Melissa McCarthy: The Comedy Vet Turns Oscar Darling In Breakout Actress Week

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Awards season has long been the perfect time for the movie industry’s fresh faces to gain exposure at movie premieres, on red carpets and in a barrage of print and TV interviews. Often, it’s when we first become aware of young actresses, like Oscar nominees Hailee Steinfeld and Jennifer Lawrence last year. This year, it’s not just teenagers catching our eye; a few ladies who’ve been around for decades are finally getting their due as well. All week long, we at TheFablife are saluting these women and looking forward to what they’ll bring us after the last statuettes are handed out on Sunday. We’ve looked at Berenice Bejo’s and Shailene Woodley’s big moments so far, and now it’s time for one of the year’s most welcome surprises …

Who: Melissa McCarthy

Age: 41

What she did before 2011: A whole lot, actually. The Groundlings alumna was a cult fave as Sookie on Gilmore Girls and a co-star on Samantha Who? before landing the lead role as a fourth-grade teacher who falls in love at Overeaters Anonymous in CBS’ Mike & Molly in 2010. That little gig won her the Emmy last year, and her acceptance speech was one of the highlights of this long awards season.

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Why we’re paying attention now: Be honest, when McCarthy plopped herself on the sink in that bridal boutique scene in Bridesmaids, was “Oscar gold” the first thing on your mind? But the second the 41-year-old comedian’s name was announced in the Best Supporting Actress category last month, it just felt right. In a cast full of brilliantly funny ladies, she stole scene after scene — not just with gross-out gags, but also with a genuinely touching, pivotal scene (and a few puppies).

What’s next? We really hope Melissa’s Bridesmaids success leads to more of the kind of comedic roles that so often go to men. While still starring in Mike & Molly, she’ll be executive producing a pilot for a sitcom starring her husband, Bridesmaids co-star Ben Falcone, also for CBS. On the big screen, she’ll be seen next in This Is Forty, Judd Apatow’s Knocked Up spin-off also starring Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann and Albert Brooks. Can’t. Freaking. Wait.

[Photos: CBS, Relativity Media, Getty Images]

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