BEVERLY HILLS – Actor Eric McCormack figures he inherited his comic timing from his dad. The actor who played Will on “Will & Grace” recalls when he was 10 he fell off his bicycle and gashed his chin on the curb.

“I remember it being a moment of comic timing,” he says, in a sun-filled room in a hotel here. “My mom said, ‘We’ve got to get him to a hospital.’ My dad did this, ‘We don’t have to take him to a HOSPITAL – all right, we’re going to the hospital.’ And I remember thinking, ‘That was funny.’ I’ve used that exact timing a thousand times.”

It would be six years before McCormack actually knew what to do with that comic timing. “I was in the eleventh grade and my drama teacher, Mort Paul, did ‘Godspell.’ That’s when all of my feelings solidified,” he says, tucking his feet under him Yoga style.

“And I remember after the first performance of that every actor has the same story – ‘I was the geek, I didn’t know where to fit it.’ But at that moment, I knew where to fit in.

“That was the beginning of my life as an actor. It changed me in that the concept of any other options disappeared … From that moment there was no question. I knew exactly what I was going to do. I’m lucky that way.”

McCormack’s parents thought he’d get over his passion for acting. They went to Eric’s teacher and said they were worried that he was taking it so seriously. “And he said, ‘Don’t stop him.’ That was enough for them to back off and not worry so much.”

It wasn’t until the Canadian-born McCormack was in his second year at theater school that he learned that his father, who was in finance in the oil business, had been studying radio-television at the same school in 1952. “I didn’t know he was an actor. He never told me.”

His father dropped out figuring there was no money in it. And for McCormack there pretty much was no money in it until he hit pay dirt with “Will & Grace.”

It’s been two years since that screen went black, but McCormack has hit the brass ring again with TNT’s new series, “Trust Me,” premiering on Jan. 26. He and Tom Cavanagh (“Ed”) play partners in the advertising business. Cavanagh is the always-late, goof-off of the team while McCormack is the circumspect, Type A guy who’s always trying to make it work.

The advertising expert is not too far from the actor, thinks McCormack, who’s dressed in a gray dress shirt with the sleeves rolled up and denims. “When an actor plays a cop or a doctor he’s playing something so different from them. This is not so different. These guys are creative, but they also have to sell their souls a bit. …”

The last “civilian” job McCormack had was in a men’s store. That was 23 years ago. Even so, his climb was slow. “I always dreamed locally when I was in Toronto. I just wanted to have a theater career. A lot of people stay there and manage to have a perfectly nice life,” he says.

“I dreamed as big as I dared to dream, achieved it, and then dreamed a little bit bigger.”

He tried out for several pilots, but nothing came of them. Then he auditioned for David Schwimmer’s role in “Friends,” and didn’t get that either. Finally, he landed a role on “Lonesome Dove” and fell in love with the assistant director, Janet Holden.

Meeting Janet changed his life, he says. “(It was) the moment I decided to propose to my wife. It wasn’t the wedding, it was walking out of the store with the ring in my pocket. That’s when the gypsy realized that he didn’t want to just be a gypsy forever. He wanted to have his cake and eat it, too. I want her and a life together, but I didn’t want that to ever stop me from going where I needed to go to pursue my dream. And luckily we got married in August ’97 and eight months later I was shooting the pilot for ‘Will & Grace.”‘

They have a son, Finnegan, who is 6. Becoming a father was a whole new role for McCormack. “As an actor you are a kid, that’s where you’re the most creative, it’s why we drive people crazy because we’re immature and completely self-focused and self-centered, the way kids are. The minute you have someone else you’re responsible for, that changes. And luckily that came at a (perfect) time. We were financially good, my hours were short. I truly could be part of his life for the first five years,” he says.

“Now I’m working long hours but he’s in kindergarten. He comes to the set now and sat and watched the same scene for eight takes. There’s a scene where I have to kiss this woman. I warned him and he said, ‘That’s gross.”‘


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.