It is no surprise that Will and Grace’s Debra Messing was positively glowing when we met to discuss her latest movie, Along Came Polly, starring Jennifer Aniston and Ben Stiller. Looking radiantly pregnant, the 35-year old Emmy Award winner is clearly excited about impending motherhood.
“It’s a wonderful thing,” the quietly spoken actress exclaims smilingly. Married for three years now to actor/screenwriter Daniel Zelman, whom she met at university, the couple is expecting their first child. Messing says that her pregnancy will definitely not be written into Will and Grace. “We spoke about it for maybe a minute and then it just became very clear that everyone across the board agreed that it just didn’t feel right. The story lines were such, and the tenor of the show was such, that it didn’t feel like it was going to add anything to the show. There are also all these precedents of other shows hiding it. Julia Louis Dreyfuss had 2 babies on Seinfeld and they hid it.”
Messing says that is not the slightest bit nervous about motherhood, nor is concerned at balancing motherhood with career. “It’s always been really important for me to try to maintain a balanced life, professional and personal, and this was absolutely something that my husband and I had hoped for,” says Messing. “Whatever consequences come as a result, in terms of work, I’m fully prepared to embrace because it’s a priority to me to be a mother.” The actress adds that she is going to plan her new maternal life one step at a time. “I’m still working at Will & Grace and very grateful that they have been able to modify the work schedules so that I can be a working Mom at the same time. We’re coming back next year and I have some other movies to promote then as well, so I don’t anticipate it being very much different in the realm of my professional life; I just think my personal life will feel this.”
Messing spent her last Will & Grace Hiatus playing a newly married Jewish wife, who fools around with a French scuba instructor, played by Hank Azaria, in the romantic comedy Along Came Polly. She wants it known that she is far removed from that unfaithful character as is possible to be. “First of all, I’m very devoted to my husband and we’ve been together for a very long time. I think my ability to stay faithful is better than hers. Also, she’s a lot perkier than I am, “she smilingly adds. “I have the ability to have other colours of emotions, not just joy all the time, so hopefully I’m less annoying than she is.”
Now entering its sixth season, Will & Grace has established Messing as a major comedic star. Since its debut, Messing says that her fictional counterpart has developed considerably since her TV conception. “I think that she’s aged nicely, she’s settled down a little bit, and I think she’s a little wiser. I also like the fact that of all of her really wacky boyfriends that she had the first 2 seasons, it’s nice to see her fall in love and have a successful relationship, as short as that was. I think she feels better in her skin and maybe a little sassier as a result.” As for Messing, she, too, has developed much like Grace. “I hope I’ve aged gracefully since we’ve started,” she begins, laughingly. “I guess everything has changed. I’m married now, going to be a mother. I think professionally, obviously the biggest thing was having the luxury of a consistent job. It’s a miracle to be an actor and to know that you have a job to go to a year from now is a rare thing, so I think peace of mind and financial stability come with that. Hopefully I’m a little wiser and have a little more perspective in my life than I did then.”
Messing has also had to cope with the increasing pressures of fame, the paparazzi, and has even ended up in a police station. Yet, she says, she has learned to cope with those pressures. “You talk to people who know more than you about it, have perspective about it and realize that it is happening because you have the good fortune of doing what you love for a living and also trying to not give your life over to it in a way where you’re crippling yourself, locking yourself in your house and not doing the things that you need to do to live a normal life and just trying to find ways to protect yourself and the people you love and protect the life. But it’s not easy.”
As to the future of the show, Messing is somewhat circumspect. “Right now we’re in the middle of our sixth year and we’re coming back for sure next year. I don’t have a timeline or cut-off point for myself. I’m a little commitment phobic, in that I’ve always been someone who likes to take things one year at a time because as we all know, a year can change everything in your life. Who knows the circumstances of your life but my prerequisites haven’t changed, it’s still intact and as long as we’re all still having fun, which we are, and we all still feel like the writing is funny and fresh and that there are more stories to tell, then there is no reason to stop.” Messing won’t elaborate on plans for her TV husband, except to add that her marriage remains in trouble. “I can’t spill any beans but I can say that Harry Connick, my TV husband Leo, comes back from Cambodia towards the end of the season.”
Beyond motherhood, Messing has two other films in the can. “I did a film in London last summer called Something Borrowed, a kind of romantic comedy which has darker elements to it, with Dermot Mulroney. Then I played Bill Murray’s girlfriend in Garfield, playing Arleen the cat.” The later sounds perfect for a future mother.