Debra Messing Biography

Actress, Film Actor/Film Actress, Film Actress, Television Actress(1968–)
Debra Messing is a TV and film actress who hit it big as Grace Adler on the sitcom Will & Grace.

Synopsis

Debra Messing landed her first TV job in a recurring role on the drama NYPD Blue in 1994. Her career advanced steadily, with guest spots on shows such as Seinfeld and a series of film roles. In 1998, Messing landed the role that would make her a household name, on the hit sitcom Will & Grace. In 2006, Will & Grace went off the air. Messing went on to star in The Women and TV’s The Starter Wife.

Early Life

Actress. Born August 15, 1968 in Brooklyn, New York to Jewish-American parents. Debra Messing grew up near Providence, Rhode Island, in a family that appreciated the performing arts. "We'd go to New York to visit family and see plays and musicals," Messing said. "From a very early age I knew [acting] was something I wanted to do."

Crowned Rhode Island's Junior Miss in 1986, Messing attended college at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. She spent part of her junior year studying theater in London. After graduating summa cum laude in 1990, Messing went on to graduate study at the Tisch School of Fine Arts at New York University. She left Tisch three years later with a master's in fine arts and a life partner-Daniel Zelman, an actor and screenwriter she met at a party on her very first day at graduate school. The couple dated for eight years before marrying in 2000.

Television Debut

Messing landed her first television job in a recurring role on the hit drama NYPD Blue in 1994. Her career advanced steadily from there, with guest spots on shows such as Seinfeld and a series of film roles: Keanu Reeves's wife in A Walk in the Clouds (1995), a bit part in Woody Allen's Celebrity (1998), and Mary Magdalene in the miniseries Jesus. Messing took her first star turn as comedic lead Stacey Colbert in the sitcom Ned and Stacey, opposite Thomas Haden Church. The show ran from 1995 to 1999.

Will & Grace

In 1998, Messing landed the role that would make her a household name-that of Grace Adler, a neurotic interior decorator sharing an apartment with her gay best friend in the hit sitcom Will & Grace. Before accepting the role, Messing ensured she'd have the freedom to make her character "funny and unusual in a way that tickled me and surprised me," she recalled. "I didn't want to be the pretty straight woman. I knew I wouldn't be happy. I grew up watching Lucille Ball and Carol Burnett with curtain rods in her arms, falling down stairs. To me, that's funny." Will & Grace premiered on September 21, 1998. The show, one of the first major network programs to feature gay characters in starring roles, was considered rather controversial at the time. But audiences immediately took to the brash banter between Messing and co-stars Eric McCormack, Megan Mullally and Sean Hayes. "As much as this is an extraordinary premise because two of the four main characters were gay and we'd never seen this before, it was really a universal theme and that was friendship," Messing said of the show's success. The show remained a popular staple of NBC's prime-time lineup for eight seasons.

When Will & Grace wasn't filming, Messing continued to act in movies. She took roles in The Mothman Prophecies, Along Came Polly and The Wedding Date. She also played Woody Allen's girlfriend in the famed director's 2002 film Hollywood Ending, a role she viewed as a dream job. "I erupted!" Messing said, recalling the call from her agent telling her that Allen wanted her for the part. "This scream came from the lower depths of my body. I don't know how I didn't get into a car accident. It was as if I went blind for a minute with joy and shock."

Personal Life

Messing became pregnant with her first child during the 2003-2004 season of Will & Grace. Her growing belly proved a challenge for producers. "We are running out of ways to hide Debra's stomach," quipped costar Eric McCormack. "At first the refrigerator door was good enough, but now we have to have trucks drive through scenes." Later in her pregnancy, Messing encountered complications that required doctors to put her on bed rest, forcing her to miss taping the season's final episodes before giving birth to a healthy son named Roman on April 7, 2004.

On May 18, 2006, Will & Grace went off the air after eight seasons. Messing went on to star in a film remake of the 1939 film The Women and The Starter Wife, a 2008 series about a woman rebuilding her life after divorce.

Often compared to fellow redhead and physical comedienne Lucille Ball, Messing is a "natural comic talent ... beautiful, very, very gifted," in the esteemed judgment of Woody Allen. "She lights up everything she does."

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