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Debra Messing is a TV and film actress who hit it big as Grace Adler on the sitcom Will & Grace.
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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.
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. 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.
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