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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, July 21, 2006

Can 'Will & Grace' stars avoid curse?

By Bridget Byrne
Associated Press

"Will & Grace" cast members Eric McCormack, Megan Mullally, Debra Messing and Sean Hayes are hoping to avoid "the 'Seinfeld' curse" by pursuing different roles after their show ended in May.

GEORGE LANGE | NBC

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LOS ANGELES It became known as "the 'Seinfeld' curse" when Jason Alexander, Michael Richards and Julia Louis-Dreyfus stars of the hugely successful NBC series moved on to new sitcoms that failed.

Now Louis-Dreyfus appears to have broken that spell, acquiring an audience and an Emmy nomination portraying the title role in CBS' "The New Adventures of Old Christine."

But will the cast of another very popular sitcom, which ended in May, also be able to avoid the curse of past triumphs?

The stars of NBC's "Will & Grace," with eight successful seasons behind them, hope to do so by heading down different pathways.

Instead of immediately aiming for a spin-off or rolling the dice with another sitcom, Debra Messing, Eric McCormack, Sean Hayes and Megan Mullally are diversifying their roles in front of the camera and behind the scenes.

"I educated myself, as I would suggest all actors do, and learned about the business," says Hayes, who, aware the series "wouldn't go on forever," started a company, Hazy Mills Productions, with longtime friend Todd Milliner.

"I like to get up in the morning and work. I enjoy this business, very, very much ... and I can't imagine doing anything else," says Hayes, an Emmy winner in 2000 and a current nominee for his role as Jack.

He says he's heeding the advice of a friend with a "very, very high profile in the entertainment business" who said, "It's real simple, Sean. Only do good things, don't do bad things."

Hayes says that establishing his own company while he's taking "a nap" from acting gives him a better chance to "create those good things" for himself.

Meanwhile, Mullally, who won an Emmy in 2000 and is also a nominee for her role as Karen, will host a syndicated daytime talk program, "The Megan Mullally Show," this fall.

She also has a production company, Ton of Bricks, and she's optioned the movie rights to the novel "Passing Strange," about an ugly duckling who is persuaded to have plastic surgery. She won't be starring in it.

McCormack, Emmy winner in 2001 playing Will, also has his own company, Big Cattle Productions, in partnership with Michael Forman. They produce the improvisational comedy series "Lovespring International" for Lifetime Television.

In addition, McCormack appeared off-Broadway in the Neil LaBute play "Some Girls," immediately after "Will & Grace" ended.

Messing, Emmy winner in 2003 and a current nominee as well, for Grace, says she, too, has the itch to return to the stage. She feels her career already has diversified because she was "lucky enough" to star in several romantic comedies on the big screen while "Will & Grace" was still on the air.

Having a 2-year-old son has "reorganized priorities" for Messing, she says. She views herself mainly as "an actor for hire" now and is happy to leave the "hunting, gathering and searching to the team I have around me."

But the odds that Messing and the others will ever attain the same level of success they once had with "Will & Grace" are not necessarily in their favor.

"One hit in a person's lifetime, whether you are a writer or an actor or anything else, is a little bit of a miracle," says Kari Lizer, co-executive producer for three seasons of "Will & Grace" and now the creator and executive producer of "The Old Adventures of New Christine."

Lizer adds that stars coming off a major hit should never resent the affection fans have for a "beloved character," something Mullally is sure to take full advantage of as a talk-show host.