By Paulette Cohn
Photo courtesy of USA Network
From her own personal mommy skills to being a homebody, “The Starter Wife” Debra Messing opens up about staying balanced in Hollywood!
Although Debra Messing is best known for her role as Grace Adler on "Will & Grace," the Emmy Award-winning actress tells justmommies.com that she is more like Molly Kagan, the character she is currently playing on "The Starter Wife."
"I loved playing Grace," Messing says. "I know that a lot of people are very attached to the character of Grace, as am I, but right now in my life, I'm more like Molly because I'm a mother."
"The Starter Wife" began as a USA Network mini-series based on the eponymous New York Times best-selling novel by Gigi Levangie Grazier, wife of Hollywood mega producer Brian Grazier. Its stellar ratings and Emmy success -- 10 nominations with one win -- led to the series. It begins where the novel ended and follows the post-divorce adventures of Molly as she begins life as a single mother.
In the series, Molly has a daughter. In real life, Messing is raising her four-year-old son Roman with husband Daniel Zelman 3000 miles away from the East Coast upbringing she experienced growing up. The 40-year-old says she hones her mommy skills by staying keyed into her lifelong friends from New York and her family.
She also gets help from Zelman, who she met in 1990 on her first day of graduate school. "We have always been partners, equal partners in doing the parenting," she says. "We're doing the best we can."
It also helps that Messing is a homebody. She points out, "I'm pretty solitary. I don't get out much to get into trouble."
That isn't to say that Messing isn't aware of what's going on in Hollywood. It's just that she is the opposite of Molly, who constantly finds herself in hot water, which, of course, makes for great comedy. In fact, some of the funniest moments in "The Starter Wife" come from shining a light on the more extreme aspects of Hollywood culture, such as when Molly's ex (David Alan Basche) gifts the couple's seven-year-old daughter Jaden (Brielle Barbusca) with a BlackBerry.
"That is a very real thing seven-year-olds asking for BlackBerrys and cell phones," Messing says. "That's one of the things I love most about the show is the social satire -- making fun of the excessiveness and priorities that make it difficult to have a grounded, normal life because there's nothing really normal about Hollywood."
As for Roman, he is young enough to not be affected by the fact that his mother is a star. In fact, at this point, he only knows that she tells stories.
"I think he thinks that everybody is an actor on television or is connected to television in one way or the other because my husband writes for television ["Damages"]. So, you know, we talk about that. My son comes to the set almost daily because it's too painful for me to be away from him. And he loves it. He plays ball with David. He knows everybody's name on the set. He knows exactly where the crafts service table is."
But "The Starter Wife" is more than just satire. One of the reasons it performed so well in the ratings is the subject matter is relatable and universal. "That's an important goal of ours," Messing adds. "You know, unfortunately, divorce happens in Kansas as much as it does in Hollywood [with the result that] women have to start over at 40 and, for the first time in their life, have to find a career, date and be a single parent."
She continues: "With the economy the way it is right now, most mothers in America are working mothers. It's just a fact. And so I'm exactly like every other mother who is struggling with that balance of wanting to be a full-time mom and wanting to be able to do the work that you love and you also need to do."
That said Messing is luckier than others. In addition to being able to bring Roman to work with her, one of the appeals of "The Starter Wife" is the fact that unlike network series, which produce 22 episodes each season, it is only 10 episodes long.
"It was a very big part of my decision making to step into another series," she says. "You have to think about what your life will be over the next few years under the best-case scenario. And 10 episodes that seemed like in my head I could say, 'Okay. That's really like doing one major feature film,' and I could wrap my mind around that. And if I choose to, I can take the rest of the year off and just be at home."