The Actress sits down with Producer/Director Jon Avnet to discuss this 6 hour USA miniseries
Known to many as Grace from the much loved sitcom Will & Grace, Debra Messing returns to TV in the USA network mini-series event, The Starter Wife. Playing the role of Molly Kagan, we find out what happens when a Hollywood wife is dumped by her movie mogul husband? Is she totally excluded and ostracized? How does she rebuild her life?
Recently, Messing sat down for a conference call with The Starter Wife Producer/Director Jon Avnet to discuss this project.
Did Kenny Kagan really dump his wife because he heard her sing?
Debra Messing: Because he heard her sing?
I'm just thinking of Grace's "fantastic" voice...
Debra Messing: No, Molly could not be further away from Grace. No, Molly was not a bad singer. I don't believe that that was the reason that Kenny left her. I think it was much more nefarious.
Jon Avnet: You should tune into the 6th episode and you'll see Molly Kagan sing. It's quite good.
Were you attracted to the Molly character because she was so much different from Grace?
Debra Messing: Yes, they are. When we wrapped the Eighth Season of Will & Grace I told everyone involved in my life, that I wasn't going to read or consider anything for at least 6 months because I wanted to let the magnitude of the last 8 years, and the ending of it, sort of have its due course. The one thing that always trumps that is a great script. In the exact same way that I was in bed and exhausted after a job, my agent said, "Stay in bed, we're sending you a script it's called Will & Grace and we think it's great and we think it's worth reading." They said, "We know you told us you didn't want to work but this is really, really special."
So the 6 hour tome was delivered to my house and it took me about 4 days to read. By the end of it, I just felt like, "Sign me up." I thought that it was smart and sophisticated and the comedy was subversive, a little mocking of the Hollywood culture. Yet, I felt something very universal about what Molly was going through. And incredibly painful, seeing a woman who was so successful in her life as a partner and wife to this incredibly successful man and everything she contributed to his success. To be just discarded and have all of the respect... just sort of walk away with him.
During this ongoing pilot season has the phone been ringing a lot? Are people trying to get you back?
Debra Messing: Uhm, yes, I got several nice phone calls from people with offers for TV shows and scripts sent. I felt like saying, "Where were you guys 10 years ago?" There really wasn't any conflict for me because after 8 years of having such a structured life I just knew, and still know, that I need some time to be a gypsy. As much as I absolutely loved being Grace and having that job I really am enjoying being able to wake up in the morning and not have to be anywhere and not have to do anything. I'm speaking to you from New York and tomorrow I could be in California.
Jon, why do you think that the USA Network committed themselves to this?
Jon Avnet: I think they were very smart. I think they knew that they had something that would appeal to a very, very broad audience. Again, getting Debra in this was just brilliance on their part. I think it's gonna reach a very large audience.
It's a nice compromise. They don't have to commit to a full show and at the same time it's not just a quick one show deal.
Debra Messing: That's the thing. I think you would sacrifice a lot if this were just a two hour movie. My experience of doing the 6 hour event was that I realized that I was doing scenes that were exploring just colors of relationships, little nuances of character and those are the first ones that are cut when you are making a two hour film. If the committee says, "It's not moving the film forward we don't need it." In this case, we had 6 hours and as an actress it was a thrill and a luxury to be able to do what you're supposed to do in a six hour project. I felt like I experienced the characters... I felt like we were able to have much larger comic moments because we had more time. We knew we would get the stories and because we had that time we were able to do a 6 page scene.
This question is for both of you, what would you do if you found yourself blacklisted in Hollywood?
Debra Messing: I would move to New York and audition for plays.
Jon Avnet: The only thing analogous to this that I've experienced is when you're hot and when you're cold. It's tough as a director if they take your toys away. I'd probably do like Debra, I'd probably direct plays. Go back to the theater and bury my wounds having given up, what did Orson Welles call it, "the largest train set in the world"?
The Starter Wife premieres on Thursday, May 31 from 9-11 p.m. and continues through June 28 on USA.
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