Gracing Broadway — Debra Messing Returns to the Stage in MTC's Outside Mullingar

By Brandon Voss
04 Jan 2014

Shanley was correct, of course, but Messing didn't disappear without a fight. She next appeared in Paul Rudnick's The Naked Truth at the WPA Theatre. In 1997, after starring in the short-lived Fox sitcom "Ned & Stacey," she even turned down a high-profile NBC pilot in favor of returning to MTC for Donald Margulies' Collected Stories. "I kept imagining how I'd feel if I turned down Collected Stories and watched as another actress was cast, knowing I'd never have that experience. I realized that if I was meant to be on television, there would be another great opportunity."

Indeed the following year Messing nabbed the role of lovable neurotic Grace Adler, every gay man's dream bestie, on NBC's "Will & Grace," which ran eight seasons and earned her an Emmy. Though she said she got her theatre fix filming in front of a "particularly passionate" live audience, Collected Stories was her last stage appearance until now.

"There have been some close calls, but it usually ends up falling apart because of scheduling," continued the actress, whose films include "Along Came Polly," "The Wedding Date" and "The Women." "I knew that one day I'd get back to my first love."

Call it more luck of the Irish that Messing recently spent two seasons as lyricist-librettist Julia Houston on "Smash," NBC's now-canceled series about the backstage Broadway drama. "The rigors of the theatre were part of my trepidation to do Broadway," she explained. "Broadway actors have to be athletes, and I didn't know if I was built for it anymore. But working on 'Smash,' living in that world, reminded me of my passion for theatre."

Did "Smash" inspire her enough to do a musical? "No," she declared with a cackle. "Trust me, people have tried for years to make it happen, but that would send me to a sanitarium. Just having to keep your voice consistent every day? I'd be a freak of nature with 17 scarves around my throat and humidifiers... It would be horrible for me and everyone else in my life."