Debra Messing's Smashing New York Return
Blazer ($3,100) and leotard ($985), Gucci. 725 Fifth Ave., 212-826-2600. Pants, Rachel Zoe ($295). Intermix, 98 Prince St., 212-966-5303. Pyramid earrings, Yael Sonia (price on request). 922 Madison Ave., 212-472-6488. Serpente Tubogas watch, Bulgari ($24,100). 730 Fifth Ave., 212-315-9000. Cocktail ring, Roberto Coin ($4,200). Saks Fifth Avenue, 611 Fifth Ave., 212-753-4000. Handcuff ring, Jack Vartanian ($1,100). 996 Madison Ave., 212-988-2881
|Demi-sheer blouse, Wes Gordon ($850). Bergdorf Goodman, 754 Fifth Ave., 212-872-8700. Pleated silk pants, Rag & Bone ($450). Intermix, 98 Prince St., 212-966-5303. Spinning top line earrings, Yael Sonia (price on request). 922 Madison Ave., 212-472-6488. Shoes, Jimmy Choo ($1,150). Intermix, SEE ABOVE|
MK: We went twice.
DM: It blew my mind.
MK: I saw it in Washington; we flew to DC, and Bernadette said, “What are you doing here?” And I said, “I came to see you. Who could miss this?” Have you seen Venus in Fur?
MK: Go see it. Nina Arianda shoots across the stage and blows your mind. She’s a broad, a real dame, like a Barbara Stanwyck.
DM: We saw Billy Elliot for the second time, before it closed.
MK: I saw it three times.
DM: My son can sing it with the accent: “Electrici-taaay.”
MK: That’s amazing. Why do you feel, with everything that’s happening in your life, that this new project is perfect for you?
DM: Partly because it feels like I’m returning to my first love. I’m returning to authenticity and the purity of the theater, the thing that made me want to be an actress and feel like I had no choice. To be able to enter this world again, in a way it’s strangely comforting. To be in New York; we’ve been trying to get back to New York for so long…
MK: You’re an East Coast girl.
DM: And now we’re in a place in which New York is shooting more and more shows, thank God. Every time a new show comes along, it’s like it’s a new chapter in my life, and I try to just embrace that.
MK: I always tell people, in fashion it’s crazy, we have no choice but to reinvent four times a year. I can’t say, wear last year’s clothes, I’m taking a break.
DM: [points to her shearling coat on a nearby chair] Hey, I have something of yours from 10 years ago sitting right over there.
MK: The first time you wore Michael Kors, it was a little striped jersey crop top in the [Will & Grace] promo that Patrick Demarchelier shot. And I met you quickly for a second up in Patrick’s office; I think you stopped up when his place was over in Chelsea, and you took the picture. But we really met [in 2002] when you hosted [the VH1/Vogue Fashion Awards].
DM: We met, and I was wearing your chocolate suede pants with the jacket.
MK: You talk like a fashion person because you use your hands to describe the jacket, which is what all fashion people do. But I also remember, after we met, you wore a jersey dress of ours to the Emmys that had no beads, no stuff, really plunging, laced up the front, very ’70s, which I think is so you, super-sexy ’70s. I always think you would have been the full matte-jersey disco girl, on the sofa at 54.
DM: That was the first time I was nominated.
MK: I loved that you so automatically knew what worked for you. It wasn’t the traditional gown that someone would wear on the red carpet.
DM: I know myself, but you’re still teaching me who I am. The last Emmys I went to, when I wore the red dress. Do you remember that fitting? I came in, and it was a ball on the floor. I came in with a directive: simple, simple, simple. And there’s this cherry-red, sequined-jersey thing, full glamour, and I was like, There’s Las Vegas, right there on the floor.
MK: I said, “Put that on,” and you didn’t want to go there at first.
DM: I was like, I can’t pull that off. I’m not cool enough.
MK: You needed a push, but the minute you put it on, you knew yourself well enough to say, “This is it.” A lot of women don’t.
