As Will & Grace draws to a close, The Advocate thought it fitting to have a long chat with Sean Hayes. Since Hayes turned down our interview request—as he’s done for eight years—we culled material from various Hayes sit-downs to construct the interview we wish we had. Our heart-to-heart doesn’t really answer the long-simmering questions about Jack McFarland’s mystifying alter ego, but it sure as hell made us feel better.
Sean, what are your feelings on Will & Grace ending?
They couldn’t pay me to do a spinoff, not as Jack anyway. As an actor, I want to play another character. [Toronto Star, August 6, 2000] Jack kind of sucks up all the energy in me. [Scripps Howard News Service, March 31, 2000]
Some viewers complain that Will & Grace features stereotypical gay characters played for a straight audience’s laughs. What do you say to those critiques?
[Jack] is very eccentric, like Martin Short or Robin Williams. When I think of a stereotypical gay guy, I think of In Living Color’s “Men on Film,” with the snapping and all that. That’s completely different from Jack. [Entertainment Weekly, October 23, 1998]
Would you play a gay character again?
Because my Jack McFarland is so well-known in TV circles, most of the projects I get offered have a gay theme. I don’t want to play gay guys for the rest of my career. That’s not why I became an actor. [The London (Canada) Free Press, July 4, 2001]
What’s wrong with gay guys? A lot of people think you’re gay.
I love that people think I’m gay. I love that people think I’m straight. I think it’s fun. I think it’s so much fun. [Entertainment Weekly, November 22, 2002]
It’s the right way for me to be. Every time you see Tom Cruise on the screen, what you don’t see is a character.… You see Tom Cruise, the guy who sued some guy who said he was gay. Every time you see Ellen DeGeneres or Anne Heche…it’s everything but the part that they’re playing. [Entertainment Weekly, November 22, 2002]
But what about people who came out of the closet and prospered? Ian McKellen? Melissa Etheridge? Even your old Will & Grace costar Rosie O’Donnell, who had such a tough time when she first came out, is doing well these days.
I don’t know [Rosie] at all, but my experience with her is that… She’s—you know, she turned on herself in so many ways. She does not like herself a lot. And it’s sad. [Entertainment Weekly, November 22, 2002]
That’s harsh. Don’t you think that when celebrities come out of the closet it helps the straight world see gays and lesbians as less alien?
I so don’t want to be a spokesperson for anything or anybody.… It’s too much responsibility. [Scripps Howard News Service, March 31, 2000]
Well, that’s fair. But do you think being true to who you are—if that is who you are—and being a spokesman are two different things?
Right now I’m just starting. If I was 40 and had $8 billion and nothing to worry about, I’d tell people when I go number two on the toilet. [Entertainment Weekly, October 23, 1998]
All right. But as far as coming out—
I’m an actor first. I’ve played straight characters—the husband or the guy who gets the girl—in almost every commercial I’ve ever done, and nobody’s ever asked me if I’m straight. Now that I’m playing a gay character, everybody asks if I am gay. [Houston Chronicle, September 6, 1998]
Sean, no one really cares about commercials. People care about actors on hit TV shows, though.
I don’t wanna say I’m straight or I’m gay. I want to keep everything open so as no one can form any opinions about me, because this world that we live in isn’t all that forgiving. [Hollywood Online, 1998, according to Gay.com]
You don’t think refusing to speak about your sexuality perpetuates that unforgiving mentality?
When I play a gay character, I want to be as believable as possible. And when I’m playing a straight character, I also want to be as believable as possible. So the less that people know about my personal life, the more believable I can be as a character. [Detroit Free Press, November 23, 1998]
With your role as Billy in Billy’s Hollywood Screen Kiss, you’ve played two very well-known gay characters. You don’t have any known girlfriends. Naturally, people would be curious.
I’d rather not put that “thing” in people’s minds. I’m not dating now. I’m concentrating on work. [People, December 13, 1999]
Thanks, Sean. Good luck on your post-W&G career.