Today, Melissa is known world-over as Bernadette from The Big Bang Theory and has made it big in Hollywood. However, the star struggled for years before finally breaking into Hollywood. After graduating from a well-reputed theatre school and delivering a successful comedy sketch, Melissa had to wait months to get her big break. She spent a lot of time taking part-time gigs to keep her going. However, life changed finally after she landed the role of Bernadette in The Big Bang Theory. In this video, we tell you everything about Melissa — her childhood aspirations, about her years in college, her struggle during her New York days and finally, how her life changed after The Big Bang Theory happened to her.
She Knew Even as a Child That She Wanted to Make a Career in Comedy
Believe it or not but Melissa realized she had a taste for comedy when she was only in kindergarten. During one particular interview, Melissa revealed that when she was a kid, her parents told her that there are people who make a career out of impersonating others. Melissa was impressed with this knowledge and her parents’ continuous encouragement allowed her to imagine a career in comedy. Her parents taped shows of her favourite comedians for her to watch later on. They also encouraged her to participate in comedy events at school. In 2016, she told Ellen Degeneres that when she was in school, she had prepared and presented a stand-up which was quite successful. However, Melissa’s love for raunchy comedy often landed her in trouble too.
She Enrolled in a College That Would Allow Her to Hone Her Craft
Since she knew from the very beginning that comedy was her ultimate calling, Melissa enrolled in a university that would allow her to hone this particular talent and she packed her bags and moved to New York. While studying at the Marymount Manhattan College, Melissa started actively participating in theatre. However, her thick New Jersey accent stopped her from exploring her full potential. To get rid of her accent, Melissa enrolled herself in a dialect class, which in the long run, proved helpful for both her acting as well as comedy career. Melissa worked really hard on her accent and within no time, was impressing people with her dead-on impersonations of famous people.
She Met Her Lifelong Writing Partner in College
During college, Melissa met Winston Beigel, who would play a key role in her future success. It was Winston and Melissa’s love for comedy that made them great pals, almost immediately — they connected over creative stuff and soon started writing together. Writing allowed Melissa to make her craft better. She and Winston wrote regularly and had people give them feedback, which allowed them to understand what works and what doesn’t. These writing sessions did not only feed Melissa and Winston’s creative energies, but they also made the two super close and Melissa eventually began seeing her life partner in her writing partner. The two got married in 2007.
Melissa and Winston Wrote a Comedy Sketch Inspired by a Certain First Daughter
After Melissa and Winston graduated from college, they entered the real world and tried making it big there. However, something was not working for the couple and they kept hitting hurdles and obstacles. Then, one day, while watching television, Melissa and Winston came across Jenna Bush delivering a speech at the Republican Convention. The idea hit them both simultaneously and they decided to start working on The Miss Education of Jenna Bush, a comedy sketch starring Rauch. The sketch was chosen to be a part of the line-up at the New York International Fringe Festival. At the festival, Rauch was approached by an agent. Going along with destiny, Melissa and Winston packed their bags and moved to Los Angeles.
Hollywood Wasn’t Very Welcoming
Though Melissa’s one-woman show had registered much success in New York, the actress found it hard to get noticed in Los Angeles. During her struggle days, she took several different jobs to make ends meet. She even worked as a hand model for a TGIF commercial. However, what kept her going was writing. Even after moving to Los Angeles, Melissa and her husband did not give up their writing routine and Melissa says writing is what allowed her to have faith in herself even after all the rejections. Finally, destiny decided to favour Melissa, she got a call to audition for a new sitcom called The Big Bang Theory. Funnily enough, just a day before she received the call, Melissa was at the unemployment office, claiming her unemployment benefits.
Melissa may have worked as a hand model for TGI Fridays to make ends meet at one point in her career, but she is a big star now and even has her handprint on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Stick around and we will tell you all about how Melissa’s life changed after she bagged the role of Bernadette in The Big Bang Theory. Meanwhile, if you are enjoying this video, do not forget to like and subscribe to our channel.
And then, The Big Bang Theory Happened
In 2009, Melissa auditioned for the role of Bernadette Rostenkowski on the sitcom The Big Bang Theory and was chosen for the part. There was only one concern: the role was supposed to be guest appearance and Melissa was looking for a more permanent gig. Fortunately, the writers of the show loved Melissa and therefore, her role was turned into a permanent character. In an interview to Larry King in 2014, Melissa confessed that scoring a permanent gig was like a dream come true at that point in time. All the hard work finally paid off — not only did Melissa get a full-time work opportunity but also she became a part of the one of the most successful and the longest running multi-camera comedy shows in television history.
