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‘Will & Grace’ star Debra Messing cites gay rights as part of her life mission

Actress Debra Messing attends the 'Outside Mullinger' Broadway opening night after party at Copacabana on January 23, 2014 in New York City
(Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images)

Known for her role as Grace Adler in the cancelled, but public NBC hit series “Will & Grace,” actress Debra Messing became a gay icon playing the best friend of one of television’s first featured gay characters. Since the starring in the show, Messing has prided herself as an advocate for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. In an interview with the Huffington Post posted on Wednesday, Messing talked about her longtime support of LGBT causes.

In the interview, Messing said the show wasn’t the only inspiration behind her advocacy for the LGBT community. Much of that inspiration stemmed from the relationship she had with one of her teachers whom she lost to HIV/AIDS. She told HuffPost Live, “Once ‘Will and Grace’ became the socially important show that it became, it really did start to feel like that was sort of part of my life mission.”

Messing saw that mission rewarded when she was honored by Equality California for her work promoting gay civil rights. In 2000, the Emmy Award-winning actress came out against Proposition 22, a state law that banned gays and lesbians from marrying. Her advocacy during that time came when public opinion in regards to same-sex marriage was leaning more towards that of non-acceptance. Although “Will & Grace” played a major role in the importance of the exposure of gay characters on television, it wasn’t the only role that inspired her drive to support the underdog.

The 45-year-old Messing also praised her role in another cancelled NBC show as driving her motivation. She said “Smash” was influential because “it was also showing the world a community that is not often celebrated or that people don’t really know very much about. I think there’s something thematic about [my] work.”

Messing also revealed in the interview that focus groups weren’t aware that the character of Will was gay. She said that although the writing was obvious, “[NBC] wanted this show to have legs and they knew they would have to capture the audience’s heart through laughter first.” It was Will’s ambiguous and not so obvious sexuality that made the show have more of a connection with mainstream America. In a way it defeated a stereotype by exposing a stereotype. Debra Messing is currently starring in the upcoming NBC series “The Mysteries of Laura.”