Also Credited As:Debra Lynn Messing
|Debra Lynn Messing on August 15, 1968 in Brooklyn, New York, USA|
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Born Debra Lynn Messing in Brooklyn, NY on Aug. 15, 1968, Messing's parents recognized her preoccupation with acting and singing when she put on performances in their East Greenwich, RI home for family and visitors while still a small child. The Messings encouraged their daughter to pursue a career in the arts, sending her to numerous performing arts camps during her adolescence. Following a high school tenure filled with numerous turns in musical and dramatic productions - with occasional moments of anti-Semitism thrown at her which the undaunted Messing used to strengthen her personality and resolve - she attended Brandeis University in Massachusetts. During her junior year, she also studied theater at the British European Studio Group, a prestigious program based in London. She graduated summa cum laude from Brandeis in 1990 with a Bachelor's degree in theater arts, before being accepted into New York University's exclusive graduate acting program, which earned her an evental MFA.
Messing gained her earliest notices in a 1993 workshop production of Tony Kushner's "Angels in America: Perestroika," later appearing in New York productions of plays by John Patrick Shanley and Paul Rudnick. That same year, she also played Dana Abandando, the cold-hearted, man-hungry sister of Gail O'Grady's character in three episodes of "NYPD Blue" (ABC, 1993-2005). Her movie debut as Keanu Reeves' war bride in Alfonso Arau's World War II fantasy, "A Walk in the Clouds" came in 1995, as did her first big break - her network series debut as co-lead on the sitcom "Ned and Stacey" (Fox, 1995-97). While the series was not long for the world, it honed her comic chops and made network execs sit up and take notice of the beauty with seemingly little fear of looking the fool. As a liberal reporter who must pretend to be married to cantankerous, conservative adman Thomas Haden Church, Messing earned solid reviews for her comic skills and much admiration from everyone for holding her own against that powerhouse of snide, Haden Church. By the end of the series' run in 1997, Messing was working regularly in film and on television. She had a two-episode turn as one of Jerry's many girlfriends - with one of the turns in the much-loved "The Yada Yada" episode - on "Seinfeld" (NBC, 1989-1998), and appeared as the female lead in the woeful big-screen adaptation of "McHale's Navy" (1997) with Tom Arnold.
Messing turned down an opportunity for another network series in 1997, opting instead to appear in Donald Marguiles' play "Collected Stories" in New York. She next starred as a scientist who discovers a dangerous alternate form of human life in the TV movie "Prey." The telefilm's ratings were significant enough to warrant a series, which she also joined, but the show was pulled from the schedule after just 13 episodes. The following year, after netting a small role in Woody Allen's film, "Celebrity" (1998), she finally received a long-deserved career break after being cast in the role of lifetime as Grace Adler, a successful businesswoman and straight singleton whose best friend and roommate is gay lawyer Will Truman (Eric McCormack) on "Will and Grace."
With the initially controversial show beginning its long but steady ascent from cult hit and favorite among gay viewers to network powerhouse series, Messing proved she was no fluke in the laugh-getting department - even on a series which boasted two of the most hysterically outlandish supporting stars in Sean Hayes' flamboyant Jack McFarland and Megan Mullally's pill-popping Karen Walker. Messing's convoluted onscreen romances with guest stars Woody Harrelson, Edward Burns and Harry Connick, Jr. - whom Grace Adler would marry in 2002 - as well as her hopelessly co-dependent relationship with her "main gay" Will, endeared her to the show's heterosexual female audience contingent. She also encouraged the writers to utilize Grace's Jewish heritage for storylines and to overturn Jewish stereotypes for laughs. No hypocrite, Messing was also an avid supporter of gay causes throughout the series' run and beyond and bonded closely with her three co-stars, particularly McCormack.
Messing underwent some considerable high points in her life and career during the hit show's run. She married her graduate school sweetheart, actor-writer Daniel Zelman, in 2000 and gave birth to their son Roman in 2004 - a pregnancy which led to some memorably surreal moments on the series, as the increasing size of Messing's belly was never quite addressed or explained but drew laughs from the studio audience nonetheless. She also netted a staggering amount of nominations, including six Golden Globe, five Emmy and six Screen Actors Guild awards, finally taking home trophies for the latter two in 2003 and 2001, respectively.
Most importantly, the success of the show allowed Messing to branch out to other projects, though the roles rarely made good use of her talents. She was underutilized as the prostitute Mary Magdalene in the 1999 TV production of "Jesus" (1999), and had little to do as Richard Gere's ill-fated wife in "The Mothman Prophecies" (2002) or as Ben Stiller's unfaithful new bride in "Along Came Polly" (2004). She had more exposure as Woody Allen's scatterbrained live-in love in his glum comedy "Hollywood Ending" (2004), and lent her voice to an animated cat as love interest to "Garfield" (2005). Messing's first top billing in a feature came the following year with "The Wedding Date" (2005), a cute but largely joyless comedy about a young woman who hires a male escort to be her date at her sister's wedding. Messing handled the romance and the laughs with typical skill, but the picture itself gave her little to work with.
As "Will and Grace" drew to a close, Messing continued to dabble in side projects, appearing as a celebrity judge on the second season finale of "Project Runway" (Bravo, 2005- ) in 2006 and lent her voice to the park ranger who shelters a pampered bear (Martin Lawrence) in the likable animated feature "Open Season" (2007). That same year, she turned up in Curtis Hanson's much-delayed poker drama "Lucky You" (2007), before scoring her biggest post-"Grace" hit then to date with the six-hour miniseries, "The Starter Wife" (USA Network, 2007), based on the novel by Gigi Levangie Grazer. As Molly Kagan, a 41-year-old wife and mother who suddenly finds herself single and alone after her film executive husband leaves her for a younger woman, Messing provided the blend of humor and pathos that had earned her a devoted fan base during the "Grace" years, bringing her another Emmy nomination for Outstanding Lead Performer. Messing reprised the role the following year in the hour-long comedic drama series, "The Starter Wife" (USA, 2008- ), which earned her another Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress in a Television Comedy.
After much speculation as to who would make the cut, Messing joined a powerhouse cast that included Candice Bergen, Annette Bening, Eva Mendes, Jada Pinkett-Smith and Meg Ryan for Diane English's film adaptation of Claire Booth Luce's biting Depression-era play, "The Women" (2008). Unfortunately, the film did not translate well to modern audiences and tanked. She then had a supporting role in "Nothing Like the Holidays" (2008), a Christmas dramedy about the far-flung members of the Rodriguez family - Messing, John Lequizamo and Freddy Rodriguez - converging on their parent's house for the holidays, only to learn that their mother and father (Alfred Molina and Elizabeth Peña) are getting a divorce. Following a guest spot on "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" (NBC, 1999- ), Messing returned to regular series work with a role on "Smash" (NBC, 2012- ), where she played a successful Broadway lyricist trying to stage a musical based on the life of Marilyn Monroe. Meanwhile, Messing divorced her husband of 12 years, Daniel Zelman, with whom she had had a son, Roman, in 2004, and reportedly took up with "Smash" co-star Will Chase.