plays in the new movie grew up in Midwood and made her living as a writer in Manhattan before falling out of favor. Faced with poverty, Lee Israel turned to forging letters from famous people and selling them to collectors. The title is a line from one of those forgeries: "Can you ever forgive me?"

"Quite by accident, I find myself in a rather criminal position," Lee tells her only friend, a man about town played by Richard E. Grant, who she recruits as a co-conspirator.

It's an intriguing position, but still somehow relatable.

"Everyone's had some form of a friend where they can't get out of their own way," McCarthy said. "They're fascinating. They're interesting. But they're their own worst enemy."

For her part, the real-life Israel was unapologetic until the end.

"Very proud," McCarthy said. "Even when she was being convicted, Lee would not take back or wouldn't apologize for the work."

Playing the role on location in New York City gave McCarthy a chance to recall her formative years in the city.

"Everyone I knew, we were working four, five jobs just trying to get by," she said. "And there was something about the struggle, as hard as it was and as tired as we were, there was still something that was romantic because you were like, but I'm in New York."

No wonder the star calls this movie a "sentimental journey."

"From a farm in Illinois, so even the grit of it at the time was still magical to me," she said. "Because it was so different from anything I'd ever known and so many different types of people."

Grant says McCarthy left vanity at the door of the set, which "leads to a truth in everything she does."

I agree, and both performances are good. McCarthy is astonishing and makes this movie well worth seeing. I heartily recommend "Can You Ever Forgive Me?"

* Follow us on YouTube
* More local news
* Send us a news tip
* Download the abc7NY app for breaking news alerts
Copyright © 2022 WABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.