Debra Messing: “Being a Mother Feeds Me in a Way That Nothing Else Can.”

Best known for her role as Grace Adler on Will & Grace, Debra Messing also plays another role she loves: mom to 10-year-old Roman. Her most recent gig, Outside Mullingar, was just nominated for a Tony Award for Best Play. Now she looks forward to spending summer allergy-free and enjoying the outdoors with her son thanks to Zyrtec. Debra caught up with Parents to talk about juggling her career and motherhood, her most memorable Mother’s Day, and thoughts on her upcoming television series The Mysteries of Laura. 

P: Congratulations on Outside Mullingar‘s nomination for a Tony Award. What was it like to juggle being a mom to a 10-year-old and acting on Broadway since time to leave for work is basically dinner, homework, tucking-in time?

DM: It was very very difficult. I’ve been offered plays in the past and it’s always been something that I couldn’t consider because normally when you sign on for a Broadway show it’s for a year. I just felt I couldn’t do that as a mother—that wasn’t the best choice for my family. This play came in and it was a limited run, just three months. I sat Roman down and told him what it would mean in terms of the structure of our week changing and he said “Mom, do it! You gotta do it!” It was hard to miss that time. But, being on that stage was a lifelong dream of mine since I was maybe 7 years old and it came to pass when I was 45. It just made me feel like it’s never too late for anything.

P: What is it like in general to juggle being a mom and a full-time acting career when your schedule is changing depending on your current job be it TV, film, theater?

DM: I try and just take it hour by hour. It’s very easy to get overwhelmed as a working mom. Juggling is just a constant part of your life. I happen to be a single mom, so there are extra challenges in that. It’s a matter of leaning on family, friends and people who can step in and be some support when needed. I think flexibility is really the key, but also trying to keep certain things a constant so that there is a feeling of consistency.

P: What are the kinds of things you and Roman enjoy doing outside now that your allergy symptoms are managed?

DM: He loves sports, all sports. Playing soccer, playing baseball, playing basketball, going on his little scooter, anything. He’s a very very active boy. It’s great. [With Zyrtec] I no longer have to worry about “Am I gonna be able to participate?” It’s like, “You wanna go? Let’s go!” That’s comforting.

P: Is there anything that Roman does that is just like you when you were a kid?

DM: Yes. [Laughs] He is a very very curious child—and I celebrate that and encourage that—but sometimes he can be a little too curious for his teachers and can ask too many questions in a class. When I was in third grade my parents were called in for a meeting with the teacher and they said, “Debra asks so many questions we are going to limit her to three a day now because there are other children in the class and there’s just literally no time for anyone else to ask a question because she’s always asking questions.” That’s a family story that people like to share because it is funny, but I’ve had similar conversations with Roman’s teachers along the way. I recognized it immediately. I was like, “That’s my fault!”

P: Where does Roman get his name? Is it a family name?

DM: Roman is not a family name. We just wanted a name that was strong and confident, unique, but not pretentious.

Download our Baby Name Chooser app to find a great pick, like Roman, or find tips in the video below.

Baby Names: How to Pick a Great Name
Baby Names: How to Pick a Great Name
Baby Names: How to Pick a Great Name

P: Well, with a strong name and precocious personality, what is the parenting rule that you always seem to give in on?

DM: I try and do candy just on special occasions, so just at birthdays. Inevitably something will happen. We’ll be at the Harlem Globetrotters and they’ll have some guy walking around and saying, “Here kids! Here’s some candy!” Roman will look at me and say, “Mom?” I just can’t say no.

P: Does he ever outsmart you?

DM: He’s very tricky. He’s tricky and he’s smart. I think he’s discovered lying for the first time. I’ve caught him in a few fibs. He’s being a typical boy.

P: Mother’s Day is around the corner. Do you have a favorite Mother’s Day memory?

DM: I can’t remember if it was when Roman was 2 years old or 3 years old: He made a special book for me with pictures of us and he wrote in his hand little love messages he scribbled. It just meant everything to me.

P: Your upcoming television series The Mysteries of Laura is about a working mom doing her best to balance it all. Aside from being a working mom, how are you similar to Laura, if at all?

DM: I think that’s pretty defining, being a working mom. She’s also going through a divorce, and she’s very very passionate about her work. It’s something that she’s very good at and she loves. I related to that because I am fed in a way through my work that nothing else can [match]. In a similar way, being a mother feeds me in a way that nothing else can. I can’t imagine either not being a part of my life. But, one hour she is doing well balancing and the next hour she’s really messed up. I just relate to that. I relate to baby steps and little victories and trying not to beat yourself up over those mini failures.

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