Mere months after Sarah Baker wowed Louie audiences, she has another breakout role in Melissa McCarthy's Tammy, as a fast food worker who is pretty blasé about being robbed by McCarthy's title character.
Whereas Baker's turn on Louie showcased her dramatic delivery, giving her a chance to deliver one hell of a speech, her Tammy performance is all about how she expertly plays off McCarthy, weathering the robbery with a bit of sass and compassion.
The Wire got a chance to talk to Baker about her amazing couple of months.
You came up through the Groundlings. Did you know Melissa and Ben [Falcone, her co-writer, husband, and director of Tammy] through that?
I did. Ben was actually my director in the Sunday Company for the first like six months I was in the Sunday Company. So that's really how I met him and got to know both of them.
So when they were working on the film did they come to you with the part?
Ben just called and he was like, "Hey, will you do this part in the movie?" and I was like "of course." And we've kept in touch and become friends over the years, so I see them pretty frequently. I'm always obviously dying to work with Melissa so it was fun to finally get the chance, and just a fun perfect little part.
Did Ben having directed you in the Sunday Company make this a different or easier experience than what you might normally encounter? Did it feel like coming back to something you're familiar with?
Yeah, totally, the basis of our friendship was that, was him directing me. And he's also such a collaborative and just kind, mild-mannered easygoing sort of guy that he would never be a tyrant anyway. But we did already have sort of that shorthand and it just felt really comfortable, and I trust him and his judgment. I've watched both him and Melissa on stage at the Groundlings for years. So anything they tell me to do or ask me to do I would have been like, "okay, I think it's a good idea, I'm going to do whatever you say."
Was this the first time you were acting opposite Melissa?
This is the first time we've worked together. I had a tiny part in Bridesmaids that got cut, but it was not a scene with Melissa. It was actually a scene with Kristen Wiig. So this was the first chance we had to work together. I've actually worked with Ben before. We got to act together in an episode of Go On last year, whenever that was. And that was really fun. He played my date at this party and he was this goofy, awful character. So that was really fun.
But it was my first time working with Melissa. I had to just try not to laugh. I couldn't even hardly look at her face. She's wearing a mask during the scene and she kept doing this thing. She was trying to find the eyeholes in it, and she was trying to look down in the back to see how much money I'd given her. She had to cock her head at such a weird angle to try and see down into the bag. It was killing me. I was just like: I just can't watch her or I'm going to start laughing and I'm going to ruin the movie.
And we can barely even see that on screen!
Right! And those are always the moments that kill me. Just the smallest little things. And then there are, luckily, a million of those that you do see and love in the movie.
How much of the robbery scene was improvised?
Obviously, the whole structure of it was scripted, that she was going to come in there, rob us, and put us in the freezer. But most of the actual robbing stuff was—I think it was pretty much improvised. And then I think either Ben or Melissa would maybe give us a line to say. It was definitely very collaborative. [Sorta spoiler alert: McCarthy's Tammy suggests that she and Baker's character could become friends, Baker reveals that she has a hot tub in her apartment complex. One of the final scenes of the movie shows McCarthy and Baker soaking in the tub.] Even the hot tub thing—it's hard to remember now, it was almost a year ago that we did it—but I'm pretty sure Melissa just improvised the hot tub thing, and I improvised, like, yes I've got one in my apartment complex, and that ended up making it into the movie. So you never know! You could cost a movie thousands of dollars just by improvising a line.
Sometimes when you're doing that kind of scene maybe you talk about the scene and improvise off-camera what might happen. Finding fun stuff there and adding it. Obviously, they are both so funny, but they are both so excited to hear what anyone else is going to bring to the table. Whatever is funniest is what wins. It's really cool to work with people like that, because not everybody is like that.
The movie surprised me because there were parts of it on a whole that were a lot darker than I was expected. Obviously, you come to the movie in a straightforwardly comic moment, but what brings Tammy to that place is a sad one, and you don't see that in the marketing, but you see it in the scene. Was that something that surprised you?
I think you're right, and I think it happens a lot of times with comedy movies. In the trailers you're seeing all the big fun moments, but I think that's one of the great things about Melissa and what she brings. Even in Bridesmaids, which was a pretty straightforward comedy, the scene where she was with Kristen and giving her a pep talk, you see there's that sweet side to her. I think she shows that a lot in movies. Even in Identity Thief, I feel there were a lot of those moments where you're like, oh, this is a really troubled person. You know, Melissa's hilarious, but she's an incredible actress. She's so real and so full of emotion and so much heart and I think that's why you can laugh at her so hard because there's such a reality to everything that she does.
How was the experience of being heavily featured in the marketing for the movie?
Of course I was excited. It's been funny with this whole thing because Ben and Melissa are my friends. Even though I know it's a major motion picture, there's part of me that's just like, "Oh, you guys, you're just being nice, you're just trying to help me and my career." I'm like, well, I guess they couldn't technically do that if Warner Bros. didn't want to. But it was so fun. I think, like you said, there are more serious moments, that's just such a light moment and her doing that dance through the parking lot is just, how can you not put that in the trailer? It's so funny. I felt like I had to tell my parents and stuff, just so you know, I know it seems like I have a really big part because of this, but that's pretty much the whole part. Like a lot of people are like: I'm going to see your movie. I'm like, okay, well, it's not my movie. I have a couple scenes. Let's not get crazy.
But it's definitely a scene-stealing role. That's a label that's been associated with you a lot after the Louie episode. What's that been like?
It's been incredible. I don't know if you can ever steal a scene from Louis C.K. or Melissa McCarthy. I think that's kind of impossible. But I think because people don't know me they [think], "Wait, who is this person in there with these comedic geniuses?" It's been incredible. It's been so nice. People have been really nice about it. For me, I just want to work and I love working, so I think that's the part I focus on the most. That's the part I think about and sort of treasure the most, are those moments on set and remembering those experiences. It's been so nice for people to have a favorable reaction to what I've done. You work hard and you try your best and like anything in life, when people respond well to it, it's like, "Well, good I'm headed in the right direction here." So it's been really really nice.