Directed by Andrea Berloff and adapted from the Vertigo comic-book series of the same name, The Kitchen stars Tiffany Haddish, Melissa McCarthy, and Elisabeth Moss as 1970s Mob wives forced to rule New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen in the wake of their husbands’ arrests. But despite the names on the marquee, this isn’t a comedy: The feather-haired trio dispose of bodies, engage in ruthless debt collection, and utilize bathtubs in ways they were definitely not intended.
The stars gathered earlier this summer to discuss exactly how hot it got in The Kitchen.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What attracted you all to this movie initially?
TIFFANY HADDISH: What made me want to play Ruby was that she had a white husband. Because that’s the dream! [Laughs] No, it was the relationship she had with the women. All Ruby really wanted was a better life for herself and to have some power. First you get the money, then you get the power — ain’t that what Puffy said?
MELISSA McCARTHY: That’s exactly what Puffy said to me.
ELISABETH MOSS: When I got the script, Melissa and Tiffany were already attached to it. It was Andrea Berloff’s first big directing gig, and the basic story line sounded really cool. It was a no-brainer.
McCARTHY: I loved how messy the world was, that we were friends but it’s complicated…. By the end of the movie, we don’t all jump up into the air and have a freeze frame.
Was there one thing in particular in the script that surprised each of you when you were reading it?
McCARTHY: Mine’s a spoiler so I can’t speak to it specifically, but, in the most general terms, there’s a decision I make in the film that really gives me the chills and I thought, “Boy, that’s the last place I thought my character would go.
I think I know the scene you mean. Was that a tough day of shooting for you in terms of the emotions Cathy confronts?
McCARTHY: Scenes like that are always draining. You go through all the different levels of it and that “of which I cannot speak” is a kind of your worst nightmare; everything you considered to be your safety net and all your trust is breaking in front of you. I just liked that that character was just really short-circuiting and everything was falling apart.
HADDISH: I was surprised at how smart my character was. Mmmmm and that’s all I got to say about it.
Are you referencing something that happens towards the end?
HADDISH: Mmmhmmm. But she’s smart all the time — she’s just playing meek.
I was definitely shocked by that, but maybe that speaks to my intelligence — or lack thereof.
HADDISH: Mine too, girl! Because when I read that I was like, “ohhh, alright, alright!!”
MOSS: For me, honestly, everything about the character was surprising in her trajectory from beginning to end. Again — spoilers galore — there is a really cool turn of events in the role that she ends up taking on in this venture with the ladies. I do think it’s a nice little surprise. For me, the surprises in the character and the surprises in the relationship among the three women, was what made the script interesting and smart and complicated. It wasn’t just like, three women get together and they run the neighborhood and everything’s fantastic and they’re best friends forever because that wouldn’t be realistic in that world. In Hell’s Kitchen in the ‘70s running the mob, you wouldn’t necessarily all get along so I though that it was much more realistic and interesting.
Do you guys remember your first day filming together?
MOSS: It was in the diner. It was a big scene too: The diner scene when we first realize everything that’s going down.
HADDISH: When we realize we’re not getting our money.
McCARTHY: It was really fun because the first scene with all of us. When there’s such a tight ensemble to start off like that, I think it feels great for everyone to be like, okay we’re all starting this together.
HADDISH: I was so excited when I worked with you, Melissa because there was paparazzi out there. They were taking pictures of us and you were teaching me how to block the paparazzi and I was like, “I’m learning from the best!”
MOSS: I felt like it was my first day on any set because here I was sitting with Melissa McCarthy and Tiffany Haddish and it was kind of…You know you do this for so many years and suddenly you find yourself in a situation where you’re actually overwhelmed at the coolness factor of it. I got over it, but I definitely had it that first day where I was like, [giggles] this is really cool.
Tiffany, how were the scenes Margo Martindale, your character’s mother-in-law?
HADDISH: Margo is amazing! She is super fun and we were always like “f—king Martindale!” ‘cause she’s so good at what she does and it’s always fun to play with her. She’s really funny too outside of the scene and even in the scenes she said some stuff and the way she looks at you, it’s hard for me not to laugh.
McCARTHY: It’s so nice that she’s so funny, but God she is awful so easily. She could be just the most monstrous when she’s the mother-in-law. I could just pull up a chair and watch Margo do whatever — read the paper, read a list of numbers for 24 hours.
MOSS: I feel like there were some incredible scenes where we had some amazing actor come in, like Bill Camp and we would all just sit together and just have the pleasure of watching incredible actors do their thing and just be in awe. It was one of the pleasures of the job.
Elisabeth, how was working with Star Wars‘ Domhnall Gleeson?
MOSS: He’s a perfect example. I felt so, so lucky.
HADDISH: How about that sex scene?
MOSS: We didn’t really have a big sex scene. Wasn’t it kind of subtle?
HADDISH: No, no, it was, like, from sideways. It looked like when you go to sleep and you wake up and he’s, like, pushing up on you.
MOSS: That’s your own scene you’re imagining happened.
HADDISH: No! That happened! Y’all was doing it, girl.
Do you guys have a favorite scene that you shot together? I loved the club scene with you all dancing — and also, Tiffany, every time you crossed the street and just stopped traffic was amazing.
HADDISH: [Laughs] Oh, yeahhhh.
MOSS: Ironically we spent the shortest amount of time on the club scene and it was the most fun scene to shoot. Of course they’re like, “Oh, no, we only wanna spend a couple hours on that one.”
McCARTHY: There were so many amazing dancers who were part of the background and it just really, really weirdly felt like you were in a club. It was super fun and all those dancers were incredible.
MOSS: And the costumes! It was very cool.
McCARTHY: And people running around on roller skates? I was like, “Oh my God, I wanna go to this club!”
That should’ve been the wrap party, just an extension of that scene!
HADDISH: Girl, yes!
Is there one takeaway you hope audiences will have?
McCARTHY: I don’t know. I think it’s just really good storytelling? The takeaway is: Don’t run the mob and murder people.
HADDISH: What I loved about the movie is that I cried a little bit and then I wanted to tell everyone about it. I would like them to takeaway that women — or just humans in general — no matter what situation they’re put in, will figure out how to survive. And I want them to tell everyone about it.
If you guys were running a neighborhood, what would be the first thing you would do or outlaw?
McCARTHY: Save the world and the children, sure, but when we’re not doing that, I would like to make it that you’re ejected from your car when you’re at the four-way stop and you feel the need to tell me to go through, even though I’m just pulling up. I’m not going to roll through a stop sign because you need to control the situation.
HADDISH: I would implement monthly block parties. Everyone’s got to bring something good to eat: a casserole, collard greens, fried chicken. But if you don’t bring anything or you don’t show up, you better be on vacation or I’m going to whup your ass.
MOSS: I live in New York, and currently across the street a building is being built. I’m sure it’s going to be beautiful, but I would just maybe change to no construction before noon or 1 p.m.
HADDISH: I know some gangsters in your hood. You want me to make a call?
The Kitchen arrives in theaters Aug. 9.