Wales On Sunday
Bridesmaids star Wendi McLendon-Covey on her new black comedy
Darkly humorous drama Blush features Bridesmaids star Wendi McLendon-Covey in the lead role. GEORGIA HUMPHREYS finds out why she believes female-led comedy is making a comeback
WENDI McLendonCovey likes playing characters that are on the verge of some kind of collapse. Perhaps best known in the UK for her role as unhappily-married mum Rita in the romantic comedy Bridesmaids, her latest film, Blush, is about a housewife whose life spirals out of control.
The California-born star, 51, plays the lead, Cathy, and says her character’s situation was something she’s witnessed a lot in real life.
“Maybe it’s just because I live in Los Angeles and, you know, there’s just a certain type of gal that lives in Los Angeles,” she says.
“But it’s that kind of malaise where nothing is really wrong, but everything is wrong.
“And so you have to start medicating and listening to self-help tapes and doing all kinds of things to put a Band-Aid on the situation, when what you really need to do is just confront it full on and say, ‘I should go back to work’ or, ‘I should give myself something to look forward to’.
“So, it was actually really fun for me to play.”
Blush, from award-winning writer-director Debra Eisenstadt, looks at the seedy underbelly of the American dream in the 21st century.
Suburban housewife Cathy seems to have it all – a lovely home, a teenage daughter, a husband and a worthy job. But it’s all a facade and really, her life is crumbling.
Cathy agrees to cat-sit for her recently widowed sister, and while she’s over at her house – cleaning it obsessively – she can’t stop taking notice of the loud, messy family across the street.
She becomes embroiled in their lives as she befriends the substance abuser mum, her husband and their teen son.
It’s a much darker form of comedy than we’ll have seen
Wendi – known for her quick wit and flair for improvisation – in before.
As the star explains, it’s full of “uncomfortable, cringe-worthy moments”, which, as an audience member, she likes to watch.
The ending, though, does have a sense of catharsis.
“What I read into it is that you just can’t keep running,” she suggests.
“You can’t outrun your own self, you can’t outrun your own fears and failures. You have to just let it hit you right in the head and then you can go forward.”
Asked whether she recognises any of her character’s unhealthy traits in herself, the actress confides there was a time when she was listening to a lot of “self-help stuff”.
“I don’t want to say that was my drug of choice, but I was really listening to that stuff, and consuming so much of it that it became stupid.
“Like, you can only listen to it so much. If you’re not gonna put any of it into practice, then what are you doing?”
She elaborates: “Just being in this business, and the tricks sometimes that actors have to play on their minds just to walk out the door in the morning, I think that was part of it.
“And I finally admitted, like, ‘This is stupid, I don’t have to keep acting. No-one is making me do this. This is really all my choice. If I want to do something different, I should, but spinning my wheels in this self-help, nonsense nightmare is pointless’.”
It was at this point, she says, that she started landing jobs.
She’s since gone on to play one of the most famous mums on primetime TV in the US (she’s been filming new episodes of 80s-set comedy The Goldbergs, which is now in its eighth season on ABC, since last August).
Blush was filmed in the summer of 2018, and first premiered at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, but is only just now launching in the UK.
Looking back now on the filming process, she reflects on how “little indie films” often require what she calls “guerrilla shooting”.
“It’s like, ‘There’s a location, let’s go there, do it really quick before someone can kick us out’,” she says.
“It was a very fast three weeks of shooting, the height of the summer – not ideal conditions.
“I had just come off of shooting two other movies and I was so exhausted that I said to the director, ‘Listen, if you want to
I don’t want to say that [selfhelp talks] was my drug of choice, but I was...consuming so much of it that it became stupid.
Wendi can identify with some of her character’s compulsions
replace me, I’m not even going to be upset’.
“She’s like, ‘Why would I want to replace you?’ And she didn’t, and it was great.
“But there are times when I look back on that time of filming and I’m like, ‘Wait, what? I remember filming a whole other scene, why didn’t that stay in?’ or ‘We should have explored this a little bit more’.
“But it’s kind of pointless to do that now, because the film is locked, and it’s out.
“But it is really fun to go from a bigger budget movie down to the bare bones indie films, where you’re doing your own make-up, and babysitting your own continuity shots.
“And at the heart of it, if the story is good, it will translate.”
Wendi loves producing, however she has no interest or passion in directing in the future.
“But I like to help other female directors get jobs,” she adds, enthusiastically.
“I love making a good recommendation, and there are some amazing women out there that are going to take Hollywood by storm.”
On that note, there’s a non-profit organisation in LA which she has worked with before called Write Girl, which promotes creativity and self-expression to empower girls.
“I remember in the 80s watching a lot of female-driven comedies, on TV and in movies, and then in the 90s I think we went backwards.
“Now I think we’re on the right track again,” she says, with regards to female representation in the creative industries.
“And, as so many people have said way more eloquently than I will, it’s not that girls are wanting special treatment, it’s just that we also want a chance of getting things.
“It is very tiresome to be on a set, where men are telling women how women talk, and we’re there saying, ‘No, no, no. A girl would never say that’ or ‘That’s not what women talk about when we’re together, just so you know’.
“But yeah, it is getting there. It is getting better.”
Blush is on digital now