Eric McCormack is perhaps best known for his affable character on the long-running sitcom "Will & Grace," but now the actor is taking on a very different role in a politically driven play -- and the timing couldn't be more perfect.
In "The Best Man," opening on Broadway April 1, McCormack plays a conniving politician during a heated primary race. The show, supposedly based on the 1960 Democratic primaries, was written by Gore Vidal more than 50 years ago -- yet it feels just as fresh and pointed today.
The genial Canadian actor spoke to The Huffington Post about "The Best Man," American politics and how his work has affected people around the world.
James Earl Jones and Angela Lansbury are just two of your co-stars in "The Best Man." Not too shabby.
My manager was listing the people in the show when he told me about it and I jokingly said, "Stop! You had me at Earl." I have this great, long scene with him in the first act where it becomes pretty clear that I’m the bad guy, and he gets right up into my face and growls that he’s going to take me down and I’m thinking, "I’m on stage with James Earl Jones and I’m the bad guy. Darth Vader is the good guy!"
It seems as if it's the perfect time to revive this play.
The play is fascinating because at first glance you think, "It's 50 years old, how relevant can it possibly be?" But the more we dug into it, the more the GOP would embarrass themselves ... Everything that comes out of Mitt Romney or Rick Santorum or one of their advisers' mouths seems to make another line from the play 100 percent current. There’s a joke about contraception and the Catholic Church that three months ago looked like a relic, and now it couldn’t possibly be more current. A lot of laughs are from people amazed at how little has changed in 50 years.
You grew up in Canada, where politicians rarely talk about their religious beliefs. Do you find the American emphasis on religion weird?
It’s totally strange to me because, firstly, I’m not religious. The separation of church and state is something I’ve always understood. I’ve heard different theories ... There’s a great line that James Earl Jones’s character says [in "The Best Man"]: "Back in my day, you used to have to pour God over everything like ketchup," and that’s what’s happened again. It’s come back so strong. The Republican Party of now has nothing to do with the Republican Party of 50 years ago.
Ball park figure: How many guys hit on you when you were on "Will & Grace"?
Depends what you call hitting. They rarely hit anymore. In the early days they did, sure. Then they’d look at my wife and say, "Oh that’s sweet, every gay man needs a beard."
I really think "Will & Grace" is partially responsible for gay marriage legislation.
What that show demonstrated was if you wanted to get into the hearts and minds of the middle of the country, they’re not going to want to hear about legislation or get swayed by a gay rights parade. They’re going to get swayed because they sit around the TV with their mothers and sons and watch this apparently harmless sitcom. The number of old women that clearly have never met a gay man in their life and have come up to me and said, "Oh, I just hope you find someone nice." No one wants to admit that a sitcom can have that effect.
Literally every day someone says to me, "Thank you. Because of you I was able to come out to my parents and they were great about it because they were fans of the show." That’s actually tangible.
Are Canadians the nicest people in the world?
We’re actually accused of that. I think it’s a passive-aggressive thing. We’re nice to people’s faces, but behind their backs we’ll bitch. I’m kidding!
We’re the wallflowers at the dance. We’re not exactly British -- we’re certainly not exactly American -- and I really think that has a lot to do with why we’re nice and why so many comedians come out of the country. We have a very objective, observational take on the world that allows us to come into a room and not be as full of ourselves as certainly other countries do.
As Americans. Say it.