DM: That’s sad.
MK: A lot of actresses take an endless amount of time—it’s labored ridiculousness— when they’re getting ready for an event. But you’re not really that. You might need a push, but then it’s, this is it, I’m ready, I’m going.
DM: I know what I want to wear, and I commit to it in advance.
MK: You’re not one of these people who is deciding two minutes before the car comes.
DM: Are you kidding? I’m so neurotic as it is. This whole thing about actresses having two or three gowns, and they have it all lined up…
MK: With the shoes and the jewelry…
DM: And it’s, I’ll see how I feel in the morning? I don’t know how I’m going to feel in the morning except nervous. The first thing I do each time is think, How do I want to feel this time? What aspect of Debra do I want to show? And from that I narrow it down, I find the dress, and then it’s about the accessories. I’m such a jewelry-crazed woman.
MK: I love having you at our show; when I walk out at the end, it’s so great to see you. Fashion people sit through a zillion shows, and they look like [imitates a bored face]. And you’re clapping and you have such joy. But at this point in your life, day to day, do you think about clothes?
DM: It’s a fun, special-occasion thing. If I’m going out to a charity event or hosting something, or even a personal night that’s special, I want to be fabulous. And I relax often by looking at images from fashion. It’s inspiring to me, and then it’s also wearable art. On those days when I have the excuse to put in a lot of time to play, I go for it.
MK: I always tell everyone, my job is to take a confident person and make her even more confident, and take an insecure person and make her confident. But confidence is knowing what works and what you like and who you want to be. When you said, “Which part of me do I want to show, or what do I want to say?” That’s what clothes do. It says so much about you. And you can have different moods. Do you have anything else on the horizon, or is your plate just full?
DM: No, this is everything right now. I’ve gone all in on this one. My temperament is not suited well for what I do for a living. I don’t like change…
MK: We’re Leos, we like what we like.
DM: We do not like change. So the move was really traumatic. I’m still unpacking boxes, still going to the school, to all the meetings…
MK: Wait, I have to ask you the ultimate New York question! School…
DM: It nearly killed me.
MK: It’s war out there, New York schools.
DM: Thank god my son is absolutely brilliant. They were asking me about ERB’s, and I was like, What’s an ERB? And they were like, “You haven’t been having him practice for the last year?”
MK: Debra, in New York three-year-olds speak Mandarin.
DM: They have that at his school.
MK: Of course they do. And then in New York the other crazy thing is, what do you wear to school? Because if you’re too dressed up, the other mothers don’t like you, and if you’re too dressed down, you didn’t make any effort.
DM: I can’t be bothered with that. It’s the Christmas assembly, and Roman’s singing in the chorus, and I’m in sweatpants with a scrunchie in my hair because I’m going to go into makeup and hair, but I’m there clapping for my kid.
MK: She’s a juggler. Alright, so now we’re going to get a little Proust-y. Quick responses. What’s your life motto?
DM: [exhales, then laughs] That was it. Breathe. [Thinks for a moment] Begin again.
MK: I like that. I’ll get you a needlepoint pillow.
DM: Please don’t.
MK: What’s your biggest fear?
DM: Disappointing people.
MK: Earliest memory?
DM: Singing, dancing, holding onto a corner table as a little, little girl with Broadway musicals blaring in the background. I think it might have been Funny Girl.
MK: What’s your favorite word?
MK: What’s your best fashion moment?
DM: I think it was that black dress from the Emmys because it was so consequential; I felt so comfortable and so beautiful. It was absolutely the perfect dress for me for that event. To me, it was a home run.
MK: Fabulous. I liked being part of your moment.
photography by brian bowen smith; Styling by Julie Matos for Ford Artists, NYC; Hair by Ted Gibson at TedGibsonBeauty.com; Makeup by Gita Bass for Exclusive Artists/Chanel; Manicure by Deborah Lippmann for deborahlippmann.com
Cover shoot: May/June 2014 issue of Gotham magazine.