PLAYBILL.COM'S BRIEF ENCOUNTER with Eric McCormack

Brief Encounter   PLAYBILL.COM'S BRIEF ENCOUNTER with Eric McCormack
 
After playing a gay man on a sitcom for eight years, Erick McCormack turned to Neil LaBute for a meaty, very straight male role on stage.
Eric McCormack
Eric McCormack Photo by Aubrey Reuben

Last seen in New York theatre during a break from his Emmy Award-nominated turn on "Will & Grace," Eric McCormack made his Broadway debut in the 2001 revival of The Music Man. The Toronto-born actor, a veteran of his native Ontario's Stratford Festival, ended his long run inhabiting the title role of Will Truman in the NBC comedy May 18, with the series finale.

Off-Broadway these days, McCormack plays the sole male in LaBute's new work Some Girl(s) — which features a harem of his character's ex-girlfriends played by Fran Drescher, Judy Reyes, Brooke Smith and Maura Tierney — making its American debut by MCC Theatre.

Playbill.com: Tell me who your character is in Some Girl(s).
Eric McCormack: He is, in the published script, without a name. He's called Man. Because I think he represents what assholes all of us could be. [Laughs.] I love him because he's real, he commits a lot of the same sins that I did. He's basically a guy who tries to have his cake and eat it too. He wants to leave women for the next woman, but he wants to be friends with them. It's that duplicity that we look at, but it's very much about the way men lie to themselves as well as the way they lie to women. He's about to get married and tries to go back and right the wrongs of his past, thinking that he can then have a smoother future. But, in fact, he just ends up re-hurting all of the women that he loved.

Playbill.com: Why did you want to do this play?
EM: It was just fortuitous really. As much as I was wanting a break [from acting, following "Will & Grace,"] in my heart, I think I really wanted to dive into something. Not a year's commitment, not another series, but some thing, some tasty bit, could have been a film, but I'm really excited that it's a play. I'm excited that it's Off-Broadway. I'm really excited that it's Neil LaBute because, let's face it, I've been playing a gay man for eight years and Neil LaBute writes pretty straight men.

Playbill.com: Do you approach a role differently for stage than you do for TV?
EM: In a weird way, it's not unlike the "Will & Grace" process: we always took a script over three days, then changed it and broke it down and then we'd eventually be in front of an audience. So it's simliar that way, but you have — well, a lot more words, for one thing — but you have a lot more time to really work it out. And we had Neil in the room for the last 10 days, really nitpicking. We with him and he with us: "Dot-dot-dot"s and "but"s to "if"s and "and"s to "but"s. It's great because the specificity of a playwright's mind is fascinating. And, as an actor, you can be a little — I don't want to say sloppy — but when you own a character like I owned Will for eight years, there's a part of you that gets to kind of invent, whereas here, I'm serving a playwright and I love that. Playbill.com: Were you familiar with LaBute's work? Any favorites?
EM: I went back and watched "In The Company of Men" again, which started as a play. Aaron Eckhart in that is just mind-blowing. I've talked a lot with Neil about it. But I think that's still my favorite. I'm working my way through his plays and, he's so prolific, I haven't got there yet because he seems to write one a year.

What I love about this one, though, is this isn't the traditional LaBute misogynist bastard. This is a wolf in sheep's clothing. This guy seems, on the surface to be a nice guy, trying to do the right thing, a romantic, a lover. But, underneath it, he's still a dick. [Laughs.]

Playbill.com: You're a married man, did you revisit your ex-girlfriends?
EM: Not before the wedding, but I definitely relate to this guy trying to have it all. He has this one moment with Maura Tierney's character where he admits "You know, I just didn't want you to not like me." And she says "But, you didn't really want me to like you either." That kind of "I want you to let me go, so I could have sex with the next woman, but still like me" thing. That's certainly what I've tried, over the years, every girlfriend I'd break up with, I go back and sort of re-romance, just to make sure that we were good. So, I totally get this guy's journey and it wasn't until I met my wife that she went "So, you're friends with all of your old girlfriends?" and I said "Yeah!" and she said "That's gonna stop, right?" I went, "Oh." And so now I'm not anymore.

Playbill.com: Why did you want to be an actor?
EM: It's all that I do. It was either that or, I don't know, prostitution I suppose.

Playbill.com: Well there's always that to fall back to...
EM: And it's a very thin line.

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