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Victoria Film Fest: Eric McCormack gets chatty in Victoria

During a special event at the Victoria Film Festival on Saturday, Eric McCormack will sit with film critic Richard Crouse and answer questions lobbed his way.
Will & Grace star Eric McCormack will chat with film critic Richard Crouse on stage at The Vic Theatre Saturday as part of the Victoria Film Festival. CHRIS YOUNG, CANADIAN PRESS

In Conversation With Eric McCormack

Where: The Vic Theatre, 808 Douglas St.

When: Saturday, 2:45 p.m.

Tickets: $33.45 from

Eric McCormack has been to Victoria several times, including once to shoot scenes for an indie film, Here’s to Life, in 1999.

He is returning this weekend for something much more public: An hour-long special event at the Victoria Film Festival on Saturday, during which he will sit with film critic Richard Crouse and answer questions lobbed his way.

And he fully expects some of those to involve Will & Grace, one of the top situational comedies in TV history.

“I don’t live in the past and I’m always looking forward to what the next challenge will be,” McCormack, 60, said during an interview from his home in Los Angeles. “But when you have a couple of shows — Will & Grace, Travelers — that people come up and talk to you about, it gives you a chance to realize that you put some good into the world.”

The Toronto-born actor, who over a six-year period earned four lead actor Emmy Award nominations for his turn on the NBC sitcom (beating out the likes of Ray Romano and Kelsey Grammer for the award in 2001), is looking forward to the change of pace. The acting world rarely gives him the opportunity to sit and smell the flowers, despite all that he has accomplished over his 35-year career in front of the camera.

He was trained as a stage actor, but his biggest successes have come on the small screen. He starred in three seasons of TNT’s Perception (2012-15) and three seasons of Netflix’s Travelers (2016-18), between myriad other projects. However, his focus has been on theatre in recent years, to McCormack’s delight.

“I’m grateful for the various — and I do mean various — opportunities,” he said. “I’ve been lucky to have a real variety of roles, back and forth between the stage and television.”

Though he did not make his Broadway debut until 2001, in a revival of Gore Vidal’s The Best Man, he has a long association with Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, Ontario, where he spent five seasons as a young actor during the 1980s. After appearing in Tony-nominated productions of Neil LaBute’s Some Girl(s) in 2006 and Meredith Wilson’s The Music Man in 2012, he returned to high-profile theatre last year, with his performance on Broadway in The Cottage, directed by Jason Alexander of Seinfeld fame.

As he preps for his appearance Saturday in Victoria, McCormack said he has been thinking about his journey in recent weeks, and came to the realization that some of his success is due to his citizenship. Being a Canadian in a U.S.-based industry forced him to work hard at his craft, he said. “I didn’t come down here and live in a house with a bunch of other Canadians. I was very much on my own. And it took time.”

He’s currently co-hosting Just Jack & Will, a “re-watch” podcast with former Will & Grace co-star Sean Hayes. It was designed to give fans a backstage look at specific episodes of the popular sitcom, which ran from 1998 until 2006 and 2017 to 2020, but has also provided McCormack and Hayes with the opportunity to continue their creative relationship.

“It’s a memory of where I was as an actor,” he said, comparing the podcast to watching home movies. “I start to see choices [in my acting] that were better or richer or funnier than the season before. I think about it in terms of progress and not just being sentimental.”

On-demand programming has changed the film and television worlds in recent years, with contemporary audiences discovering long-dormant series’ such as The Office, Suits, and Friends on their own accord. Despite its pioneering premise, with two openly gay principal characters, Will & Grace has yet to enjoy a throwback boom in viewership, McCormack said.

“I’m grateful for what we do get, but I also feel that when people start talking about the ’90s and Friends or Seinfeld, we sometimes get left out of the conversation.”

He has a theory as to why the highest-rated sitcom among young adults from 2001 to 2005 has unfairly suffered by comparison. “By Season Four, the network was really excited about how many guest stars we could have on,” he said. “It became a little like The Love Boat, and though we had respected names and were doing big numbers, somehow by the end of the run the guest stars were a bit of shark-jumping. People went, “OK, we get it.’ Something got a little soured.”

McCormack said the Victoria Film Festival let him select a film from his past to screen following his appearance on Saturday, and he decided upon Free Enterprise, a quirky Canadian comedy co-starring Star Trek’s William Shatner. The film is a light-hearted lark, and though it has its detractors, McCormack thought it was overdue for a revisit, if only for selfish reasons.

“Look, I’ve made about 15 movies, and you’ve never heard of any of them. That’s just not what happened in my career. Free Enterprise may not hold up, but it was interesting to me as it was happening — literally — at the time Will & Grace was being hatched. I’d gotten the role of Will, but we didn’t even have a Grace yet. It was an amazing time as I was about to emerge in this next phase of my life. Free Enterprise has a lot of great memories for me.”

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