Straight Player: Eric McCormack

Photo: Chad Buchanan/PMC

The cast of Will & Grace did not catch the final episode when it aired. Instead, they were attending a preview of Neil LaBute’s new play, Some Girl(s)—watching Eric McCormack brave post-sitcom waters. He plays a man about to be married who decides to visit, High Fidelity style, ex-girlfriends scattered across the country. This being LaBute, nasty surprises await. McCormack talked to Boris Kachka about his new life Off Broadway.

How’s the part?
It’s working out exactly as I’d hoped, which is that it’s a 180 from Will Truman. I can’t sit around and just expect America and the industry to know there’s other sides of me. I walk into a room, it doesn’t matter if I haven’t shaved for four days, I have to actively not be the guy on TV. I can’t afford to show up and be quippy and light.

Well, you’re straight, for one thing, and this character is as straight as it gets.
He’s a lot more man than I think women often want to know about. But he’s not a traditional Neil LaBute kind of lout. He’s more of a wolf in sheep’s clothing. I think the audience will see me and they’ll go, “Hey, it’s that guy from TV. Oh, we like him.” Then as the play goes on it’s like, “Oh, man, he’s a dick!” Which should be fun.

It was Debra Messing who tipped you off to this play, after she had to turn it down. Could you see yourselves together in it?
You know, in the fifties and sixties, you’d go to Doris Day movies and she was always opposite Rock Hudson. But no one will ever hire us to be a couple. I’m reading a movie script right now, and thinking, Shit, Debra and I would fucking kill with this. But it will never happen.

Why do you think the ratings dropped so fast on Will & Grace?
I think it was twofold. We were hurt by our own success in syndication. Once people could watch us four times a day, they could watch Survivor at eight. And I think there was a feeling at NBC that Will & Grace will take care of itself. But you have to look after the health of a show.

You’ve co-founded a company to produce TV programs, starting with an improv-style show about a dating service on Lifetime. Why go into that line of work?
After eight years, you do get to a point where you look at some crappy shows and go, “Jesus, if they’re buying that, I know I can find a better writer, a better premise.”

So what do you think of NBC’s fall shows?
I’m not going to comment on anybody’s lineup.

Straight Player: Eric McCormack