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September 13, 2019 12:32 pm

Actress Debra Messing Talks About Judaism, Playing a Jewish Character on ‘Will & Grace’

avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

Debra Messing in 2009. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Judaism was a big part of actress Debra Messing’s childhood growing up in Providence, Rhode Island, the “Will & Grace” star told The Seattle Times in a recent interview.

Messing, 51, said her parents, who both grew up in Brooklyn, NY, were “very involved” in their Jewish community, with her father also being the president of their synagogue. “That was a big part of my parents’ identity, and by proxy, mine,” she said.

The actress also recalled being one of just three Jewish students in her public school, where she had “experiences of anti-Semitism” that strengthened her.

Later, when she got the lead role of Grace Adler in “Will & Grace”– the hit television show about a single, interior designer who lives in New York with her gay best friend, lawyer Will Truman — she made sure that Judaism was an integral part of her character’s identity.

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“I think it’s important,” she said. “We were finding a source of comedy that is very specific to her. Let’s talk about her being Jewish, going to Camp Ramah, her bat mitzvah. And, of course, (the late) Debbie Reynolds was cast as my mother.”

“Will & Grace” ended in 2006 after eight seasons but returned to NBC in 2017. When the series first aired, Grace was one of the first openly Jewish female leads on a prime-time television show, according to Messing.

“It was something I was proud of,” Messing said of her Jewish identity. “I felt it was an opportunity to represent, and ‘Will & Grace’ became known for representing marginalized people, mainly those in the LGBTQ community. That was at the forefront of our discussions: How can we represent in a more progressive way?”

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