It's All in the Family
The tightly-wrapped Ashburn isn't Mullins' only headache. She's also dealing with her out-of-control family. After arresting her own brother (played by starring cast member Michael Rapaport) for dealing drugs, Mullins is ostracized by the other members of her clan, including her mom, dad, four brothers, and for good measure, her brothers' girlfriends. Says Feig: "Mullins arrested her brother and threw him in jail, in order to save him -- sort of a forced rehab. But to the rest of her family, this is an unforgivable betrayal, and she's a traitor. It's a very tight-knit family, but they have a very interesting way of showing it."
With that fiery dynamic in place, imagine what happens when Mullins brings Ashburn into the unholy maelstrom of a Mullins family dinner (of chicken nuggets (or "nuggies" as they call the delicacy), green bean casserole, and a deli platter). The words "annihilation" and "evisceration" don't begin to cover what Ashburn undergoes before she even sits down. "It's a verbal bloodbath," says McCarthy. "Walking into the room with the Mullins family is like walking into the Tasmanian devil," Bullock echoes. "You have no choice but to take the abuse. There's nothing you can say; you can only react. You can never answer back because they will cut you with ease.
"Those actors playing the Mullins family were nothing less than a room full of genius," Bullock continues. "You could turn the camera on any one of them and you'd have a great story."
"We all kind of gang up on Ashburn," notes comedian Bill Burr, who portrays Mullins' brother Mark. "We really push the envelope in our assault. It was like some kind of crazy contest of who can say the rudest thing directly to Sandy [Bullock]'s face."
Mullins' brother Peter is portrayed by Joey McIntyre (of New Kids on the Block fame), and Nate Corddry is younger sibling Nate. SNL stalwart Jane Curtin, and Michael Tucci are the parents presiding over this madness, and Jessica Chaffin and Jamie Denbo portray the girlfriends.
Most of the actors actually hail from Boston, which enhanced the scene's fun and authenticity. "There's something about the accents and attitude," says Feig. "It gives a kind of 'special sauce' to the proceedings."
The actors' ability to inhabit these characters points to Feig's own casting "special sauce." "Paul's casting is a combination of instinct and memory," says Topping. "He is so in love with comedy that he absorbs everything -- movies, stand-ups, TV -- to discover who's doing interesting stuff. He is constantly hungry for new comedic voices."
Adding to the fun are starring cast members Demian Bichir as Ashburn's superior, Capt. Hale, and Marlon Wayans as Levy, an FBI agent. Bichir, who was a recent Oscar nominee for his supporting performance in A Better Life, and who stars in the upcoming FX drama series "The Bridge," relished his scenes with Bullock. "Ashburn drives Hale crazy," says the actor, "but I think he's also rooting for her to succeed."
Marlon Wayans' FBI agent Levy has what he calls, a "thing" for Ashburn, "but she's a tough nut to crack." But Wayans, whose notable credits include Scary Movie, says if anyone's up to the task, it's Levy.
The city of Boston itself also takes center stage, and the locations used by the production, including the old Boston Herald building and a police station that had closed, "tell a story about the city," says production designer Jefferson Sage. "They were all beautiful buildings."
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