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Melissa McCarthy, who played Lorelai’s good friend Sookie St. James on Gilmore Girls, has since starred in huge comedy movies like Bridesmaids, Tammy, The Heat, and Spy. How did McCarthy get her first big break on Gilmore Girls?

‘Gilmore Girls’ cast Melissa McCarthy years before her movie career

Melissa McCarthy, cast member of Gilmore Girls
Melissa McCarthy, star of Gilmore Girls, at the Groundling Theater | Myung J. Chun/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

After MADtv and Family Guy star Alex Borstein had to back out of playing Sookie on Gilmore Girls, the casting directors were on a mission: to find a new Sookie. Not just anyone in Hollywood could pick up on the character’s wacky clumsiness mixed with lovable earnestness.

Mara Casey and Jami Rudofsky, who creator Amy Sherman-Palladino hired to cast the show, remembered that experience in an interview on Gilmore Guys, a discussion podcast about Gilmore Girls.

“Back then, casting was different, and auditions were different,” Casey explained. However, Casey told the podcast hosts she recalls exactly were she was the first time she saw McCarthy’s headshot — as well as “that whole experience.”

Casey remembered sitting in her trailer, looking at that McCarthy’s headshot, which was “not completely in focus, her head was off to one side,” was shot in “black and white.” However, the Gilmore Girls casting director was thrilled to flip the photo over and “see a lot of improv and comedy.”

According to Casey, McCarthy was one of the actors that auditioned for Gilmore Girls for whom Sherman-Palladino could write to, rather than just for. Because she — and others like Liz Torres and Sally Struthers — brought so much of their own personality to their roles. The casting director explained:

All these actors who just came in and had their own thing that Amy also responded to and then immediately was, like ‘I can write to this.’ … All these people that were just, for her, so much fun to write for.

The casting directors remember Melissa McCarthy’s season 1 audition

The cast of Gilmore Girls
The cast of Gilmore Girls | Warner Bros./Delivered by Online USA

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Rudofsky recounted McCarthy’s Gilmore audition for Sookie to Vanity Fair, remembering how she blew the room away:

We read a lot of amazing women — a lot. But then Melissa McCarthy walked in, and it’s Melissa McCarthy. She’s comedy gold, and she brought things to the character that were so inventive. Her physical comedy, everything she did was above and beyond, and that was it.

“It was the first time I couldn’t get through an audition because I was laughing so hard,” Casey added.

“We read a ton of people. Great people,” Rudofsky said on Gilmore Guys, echoing her own previous sentiment. “But then Melissa McCarthy came in.”

The Gilmore Girls casting directors were thrilled to add McCarthy’s charm and comedy chops to the cast, long before anyone else in Hollywood spotted her.

“What I feel is so special and I’m so proud of, is I feel we got her,” Casey explained on the podcast. “… we got her style, her world.”