LOS ANGELES -- Ever seen a female-led mob movie? Neither had "The Kitchen" writer and director Andrea Berloff, and that's why she says she jumped at the chance to adapt DC Vertigo's comic series of the same name.
But first, she had some key changes to make to the source material.
"I said to the studio: 'I don't want to make a movie about three white women. I want to figure out a way to authentically make one of these characters African American," she said, noting she had just finished work promoting "Straight Outta Compton," which she co-wrote.
"The Kitchen" tells the story of three mob wives in 1970s Hell's Kitchen who are forced to take over the family business when their husbands are sent to prison. Elisabeth Moss, Tiffany Haddish, and Melissa McCarthy play women who, despite a common goal, are motivated by different experiences.
McCarthy's Kathy is a mother of two who loves her husband and is worried for her family while he's away. Moss' Claire, who suffered through an abusive relationship, feels liberated by her husband's arrest. Haddish's Ruby is the only black woman associated with the Irish mob and has a unique perspective because of it.
In order to embrace their characters' journeys, the three actresses had to think about what happened to the wives up until the day the cameras started rolling.
"I always thought about Kathy as just always being smart, always being capable and no one ever asking for her opinion and knowing that she wasn't able to even offer it," McCarthy said. "And I thought, 'What is that resentment and frustration?' And then when you mix that with the panic of not being able to take care of your children and keep a roof over their head. What is that person willing to do?"
Treating each woman with humility was essential to embodying them, Moss said. She added that her character finds solace in the more gruesome parts of the job because of her past.
"Somebody who has only experienced violence and has only experienced that kind of physical pain, to her that means power and strength," Moss said. "To her, the person who is hitting the hardest is the person who is in power."
Although disturbing, Claire's attraction to the violence is understandable, Moss said. Luckily, her co-star, Domhnall Gleeson, who plays her love interest and a former hitman, embraced the same mentality.
"They're just a kind of a really weird couple, but they seem real happy," he said. "So, you look over and they're smiling and they're very much in love, and you know they're going back to chop up a body in the bathtub."
While audiences may wince at some of the more grotesque scenes, they may also feel a strange sense of empowerment watching these women take control of their lives. The three women at the center of the film certainly did.
"There are definitely a few moments that I think we did like walking down the street together in a row that I think we felt pretty cool about ourselves," Moss said. "We felt ourselves sometimes, for sure. But a lot of the time, I mean, what I felt was empowering was this support that we all gave each other as the three actors in the film. There was no hierarchy."
They just clicked.
"It felt like a reverse 'Girls Trip' to me," Haddish said. "We were having fun on the camera, but like being silly when there's no action, and then they say, 'action' and we're serious. That was super fun. They're gonna be my friends for a long time. They don't know this, but they're not going to be able to get rid of me."
"The Kitchen" arrives in theaters Friday.
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