Partner Benefits

After an acclaimed turn on the stage, Michael Urie returns to series television with Partners, a sharp new comedy from the creators of Will & Grace.



Mugging with then-costar Becki Newton in ABC’s Ugly Betty.

Not only does Urie get that he’s lucky to be working at a time when there are many more good gay roles than even a short while ago, he feels blessed to have come out publicly a few years back and not had it adversely impact his career. “Everyone went, ‘Oh, my God!’ ” he jokes. “No, it felt good. I was happy that it happened. But it certainly hasn’t affected my career.”

That career is thriving in a number of directions. Amid all his TV and theater, Urie’s been dabbling in producing and directing. He directed He’s Way More Famous Than You, a small but star-studded indie his boyfriend cowrote and starred in (it features performances by Ben Stiller, Jesse Eisenberg, Natasha Lyonne, and his Ugly Betty costar Vanessa Williams). Now he’s producing another one written by Spahn: Grantham & Rose, which is currently shooting in Atlanta.

But Urie’s truest passion project has got to be Thank You for Judging, a documentary he produced and codirected starting in 2008, during the Hollywood writers’ strike. The high school speech and debate doc is modeled on the 2002 spelling bee hit Spellbound and focuses on Urie’s own high school, in Plano, Texas, where he trained in “dramatic interpretation”; he went on to win a national championship in 1998. Urie didn’t initially expect to be on camera, partly because he never knew when the strike would end and he’d be called back to the Ugly Betty set. But his own post–high school success is central to the documentary, even if it’s never laid out in detail; he’s the one who made it big, thanks to what the kids in Plano call “interp.”

Thank You for Judging was screened this summer at Outfest, the Los Angeles LGBT film festival, and Urie expects to secure a distribution deal soon. Meanwhile, he’s biding his time, sitting Indian-style on the diner’s banquette, devouring a comfort food combo of iceberg wedge with bleu cheese and a pile of sweet potato fries (“These are the best!”), just waiting for his life, and Partners, to start.