Actor and activist Debra Messing was already a recognizable performer by the time Will & Grace premiered. She starred as Stacey Colbert in the Fox comedy Ned & Stacey for two seasons and had the lead role in the short-lived ABC drama, Prey.
The NBC sitcom Will & Grace turned Messing into a household name. The series, which premiered in 1998 and ended its original run in 2006, followed two best friends living together in New York — a gay lawyer named Will Truman (Eric McCormack) and a straight interior designer named Grace Adler (Messing). The show broke ground for network sitcoms, featuring two gay characters in its main cast but not making their sexuality the explicit focus of the show. The series was a hit with critics and audiences alike and ran for eight seasons.
Will & Grace returned to television in 2017, with Messing reprising the role of Grace Adler. After three additional seasons, the show will see its (second) series finale in April 2020. The show will end with a total of eleven seasons and 246 episodes.
Recorded remotely during the coronavirus pandemic, NPR's Ask Me Another host Ophira Eisenberg and house musician Jonathan Coulton talk to Messing about getting the role of Grace Adler in Will & Grace and how a brief Will & Grace reunion video turned into a three-season reboot. Later, Messing plays a trivia game about the life and career of actor Lucille Ball.
On Her Experience In The Coronavirus Pandemic
"It's been intense. No one has been prepared for this, and I think the hardest thing is not knowing when it's gonna end and not being able to reassure your children about when it will end. If there has ever been a test for being zen, I think this is probably it."
On Getting Fired From Her Job As A Coat Checker
"The very first day that I worked, I was fired. The first day. I signed up for a catering company and they sent me to Sotheby's, they said, 'Okay, you're very amicable and charming. Really, all you have to do is take their fur coats and their briefcases and hold onto them and then give them back." ...At the end of the night I realized I didn't understand the number system. So I said, 'Which one's yours? Just point to the mink coat that's yours.' I just started handing out mink coats and briefcases. So yeah, they fired me."
On Auditioning For Will & Grace
"I had been doing this drama on ABC...I finished, and I wrote to my agents and said, 'Don't call me for three months, I'm going to sleep. They wrote me back and said, we have this script that's really special, you have to read it. So I read it and, of course, I was like, 'Oh my god, this is unlike anything I've ever read before.'"
Heard on Debra Messing & Paul F Tompkins: Show Yourself Some Grace.