Melissa McCarthy and Chris O'Dowd on dealing with grief and every parent's worst nightmare in 'The Starling'

Melissa McCarthy has two children with husband and frequent collaborator Ben Falcone. Chris O’Dowd also has two kids with his wife, producer and host Dawn O’Porter.

For their new drama The Starling, then, parents McCarthy and O’Dowd had to imagine the unimaginable: They play a married couple overcome with grief after the death of their young daughter.

“You have to be willing to commit fully and go all in. And at the same time, you have to kind of make sure you come out of it at the end of the day,” McCarthy told Yahoo Entertainment about the challenges of such difficult material during a recent virtual interview (watch above) where she was joined by O’Dowd.

“There's no real way of imagining that happening without imagining it happening,” adds O’Dowd, who has now co-starred with McCarthy in four movies after 2011’s Bridesmaids, 2012’s This Is 40 and 2014’s St. Vincent. “And that's just a very difficult mental state to put yourself in. And I found increasingly a hard one to get out of. I would find that you would need to kind of like put on music and also distraction techniques to just shake you out of your job mindset and remind you that you're going [home] to do bath time and your kids are okay.”

Directed by Ted Melfi (Hidden Figures) from a script by Matt Harris, The Starling contrasts how differently a a married couple handles grief. McCarthy’s grocery store clerk is doing her best to soldier on (eponymous bird that keeps attacking her on their property aside), while O’Dowd’s art teacher has suffered a mental breakdown that’s institutionalized him. Layered within the film’s heavy subject material, though, is plenty of levity from the comedically talented McCarthy and O’Dowd and co-star Kevin Kline, who makes a rare film appearance as a therapist-turned-veterinarian.

“When you shape a film like this, you kind of just try to balance the drama and the comedy, try to get them closer together. And then you try to make the drama not so dire,” says Melfi. “Because if you're being honest, if we're being honest with ourselves, no one lives in those worlds. No one lives in the broad comedy world their whole lives, and no one lives in the dire, the devastation drama world their whole lives. Real life is in the middle. You laugh at inappropriate places and you cry at inappropriate places. I’m basically shooting life as I see it.”

Adds McCarthy with a minor but necessary spoiler: “At the end of this movie… there is hope and there is joy to be had again. And I think you couldn't tell this story without that. It wouldn't be balanced.”

The Starling is now streaming on Netflix.

Watch talk about gender-swapping roles in Ghostbusters and The Starling:

-Video produced by Stacy Jackman and edited by Luis Saenz