×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘Will & Grace’ Star Eric McCormack Looks Back on Early Stage Roles

Eric McCormack is best known for a sitcom role (Will Truman on “Will & Grace”), but he got his start onstage, spending the first five years of his career with Canada’s Stratford Festival. His work has now spanned film (“The Lost World,” “Giant Steps”), television (from recurring roles in “The New Adventures of Old Christine” and “Dead Like Me” to starring roles in “Lonesome Dove: The Series,” “Perception” and “Travelers”) and theater (“The Music Man” on Broadway, “Some Girl(s)” Off Broadway).

He can be seen as Will Truman once again in the “Will & Grace” revival for NBC, and soon he’ll be reprising one of his beloved theater roles: in a special one-night-only engagement of “The Fantasticks.” McCormack was first mentioned in Variety on June 27, 1990, for his part in a stage version of Robin Maugham’s “The Servant.”

You were doing plays since childhood, but what do you consider the true start of your professional career?  
I was still in my last year of high school in Toronto, and I was working at a dinner theater called O’Neill’s. It was one of those shows where everybody’s waiter suddenly became the performers, and I saw the show about 80 times as I bused tables night after night. One day I was literally washing dishes, and I heard the two owners talking about the show, worried about one of the guys who was sick. I did that classic “All About Eve” with a dish in my hand and an apron on [and said], “I can do it. I know the show.” And Sandra, who ran the place, said, “Oh honey, you are so cute,” and then ignored me. But the next day I was in history class, and I got called to the office, and Sandra was on the phone. “Are you serious?” she asked. I said yes. The show was called “One Big Break,” and that was my one big break.

What made you want to focus on theater at that time?
As much as I grew up on television and film later in the ’70s, I always kind of dreamed locally. I looked around and I thought, “If I can make a living as a theater actor in Toronto, good.” And I did.

Where does “The Servant” come in?
The ’80s for me were entirely theater in Canada — particularly ’85 through ’89 with the Stratford Festival, which was Shakespeare and classics in rep, and was really amazing. “The Servant” was the following year in Toronto with Keir Dullea. That was the year before I took off for Vancouver and started focusing on television.

What made you ready to make the jump from stage to screen?
It was ’89-’90 and there was a guy who was about to take over the Stratford Festival. He had been watching me for five years, and he said, “I don’t have an offer for you for next year. Maybe it’s time for you to move on. You have a very modern sensibility; have you ever thought about television comedy?” He didn’t mean it in a nice way, but he was absolutely right. And eight years later I was playing Will Truman. So it was the beginning of me going, “Maybe it’s time to change.”

Has your theater training and background helped over the years?

There’s no question. Rachael Leigh Cook — who was on “Perception” with me for three years — one day said, “I’ve never been on a stage.” She was a young actress, and she got movie [and TV] roles. But that was so foreign to me. It was like eating dessert without eating your dinner. You have to start [onstage]. And particularly ending up on “Will & Grace”: We’ve done every show we’ve ever done in front of a live audience. All four of us [including Debra Messing, Megan Mullally and Sean Hayes] are from the theater, and I think that’s really lent itself to our style.

More TV

  • The Netflix logo is displayed at

    Netflix Orders 'Queen Sono,' Its First African Original Series

    Netflix has ordered its first African original series, “Queen Sono,” a drama about a secret agent who fights crime while dealing with crises in her personal life. The series will launch globally in 2019. “Queen Sono” stars veteran South African actress Pearl Thusi, who tweeted in an emotional video Monday that she “cannot wait for…every woman on [...]

  • Outlander 406

    'Outlander' Recap: Jamie Encounters William Again in 'Blood of My Blood'

    SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not yet watched “Blood Of My Blood,” the sixth episode of “Outlander” Season 4. The action in “Blood of My Blood” picked up almost immediately after the previous week’s episode, as evidenced by the fact that Murtagh (Duncan Lacroix) was still staying with Claire (Caitriona Balfe) and [...]

  • The Flash -- "Elseworlds, Part 1"

    'Elseworlds, Part 1' Recap: Barry Allen and Oliver Queen Swap Skills, Visit Superman

    SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not yet watched “Elseworlds, Part 1,” the first part of the 2018 “Arrowverse” crossover, which aired Dec. 9. After past crossovers that introduced beloved characters’ doppelgangers, a wedding and death, “Elseworlds,” the fifth annual “Arrowverse” event, had a lot to which to live up. Unlike previous years, [...]

  • Stranger Things

    'Stranger Things' Season 3 Teaser Reveals Episode Titles, 2019 Release

    Netflix dropped a new teaser for the upcoming third season of “Stranger Things” Sunday, confirming that it will land on the streamer in 2019. The teaser also revealed the episode titles for the third season, which are as follows: “Suzie, Do You Copy?,” “The Mall Rats,” “The Case of the Missing Lifeguard,” “The Sauna Test,” [...]

  • Kyzza Terrazas Joins Garcia Bernal, Diego

    Kyzza Terrazas Joins Gael Garcia Bernal, Diego Luna’s La Corriente del Golfo (EXCLUSIVE)

    BUENOS AIRES — Launching their new production house, La Corriente de Golfo, last April, Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna have tapped Mexican writer-director Kyzza Terrazas as the company’s head of development. The appointment will certainly help build the company appointing an old-rounder capable of overseeing and implementing development, writing and directing, and a longtime [...]

  • Michael Che Defends Kevin Hart on

    Michael Che Ribs Academy Over Kevin Hart Controversy on 'SNL'

    Kevin Hart may have alienated some in Hollywood over his recently resurfaced homophobic tweets, but that didn’t stop “Weekend Update” co-host Michael Che from cracking some jokes in support of Hart on Dec. 8’s “Saturday Night Live.” After briefly recapping that Hart stepped down from hosting the Oscars after the 2011 tweets came to light, [...]

  • THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY

    'The Umbrella Academy' Superheroes Series Premiere Date Set on Netflix

    The dysfunctional-family superheroes of “The Umbrella Academy” are landing on Netflix worldwide on Feb. 15, 2019. The live-action series is based on the “Umbrella Academy” comic books created and written by Gerard Way and illustrated by Gabriel Bá, published by Dark Horse Comics. The Netflix original series comprises 10 one-hour episodes. “The Umbrella Academy” stars [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content