The few years since Will & Grace have allowed Hayes to reevaluate things. “I was anxious to get back to my life before Will & Grace,” he says. “You do need that time to find who you are again. Who am I without this? With fame you can’t help but lose yourself. You want to be the one who says I’ll always remain the same, but it is humanly impossible to disallow fame to change you.”
Hayes explains that fame has made him wary of people’s agendas, citing a date he went on during the run of the show: “At the end of the lunch he left a script for me. That was hard.”
And now he has the freedom to do work that he wants, like videos with his friends that they post on YouTube or Funny or Die. “That’s ‘successful’ to me,” he explains. “Doing a sitcom, it’s a machine, it’s a factory. There’s nothing creative about it for an actor. There’s nothing new I’m going to discover for a character in episode 185. It’s just a pure punch-in, punch-out factory day job—and it’s a wonderful factory day job—but creatively it’s stifling.”
As for putting himself out there for roles, Hayes says, “They know where I am if they want me. And if they don’t, that’s fine too.”
Hayes has taken what he’s learned from his sitcom “factory job” and put it into action with his own production company. It’s called Hazy Mills—a play on his last name and that of his producing partner Todd Milliner (“It’s not about Hayley Mills. Why do all the gays ask that?”)—and it develops TV shows, like Bravo’s 2005 reality show Situation: Comedy, and recently sold a pilot to TV Land for a half-hour comedy called Hot in Cleveland, set to star sitcom vets Valerie Bertinelli and Betty White.
Oh, and if you happen to run into Hayes, here’s some advice. Don’t ask if he still hangs out with the old Will & Grace gang. “Every day. Every day we sleep together, every day, we live in the same house,” he says with manic enthusiasm. “We’re just like the cast of Friends. We all love each other and we all get along, America. Everybody can sleep now!”
Then he calms down and gives a serious, if brief, answer: “I do love all those guys and I do miss them very much. I talk to Megan a lot and I e-mail with Deb and Eric sometimes.”
No doubt the best thing that’s happened to Hayes since Will & Grace is the change in his personal life. At last, Hayes opens up to reveal the tiniest bit about it. “I spend time with a special someone in my life,” he says. But after years of being burned, he won’t say another word about him or the quiet life they lead. “That’s it. That’s all I need,” he says. “I don’t need events. I don’t do a lot. I live my life like an 85-year-old man. I’m just quiet. It’s fantastic.”