Messing Around Again 

Forget Grace Adler (for a minute). Suddenly, Debra Messing wants to become everybody’s favorite desperate ex-housewife with her big return to the small screen in The Starter Wife.

BY Greg Archer

October 10 2008 12:00 AM ET

If Debra Messing
isn’t already asking herself the following question,
others might be for her: How in the world do you bounce back
into television after the series you previously
starred in redefined how gays were portrayed on
television and became one of the hottest sitcoms of the
decade? With a little will and a hell of a lot grace,
perhaps.

No doubt Messing,
who nabbed an Emmy for her role as Grace Adler on
NBC’s Will & Grace, is up the
challenge with The Starter Wife. The new show
unspools tonight on USA Network.

Based on last
summer’s popular miniseries, it marks
Messing’s official return to weekly television.
She reprises her role as Molly Kagan, the tossed-aside
wife of a nefarious Hollywood titan. As Molly struggles to
redefine herself as a budding writer and suddenly single
mom, she leans on best friend Rodney, once again
played by Chris Diamantopoulos (He’s the
straight-hunk-playing-gay to watch out for this fall).

Judy Davis is
also back -- she nabbed an Emmy for her role as boozing
Joan in the miniseries.

Meanwhile,
Messing says there’s plenty to adore in Molly, an
endearing, looking-for-a-twist-of-fate character
everybody can relate to. Truth be told, if
there’s anybody who can win people over --again --
it’s Messing. Likened to Lucille Ball when
Will & Grace premiered a decade ago,
she has managed to emerge as a latter-day Carol
Burnett (for the physical comedy) by way of Mary Tyler Moore
(a good girl looking to create more good) with traces
of Penny Marshall (stellar comedic timing à la
The Women).

Advocate.com:Molly is a great character. So how choosy were you
after Will & Grace ended and why did you
land on this character?
Debra Messing: I told everybody in my life that
I wasn’t going to look at a script for six months
after Will & Grace because I needed to mourn and
let it go, give it the time it was due. And then my agent,
three months into that, handed me six hours of scripts
for [The Starter Wife] miniseries. I couldn’t
deny the writing. For me, it’s always the
writing. I related to Molly. Obviously she was very
very far away from Grace, which was interesting to me.

But she’s funny too. I loved that the humor was satirical in regard
to how Hollywood is revealed -- less
sophisticated and deep values. There was something
incredibly traumatic about the crisis Molly was going
through -- being stripped of her identity, being
stripped of an entire community, and having to start
all over again. It didn’t occur to me until halfway
through the [miniseries] shoot in Australia that, in a way,
I was going through a similar type of milestone with
the end of Will & Grace. Molly had a 10-year
marriage; I had eight years on Will &
Grace,
and even though we chose to end Will
& Grace,
it was in my eyes a very
traumatic ending, and my identity was very much tied up in
that show and that role.

So what really stands out for you in that process
of decompressing, of letting go of Will & Grace?
Oh, boy! I think it was actually ... me
just getting in touch with my creative hunger. I felt
creatively that we had done everything that we could
possibly do on Will & Grace, and we were
very proud of it. But we were starting to repeat, so I
wasn’t feeling inspired or challenged. I was
going elsewhere and doing movies on the side. Then,
when I had time to ask, "OK, what muscles do I want to
flex?" suddenly I was paralyzed with the freedom to choose
... because I wasn’t really in tune with any of
those feelings. Up until that point, I wasn’t
really able to indulge them. I realized that, for me, I
needed to go away. I went to a little cabin with my family
in Cape Cod, where it was completely quiet. There was
no TV, no cell phones. It was in the middle of the
woods on a lake, and after spending a significant
amount of time there, the little voice inside of me began to
speak again on what I was excited about, about what I
was looking to do down the road, which at the time was
doing another play.

You gave yourself space. That’s good. Yeah, well, because there is so much chatter, so
much noise. And I think with the BlackBerries and the
iPhones, we communicate constantly and we are expected
accomplish 10 times as much in a day than 10 years ago, and
as a result there really is no breathing room or thinking
room.

Tags: television

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