Green light for red hair

Herald Sun - Switched On - - Front Page - LUAINE LEE THERE is no rat­ings re­port this week as a re­sult of the Easter non­rat­ings pe­riod. The Weekly Top 20 will be back next week.

DE­BRA Mess­ing might have been com­pared to an­other red­head with comic tim­ing, Lu­cille Ball, but she con­fesses her sig­na­ture red hair was forced on her.

‘‘I was do­ing the movie A Walk in the Clouds and they wanted my hair auburn, but they didn’t want to send me to a fancy sa­lon,’’ the star of Will and Grace and The Starter Wife says.

‘‘I was in a mo­tel in the Napa Val­ley and some­one was pour­ing bleach on my head for 13 hours. And it never was even, and it ended up I was a ti­tian red— it was aw­ful,’’ she says, chuck­ling.

‘‘Then I got this Clairol com­mer­cial with the un­der­stand­ing that I would have to get a nor­mal colour hair. But I had to keep my hair some colour red in case I had to go back and reshoot A Walk in the Clouds. Then all of a sud­den ev­ery­thing I au­di­tioned for, I got.’’

Four weeks ear­lier, as a brunette, Mess­ing couldn’t get ar­rested. She con­tin­u­ally lost out to the same two ac­tors.

‘‘I would see them and say, ‘This time I’m go­ing to be the one’. And it didn’t hap­pen, and I was re­ally de­pressed about it.’’

A cast­ing di­rec­tor, who’d seen her many times, may have saved her ca­reer when she called Mess­ing’s agent and re­ported that Mess­ing was sab­o­tag­ing her­self in au­di­tions.

‘‘She is wear­ing so much makeup that it’s like kabuki, and she looks 10 years older than she is,’’ the cast­ing di­rec­tor said.

‘‘I was putting stage makeup on, that’s all I knew,’’ shrugs Mess­ing, who starred for eight years on Will and Grace.

‘‘So be­tween that and be­ing forced to colour my hair red, all of a sud­den ev­ery­thing changed.’’

It hadn’t been an easy road. Mess­ing was first drawn to act­ing as a shy child.

‘‘I felt safer be­ing some­body else than my­self. I was sort of not in the ‘in’ so­cial cir­cles as a lit­tle girl and didn’t feel very good in my skin. The one place I felt like I could lie was on stage.’’

Though she longed to at­tend the High School of Per­form­ing Arts, her par­ents— a sales ex­ec­u­tive dad and a real es­tate and travel agent mum— in­sisted she have a ‘‘nor­mal’’ child­hood and study drama in col­lege.

She went to Bran­deis Uni­ver­sity and earned her mas­ter’s de­gree at NYU. It was there that she met her fu­ture hus­band, Daniel Zel­man, cocre­ator and ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer of Dam­ages.

Once out of school she landed a job in Seat­tle, but Zel­man was work­ing in New York at the time. It was then she made an im­por­tant dis­cov­ery about her­self.

‘‘I re­alised I’m not a gypsy. I can’t live out of a suit­case, so my whole mas­ter plan had to be thrown away. I came back and said to my agents, ‘OK, I’m not leav­ing town. I’m fully pre­pared to cater and be a cock­tail wait­ress, what­ever, un­til I’m cast in New York City’.’’

Fi­nally she landed a job as an un­der­study in Three Dogs and a Bone for $330 a week be­fore taxes. But at least she was a work­ing ac­tor.

She and Zel­man have been to­gether for 17 years. About their last­ing re­la­tion­ship, she nods: ‘‘I think we’re lucky we met re­ally young when we were both stu­dents and hope­ful about the fu­ture and ex­cited by the ro­mance of the strug­gle then.’’

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