Hayes looks to expand acting range
Sean Hayes was once asked what his dream role would be.
His answer is blunt: “Anybody intelligent.”
What does this say about Hayes’ most famous role? Will & Grace’s Jack McFarland may be chronically self-absorbed, materialistic and vain, but is he unintelligent?
Hayes doesn’t come right out and say as much. But he does admit that he had some concerns about returning to McFarland, the flamboyantly gay and often blissfully delusional best friend of Eric McCormack’s Will Truman, when the series was revived in 2017 after an 11-year absence from the airwaves.
“We as actors have hopefully, knock on wood, grown a little bit,” says Hayes, in an interview at the Banff World Media Festival where he received the Sir Peter Ustinov Comedy Award .“And I, again knock on wood, have hopefully become a little older and wiser. So I’ve got away from the character which I approached very naively when I first started. It was difficult having been older and gone through so much of life and the business to kind of check that at the door again and climb into the skin of someone who isn’t as evolved as the rest of his friends.”
“But, also, it just took one episode where it was like ‘This is how he speaks and this how he acts,’” Hayes adds. “So it was a pleasant reintroduction to an old friend.”
Hayes said he would love to do pure drama. But also acknowledges that he always knew comedy was going to take up a lion’s share of his career. This makes him a nice addition to the funny men and women who have been bestowed the Peter Ustinov award over the years, including John Candy, John Cleese, Ricky Gervais, Martin Short, Tracey Ullman and Kathryn Hahn.
“My comedy heroes growing up were anybody on (Saturday Night Live), but mostly Steve Martin and Martin Short,” he says. “Those two are my actual comedy heroes growing up as a kid. I used to lock myself in a room on a Saturday night during high school while everybody else was out partying and I would watch SNL.
“I looked forward to it every single week. Even back then, people would talk about it the next week, just like they still do now.”
Since rising to fame with Will & Grace, Hayes kept busy with roles in film, TV and the stage. He also started his own production company and voiced characters in animated films. But he will likely always be remembered as Jack, which is not the sort of role that is easy to escape. Why would he want to? While Jack may not “evolve” in the traditional sense, Hayes says he will have a lively new season.
“Jack may or may not be getting married,” Hayes says. “What else can we say? There will be returning guest stars. Alec Baldwin will be coming back for what should be an interesting look at the complicated relationship between him and Karen. I don’t know. I don’t write the show. People ask me for spoilers and I can only echo what I’ve heard.”
Hayes co-wrote the upcoming indie comedy Lazy Susan with Darlene Hunt and Carrie Aizley. It’s about a “girl who dreams about it all and doing nothing to get it.” Hayes plays Susan.
“It’s not a trans, it’s not a guy in drag and I don’t play it for laughs,” Hayes says. “I just play it like a real woman and that makes me laugh.”
The character was one Hayes created in his 20s to audition for a spot on the sketch comedy series In Living Colour.
Hayes is interested in developing more of his own projects.
“At this point in my life, I have to,” he says. “As an actor, you find your niche. And if it’s not a superhero, you have to figure out your own plan, it seems. Which I’m happy with, I’m ecstatic with. It forces me to work harder and the awards are so much more enriching.”
Sean Hayes was honoured with the Sir Peter Ustinov Comedy Award at the Banff World Media Festival.