Camp and intoxicatingly funny – that was Sean Hayes back in the late 1990s when he played struggling actor Jack McFarlane in the hit show, Will & Grace. Then he disappeared. Debashine Thangevelo looks at why he’s been playing hide and seek with the limelight before returning to his comedic roots in M-Net Series Showcase’s Sean Saves the World...
I ALMOST fell off the couch when I glimpsed Sean Hayes while channel hopping last week. He was in the new comedy, Sean Saves the World, a fitting title, given that his character is often one drama away from catastrophe.
I have to say, not unlike his portrayal of his Will & Grace character, Jack McFarlane, the series that elevated his profile, he really hams it up as Sean, a divorced gay father raising his 14-year-old daughter.
Times have changed since the 1990s, especially with more celebrities coming out of the closet and writers mirroring the change in their scripts. The result is an influx of gay characters on TV.
Sometimes this gay phenomenon is depicted in a more amusing light, as in Modern Family and The New Normal and, at other times, the characters are more layered and powerful like Shay in Chicago Fire, Elijah in Girls, Cyrus in The Fixer or Nolan in Revenge.
With his Will & Grace co-stars having moved on – Eric McCormack fast-gaining popularity in his eccentric role in Perception, notwithstanding an array of movie roles and TV cameos; and Debra Messing trying to rekindle her popularity with The Starter Wife and Smash – I’m thrilled he’s back in front of the camera.
Although I do miss his banter as Jack with the deliciously bitchy Karen (Megan Mullally). Look, she may not be on that same scale of sassy in her other roles, but she is a hoot. Her short-lived talk show aside, Mullally has been popping up in Parks and Recreation, Happy Endings, 30 Rock and Up All Night – with, sadly, no notable footprints in film.
Back to Hayes. He may not have been flexing those acting muscles, but he hasn’t been dormant in the industry. After Will & Grace, he teamed up with friend Todd Milliner to launch Hazy Mills Productions.
And, believe it or not, he has been wearing the producer hat on Hot in Cleveland and Grimm – not forgetting his Broadway debut in the musical Promises, Promises and cameos on the big and small screens.
Of his latest exploit, created by Victor Fresco, he told thebacklot.com: “I think with my playing a gay dad, the gay part should be the fifth-most interesting thing about the character. It definitely doesn’t need to be focused on. So if it is groundbreaking for being extra funny, great. But there is no agenda other than to be funny.”
As for staying away to learn lines and sticking to time calls, he says: “I know a lot of friends and fans have been saying: ‘When are you coming back on TV?’ It is wonderful to hear.
“And then the network asked the same question. Like everything, it’s about timing, and so all those things just came in line.”
The 43-year-old says the show’s concept came about in a brain-storming session with Fresco (Better Off Ted, a contributor on My Name is Earl and Mad About You).
“We were tossing around ideas and landed on this one. I was like, ‘Yes, I’ve never seen that character on TV before, a single gay dad raising a family, or raising his daughter, actually’. To me, television is all about characters you haven’t seen.”
Like any family-oriented comedy, Sean’s world is infiltrated by colourful characters, from his overbearing mother to his demanding new boss to his opinionated but well-meaning BFF.
And while Hayes is mad about his comeback, the network, unfortunately, wasn’t as crazy about the comedy and pulled the plug on it. I guess some shows just can’t be saved by a recognisable face.
Oh, well, at least we get to sample that Jack McFarlane magnetism – albeit in a new role – for a bit!
Sean Saves the World airs on M-Net Series Showcase (DStv channel 113) on Tuesdays at 7.30pm.