Sean Hayes Puts Jack in the Box Once and For All

Written by | Entertainment, Screen, Stage

Sean Hayes as God

Photo by Jim Cox

Our conversation with Sean Hayes continues. Read part 1.

If you missed part one of the interview, you can read it here.

Playing God on Broadway is just the latest chapter in Sean Hayes’ post-Will & Grace career. As soon as the series signed off, Hayes got busy putting distance between himself and his most famous creation.

Even if he were never to be seen in public again, Sean Hayes has earned a place in television history for his portrayal of Jack McFarland, the gay manchild and bestie to Will Truman, played by Eric McCormack. Perhaps Hayes’ greatest TV triumph came in his unforgettable encounter with his idol, Cher:

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Will & Grace – Cher & Jack by salty26

Since the series ended in 2006, Hayes has spent time getting under the skins of several real-life funnymen – most notably Larry Fine, the Bozo-haired middleman of Three Stooges fame, and Jerry Lewis, who rose to stardom as the comic sidekick to ’50s heartthrob crooner Dean Martin.

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But even in the best performances there can be an instant when the actor behind the role peeks out. At one juncture in The Three Stooges, Hayes proudly pats his Larry Fine hair halo into place and explains his ‘do actually requires “a great deal of product.” No, Hayes says, that wasn’t him. That was very Larry.

“That’s absolutely something Larry would say,” the actor explains. “He was always playing with his hair. That was an incredibly huge challenge, which is the kind of thing I enjoy. I went to Billy West – who actually does a better Larry than I do – and did the voices for Ren & Stimpy. and he told me he based the voice of Stimpy on Larry Fine. He told me, “If you’re ever in a bind and want to find the place in your throat to do Larry, watch some clips of Ren & Stimpy.‘”

Playing Jerry Lewis – better known these days for his telethon work than for his zany comedies or partnership with Dean Martin – required another level of commitment entirely, he says.

“John Gray wrote a great script with Martin and Lewis, and again I like a challenge. I’m a stairs-instead-of-elevator kind of guy, and all these things are a ton of work. I didn’t want to contact Jerry ahead of time because it’s the story of two people, and I didn’t want to be swayed toward one point of view over another. Instead, I did as much research as I could, and I found myself at three o’clock in the morning working out routines of theirs that doesn’t exist in footage. And when it was all over, Jerry called me crying and said it touched him so. That was a huge victory, and since then, we’ve become friends, which I guess was meant to be, because so many times there’d be crew guys on Will & Grace who’d say, ‘God, you’re just like Jerry Lewis.'” You can see the conclusion of the made-for-TV movie on YouTube.

Hayes has also been busy behind the cameras and offstage. Not only does his name appear in the production credits of Hot in Cleveland, Grimm, The Soul Man, and Hollywood Game Night, but he often spends a bit of spare time making videos for the internet with his partner of 10 years, Scott Icenogle. Many of those are lip-syncing send-ups the pair have dubbed “Kitchen Sync.” Occasionally, though, Scott’s production genius will lead to something like the Star Wars spoof seen here:

Making videos with his husband (the pair wed in 2014) is just letting off steam, Hayes maintains.
“When you’re a creative person, you’re constantly looking for ways to get that out, he says. “If I have an hour, I’m wondering what I can do with it. Scotty came home one day and said, ‘Wanna make a video?’ I said, ‘What kind of video? . . . wink wink. He said, like the Jennifier Hudson Iggy Azalea song, and we had a ton of fun making it. Who cares if 50 people or 40 million are watching it? We just found something to have fun doing together. And he’s such a talented guy, he has 10 years of elevision production experience working for ABC, he has an enormous background in music and marketing, and we share a lot of the same joy in music, so it’s just pure joy. He’s the love of my life.”

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Last modified: July 26, 2019