Melissa’s Mother Is the Inspiration Behind Bernadette’s Voice
In an interview with Backstage in 2016, Melissa revealed that when she auditioned for the role of Bernadette, she did so using a Canadian accent. That apart, she also used the impersonations she had practiced as a kid as well as the tricks she had picked up in her dialect class to create a unique personality and voice for Bernadette. In another interview, Melissa shared that Bernadette had Melissa’s mother’s voice. The only difference is that Bernadette does not have a very thick New Jersey accent. More importantly, Melissa’s dialect class also came handy while trying to figure out Howard’s mother’s voice. Carol Ann Susi was the actress behind Howard’s mother’s voice. However, after Carol’s demise in 2014, Melissa provided her voice to Debbie Wolowitz on several occasions.
Today Bernadette’s nasally voice has become quite popular. Thus, when fans meet Melissa and hear her talking in her low register, sometimes, they do not even recognize her.
She Is a Popular Voiceover Artist Now
So, we have already established that Melissa excels at impersonations. While trying to figure out Bernadette’s voice on The Big Bang Theory, Melissa created several unique voices which eventually got her roles in important films, such as Jake and the Never Land Pirates, Ice Age: Collision Course, and Sofia the First.
One of Melissa’s most famous voice-over gigs has been Harley Quinn in Batman and Harley Quinn. To create a unique voice for the role, Melissa once again went back to her Jersey roots, even though Harley Quinn is supposed to have a bit of a New York accent. However, since Melissa wanted to give a nod to her Jersey background, she lent the voice her personality and accent without being too shrill and the audiences loved her Harley Quinn version. Melissa shows her voiceover jobs the same kind of hard work and determination she shows to her full-time gigs, which is probably why she is such a famous voice-over artist now.
When She Couldn’t Get Roles She Liked, She Decided to Write a Script for Herself
While the audiences loved Melissa as Bernadette and Melissa loved playing the part, she wanted to expand her acting scale and explore more roles. However, she was having a difficult time trying to get the kind of roles she wanted to do. Thus, Melissa, along with her husband Winston, decided to write a script for herself.
Melissa and Winston wrote The Bronze — a film about a former Olympic bronze medal winner who is unable to let go of her glorious past and deal with reality. They knew the film would be a success. However, they couldn’t find a producer as the film did not have any big stars associated with it. In the end, Melissa and Winston decided to produce the film themselves. However, they were eventually able to strike a deal with Sony Pictures Classics.
It Was a Dream Come True When She Got to Work with Meryl Streep
In a 2012 interview, Melissa shared with the audiences that one of the highlights of her career was when she got to work with Meryl Streep. Like many other actors and actresses, it had been Melissa’s lifelong dream to share screen space with Meryl Streep.
The final episode of The Big Bang Theory aired in 2019. Just as Melissa was saying goodbye to the show that had given her so much, she got the opportunity to become a part of Netflix’s The Laundromat. The Laundromat tells the story of a journalist who investigated the 2016 Panama Papers Scandal. For Melissa, bagging the film and starring along Meryl Streep was a great achievement, and she gushed all about it on Instagram.
She Struggled With Fertility Issues but Is a Mother of Two Now
Melissa became a mother in 2017. However, parenthood did not come easy to her. In 2017, she wrote an essay for Glamour in which she talked about how she had suffered a miscarriage before finally becoming pregnant with her daughter Sadie. In an interview, Melissa shed more light on the entire incident. She shared that when she was struggling with her miscarriage and other fertility issues, any news of any pregnancy made her feel bad. However, she eventually became pregnant and all was well again.
After Melissa gave birth to her daughter, she did not take it easy as most women do. Instead, she co-authored a book with House Foods, a popular health food brand, called The Tales of Tofu. More importantly, she did not only struggle with fertility issues and miscarriage, but she also had a challenging second pregnancy because she gave birth to her son Brooks in 2020, amidst a raging pandemic.
You Can See Her Handprint on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
From hand modelling for TGI Fridays to having her handprint on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Melissa has certainly come a long way. Just a day before the series finale of The Big Bang Theory, the whole cast of the show was invited to leave their handprints on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. One can see Melissa’s handprints right in front of the Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood.
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