Though “Will & Grace” star Debra Messing has often been compared to TV icon Lucille Ball for her comedic timing and their trademark red hair, it still took hours for the hair and makeup department to get her look perfect for the show’s tribute episode to “I Love Lucy.”
When the Emmy-winner posted a selfie flaunting her incredible transformation last November, fans remarked on how much Messing looked like Ball.
“Well, it took three and a half hours to get there,” Messing told Variety’s Angelique Jackson on the “Variety After-Show.” “[Make-up artist Elaine Offers] put Elmer’s glue over my eyebrows so that she could draw it on and then the lips took like 45 minutes. But when the wig went on, all of us just went [gasps] … All of a sudden we saw her coming to life in the mirror.”
Messing also transformed into Ethel and Fred for the episode, with the latter transformation enlisting the help of the hair and makeup team behind “Star Wars.”
“They came in, and they were serious. There were two people working on me at the same time. And they obviously had to do it three different days for each one of us, said Messing. She, Megan Mullally and Sean Hayes rotated parts during the episode, each playing Lucy, Fred & Ethel, while Eric McCormack embodied Desi Arnaz throughout. “They literally would like glue one hair on at a time. It was unbelievable.”
But hours in hair and makeup were more than worth it in the end, when Ball’s daughter Lucie Arnaz, who gave the team permission to create the tribute and made a special cameo in the episode, saw the finished product.
“We were about to shoot the song and dance [number] and she walked in and she just looked at me and didn’t say anything.” Messing recalled. “Then she hugged me and she said, ‘This feels really good. It’s been a long time since I’ve hugged you,’ and everyone started to cry.”
Messing continued, “And then she smiled and she said, ‘I know how long you’ve been wanting to do this, Debra. And I’m so glad we were able to make it happen.’” And then I had to go [to the stage,]. As I walked away, she said, ‘Break a leg, Mom.’ Everybody just flipped out and cried. It was really moving.”