This weekend brings Spy, starring Melissa McCarthy and a rich cast of supporting characters including Rose Byrne, Jude Law, Jason Statham and Allison Janney. For American audiences, Miranda Hart—who plays the timid Nancy alongside McCarthy—is a new face. But not so in the UK, where she’s very well known thanks to the semi-autographical sitcom Miranda she wrote and starred in and from her her role on the popular drama Call the Midwife. Director Paul Feig, a fan, wrote the part of Nancy with Hart in mind. “I’ve always been obsessed with bringing Miranda to an American audience,” Feig says. “So when I started writing Spy, I thought, ‘This is for Miranda,’ and I really tailored the script for her.” EW caught up with the 6-foot-1 writer and actress:
Entertainment Weekly: Spy is your first big film—did you have any idea what to expect when you showed up for work on the film’s location in Budapest?
I think from the minute you see Bridesmaids—let alone any of Paul Feig’s other films—you just want to work with him. Knowing Paul had written the part specifically for me made it more comfortable. It’s always nerve wracking the first few days but basically in the first couple of hours I thought, this is going to be so much fun! And it was—we had the best time. Jude Law said to me, ‘It’s not always like this. This is special.” It was. There was a lot of laughter on and off screen and good times were had. But what happens in Budapest stays in Budapest.
Who did you pal around with the most?
The nice thing about being away without friends and family is that it brings everyone together. And what a group! Melissa and I got on really well—I’m a huge fan of her work. I knew I’d get to see her improvise but when you’re there and face to face with her and she’s on a roll? It’s incredible. Rose Byrne is just adorable and you kind of want to say to her: “Have you seen your IMDB page?” And Allison Janney is basically my favorite actress in the world. We are now firm friends which is wonderful.
Which one of you is taller?
Do you know what? I don’t know! We see pretty much eye to eye. We did a lot of towering over Melissa and pretending not to hear her while she was stuck standing between us, her eyes at our bosoms. That was pretty amusing—for us anyway.
With all those funny people on set, did you ever find yourself breaking character?
Oh yes. I totally did. Particularly those first few scenes…
What were they?
The very first scene I had to do was jump on top of 50 Cent in a nightclub. I swear on my life that was the very first shot. It was like, “Welcome to Spy, this is a fast moving set. Now please tackle 50 Cent to the ground.” [Laughs.] And then Melissa and I shot these scenes that involved a lot of improvised banter and needless to say those always made me break. My trick was that I turned it into crying. Nancy was always terrified so I kept pretending that she was so nervous there were tears.
You’re very busy in the UK, but do you want to continue doing work in American movies?
I am not going to lie to you: if the phone rang for a part in a great film I wouldn’t say no. It would be great to work over there. Spy was really such a special experience.
Watching the movie certainly makes one fee like it might have been a lot of fun to work on.
I’d say about halfway through I started thinking, I don’t care about what happens to this film—Spy 2 everyone, yes? We can budget it ourselves! Basically I would pay to be in Spy 2.