Debra Messing Biography

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

Who Is Debra Messing?

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 but made a series comeback starting in 2017. Messing also went on to star in the films Along Came Polly and The Women, as well as TV’s The Starter Wife, Smash and The Mysteries of Laura.

Debra Messing

Debra Messing

Movies and TV Shows

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' 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.

'Along Came Polly,' 'The Starter Wife'

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."

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.

'Smash,' 'The Mysteries of Laura'

She also went on to star in NBC's musical drama Smash (2012-2013) as Julia Houston, the titular character in the dramedy The Mysteries of Laura (2014-2016). In 2017 Messing took the opportunity to don her Grace Adler character with the restart of Will & Grace. In 2018 starred in the psychological thriller flick Searching with John Cho.

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.

In 2011 Messing and her husband Daniel Zelman separated and the couple officially divorced in 2016 after 16 years of marriage.

Early Life

Debra Messing was born on August 15, 1968 in Brooklyn, New York, to Jewish-American parents. She 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.

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