Brian Scott Lipton chats with Eric McCormack and the lovely ladies of Neil LaBute's Some Girl(s).
Emmy Award winner Eric McCormack (Will & Grace) stars as Guy, a New York-based writer who decides to visit four of his former flames across the country before tying the knot: Fran Drescher as Lindsay, a Boston-based college professor, E.R. star Maura Tierney as Bobbi, a Los Angeles-based doctor; Scrubs star Judy Reyes as Tyler, a Chicago-based artist; and stage veteran Brooke Smith as Sam, a Seattle housewife.
Even though the play marks McCormack's professional separation from Will & Grace co-star Debra Messing, she's not far from his thoughts. In fact, Messing was the catalyst behind McCormack getting the part. "Debra was actually offered one of the roles in the play, and though she couldn't do it, she came to me and asked me if I'd heard of it," he says. "I said no, and she replied: 'If there is ever a role I'd like you to play, it would be this one.' Now, Debra doesn't say that kind of thing every day. So I threw my hat into the ring and, four days later, I had the offer. It's turned out to be a great marriage of actor and role, since it really plays to my rhythms. Even Neil thinks it's a great match."
The quality of the writing drew McCormack to the project, and he is also very pleased to be stepping into shoes that aren't Will's. "Television, especially a show that's in syndication, is so pervasive that it invades people minds," he remarks. "When people stop me on the street, they call me Will instead of Eric. I know it will be a challenge for the audience to see me as someone other than Will, and eventually to see Debra as someone other than Grace. In fact, had she done the play, there's no way that I would have been able to do it."
McCormack enjoys working with all four of the women in the cast. "Fran got off book so quickly, whereas I'm the type of actor who likes to keep the book until the bitter end," he says. "Brooke is a true theater actress who gets so excited by the process. Judy is someone whom I work very easily with. And Maura can do both comedy and drama, which not everyone remembers."
When Drescher, best known for her starring role in The Nanny, first read the script, she knew there was a part in it that was just right for her; she just wasn't sure which one. "My manager thought I sounded like Bobbi," says Drescher. "But I really thought Lindsay was the right role for me. I felt that I shared some of her experiences, such as having being romantically involved with a younger man. And I like the character very much. She's layered with lots of complexity; she's one of the strongest women in the play, but there's also some vulnerability."
Drescher shares no scenes with the other women, but she says that working with McCormack -- and with LaBute and director Jo Bonney -- has been a great experience. "A few weeks before we started rehearsals, I was at Bennett Miller's birthday party," she relates. "Eric Bogosian and I start talking and he mentions his wife is a fan of mine. But I didn't put two and two together then, that Jo is married to Eric." The actress is very excited to be on the New York stage for only the second time in her career. (She previously appeared in The Exonerated.) "It's fulfilling a dream," she enthuses, "one that came close a few times before but never happened. And I get to go home to my own house every night! I've become much more bicoastal over the last couple of years, so I told my agents to set up some meetings this winter with people in theater and independent film. It's what I always wanted to do, but my success in television took me away from that."
Determined to make a good impression on Bonney and her castmates, Drescher completely memorized her part before rehearsals began and worked steadily with a dialect coach to soften her trademark New York accent. As for handling the sometimes quick pace of theater, she was more than prepared. "Everyone told me to brace for lots of rewrites, but I'm used to getting new pages while I'm sitting in hair and makeup and about to go on camera," she says. "TV is like doing a new play every week."
Tierney first gained fame as the sassy Lisa Miller on the sitcom NewsRadio, she has spent the last six years as Dr. Abby Lockhart on the hospital drama ER. "After Abby, I can handle a lot of darkness," she says in reference to Some Girl(s). "I really wanted to do this play, since I haven't done any theater in 15 years and I've never done professional theater in New York. It's great just to be part of this community. I'm a little tired of living in L.A, and I'd love to move here when I'm done with ER [at the end of the 2007-2008 season]."
Smith had been approached by LaBute to appear in the London production of his play The Distance from Here but couldn't work it into her schedule, so she's thrilled to be in this play. "I pretty much said yes without even reading the script," she relates. "I was interested in playing either Sam or Bobbi, but I'm happy because Sam is really kind of complicated."
Developing chemistry with McCormack over just four weeks of rehearsal is a change of pace for Smith; for years, she worked with Wallace Shawn and company on André Gregory's landmark theater piece Vanya On 42nd Street, and she has spent the last seven years, on and off, re-teaming with the pair for a new production of The Master Builder. "There are things Eric is good at, like physical comedy, that I'm completely clueless about," she says. "You really have to spell it out for me, like, 'Brooke, pick the thing up, say the line, and then people will laugh.' I tend to work a little bit more in the moment."