ERIC MCCORMACK: STILL STRAIGHT!
Between 1998 and 2004, Eric McCormack graced our screens as Will Truman. With Will And Grace making a triumphant return in 2017, he now finds himself in two concurrent hit shows… and loving being Will again!
Even after years of playing gay on Will And Grace, we are sad to report that hunky Eric is still heterosexual. Sigh.
DNA: On Will And Grace you’re a lighthearted gay man on a quest for an uncluttered life. On Travelers [US spelling] you’re a dramatic hetero hero on a quest to save America. What a double life!
Eric McCormack: Yeah! I started out doing Shakespeare in repertory theatre, so the idea of doing a comedy in the afternoon and a drama at night is in my bones.
Travelers is as far from Will And Grace as you can get. Was that part of its appeal? Absolutely. When I started Travelers there was no idea Will And Grace would come back. I was already shooting Travelers when I got the call from Max Mutchnick [Will And Grace creator/ writer] saying he wanted to do the political video for Hillary, which then lead to the Will And Grace revival. In the years since Will And Grace I’d tried to get back to my dramatic roots. Travelers was perfect timing for me and if that’s all I was doing I’d be perfectly happy. Doing Will And Grace and Travelers (and both networks getting along) is like eating dinner and dessert at the same time!
Did you get any White House feedback for that Hillary episode?
Hillary sent letters thanking us for the video, but in terms of the White House episode that began the series, no… we have been completely ignored by the current administration! Travelers is not easy to explain. What is it about the show that appeals to you?
What I love most is that it’s more like an espionage show than sci-fi. The characters have to change elements of the past but, as they await assignments, they have to do their Protocol 5, as they call it: they have to live the lives of the people whose bodies they’ve taken over. That’s what makes the show different and deeper. The individual lives of the travellers in their host bodies become very emotional and can be very funny and they’re also top-secret. Traditional media is being labelled “fake” but few are pointing the finger at social media for disseminating fake news. This is an idea explored in Travelers.
Yes, we did this with Marcy on Travelers – the idea being that what we’re now writing on Facebook will someday be taken as fact is to suggest that there are no facts any more. We already see people debating “facts”, making up their own versions. Who knows how we’ll look back on this time – what actually happened
and what was just made-up bullshit?
Back in 1998, when Will And Grace started, you never had any misgivings about playing gay, or made any apologies for being a straight man in a gay role.
Well, I played a number of gay men prior to Will. I wasn’t shy. There’s never been an apology because it never seemed strange to me. I come from the theatre. I probably know more gay men than straight men, and I loved the idea [of playing Will]. At the time there were people who said it was the easy way out for the network – if they hire a straight guy it’s more palatable for America. But I feel it’s the opposite now. I get to be an ambassador and it’s been a real privilege for 20 years. Rather than apologise, I boast about it. It’s a great opportunity to get to show the world something they hadn’t seen a lot of in America prior to this show. We love having you as an honorary member of the club.
Thanks, and that’s the best part. When we started, there was a fear that it’d be the gay community who wouldn’t buy the show, who wouldn’t buy me in the role. But it was the opposite. It was GLADD [Gay And Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation] and those organisations who got behind us right from the beginning, who appreciated having a Will Truman. I’ve got to know Canada’s Minister For Veteran Affairs, Seamus O’Regan. He used to be a morning talk show host and now he’s in Trudeau’s government. He said to me recently, “Thanks from all the Will Trumans in the world. We weren’t represented. There were lots of crazy queens and gay next-door neighbours but there weren’t us, just those guys who go to work and wear suits and marry other guys who wear suits. We were an unrepresented silent majority in the gay community and it’s nice to see that guy up there.” That meant a lot to me. Will And Grace is a substantial piece of television history. Have you ever felt straitjacketed by the role?
No pun intended?! [Laughs.] When I finished the show, I became aware of a certain perception – it wasn’t just the gay side, it was also the sitcom aspect [of my career]. That’s all people had seen of me for eight years, so it was up to me to walk into rooms and not be that. But it was hard because there is such joy in being Will. It comes very naturally and it’s a big piece of my own energy. In order to find my way to my Travelers character, Grant McLaren I had to sit on that a little and convince people there were other things I could do. But it was never with a sense of animosity. I never thought, “Now I’m stuck as Will Truman.” It’s something I have such gratitude for and always will. I remember my first job ever was at Baskin-Robbins, the ice-cream store, and the manager said, “You’re gonna love this job because no one’s ever unhappy in an ice-cream store.” And that’s what it’s like to be Will Truman. Nobody walks up to me and is upset about anything. They just have such joy, and particularly this revival seems to have made a lot of people happy and there’s nothing better.
Travelers series three and Will And Grace series 11 are both happening? Yes, I’m shooting Travelers right now, this afternoon, in fact. I directed the first episode of series three. And we’re doing two more Will And Graces, each 18 episodes, so I have my work cut out for me for a while, which is just incredible.
Your son is in his late teens now, but when he was young how did he handle seeing his dad playing gay on TV?
He was three when it went off air. About the time he was seven or eight he was aware that I was known, but I started doing a show called Perception when he was nine, so his version of my celebrity was through that. He’d heard of Will And Grace but he never really watched it. Now, with the revival, he’s starting to appreciate what the show was and what it meant in the landscape. We did a big thing at the Paley Media Center [a museum of television and radio broadcasting] to honour the show and we did a thing at the Kodak Center in New York and over
3,000 people showed up to hear a panel and ask us questions. He was there, and it was the first time the social importance of the show dawned on him.
There’s been such a shift in thinking on sexuality in just one generation.
Yes. Kids his age, at least at his school, don’t think about being gay as any sort of problem. Kids are coming out as bisexual when they’re
13 and they’re putting it on Instagram and it’s just normal. None of them realise what we, our generation, went through to pave the way for that kind of ease.
Playing Will is something I have such gratitude for… and this revival seems to have made a lot of people happy.
MORE: Will And Grace is now on Stan.
Celebrating the Will And Grace reboot: Eric, Debra Messing, Megan Mullally and Sean Hayes.
Eric with wife Janet and son Finnigan at Disneyland.