May 10, 2018 03:00 PM

There was nothing but laughs on the set of Life of the Party.

The comedy starring Melissa McCarthy (in theaters May 11) features a supporting cast of younger women — including Molly Gordon, Debby Ryan, Gillian Jacobs and Jessie Ennis. The actress, 47, was warned about before they started filming. The actress stars as a mom who gets dumped after decades of marriage and decides to join her teenage daughter at college.

“People said to me, ‘You’re doing a movie with a bunch of twentysomething women? Good luck with that,’ ” McCarthy says in PEOPLE’s latest cover story, on stands Friday. “I was like why? Why is that going to be a bad thing? And it turned out to be such a wildly happy experience for everybody. From every single part of the crew, they were just like, ‘This is a crazy happy set.’ ”

Debbie Ryan, Gillian Jacobs, Melissa McCarthy, Jessie Ennis and Molly Gordon
Cliff Watts

The young cast was so great on set that McCarthy even felt at peace at the thought of her daughters — Vivian, 11, and Georgette, 8 — getting older and heading into their careers.

RELATED VIDEO: Melissa McCarthy Loves Real Life Boss-Ladies: I’m Fascinated by Strong, Unapologetic Women

“These women are so strong and professional and kind and unabashedly joyful,” McCarthy says. “They’re just a force. I feel like the second we met, we were suction-cupped and superglued together. It made me feel good for my girls, like [someday] you can get to this level of success and still be solid and happy.”

Melissa McCarthy in Life of the Party
Hopper Stone/SMPSP

But when it comes to her daughters actually growing up, McCarthy admits she’ll have trouble letting them venture out on their own. Even the premise of the movie didn’t seem crazy to the star.

“Ben came up with the idea for the film because he said, ‘What if you went to college with Vivian someday?’ I said, ‘I think that sounds awesome!’ He said, ‘No, the point is that it’s jarring and not normal. Do you not see that?’ ” she recalls. “But that’s the way I am: I will be terrible at letting go. If I could go to school with my girls, I would in a minute. But Ben’s just like, ‘Yeah, let’s not do that to our children.’ ”

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