“The president of the network called and said he wants you to wear these.”
You might know Debra Messing best as Grace Adler from Will & Grace, but we prefer to think of her as the ballsy activist and feminist she is in real life.
Last year, she absolutely annihilated the Trump administration in a powerful (and incredibly funny) speech at the GLAAD Media Awards. And, earlier this year, she shut down sexist reporters on the Golden Globes red carpet and called Time’s Up on Hollywood’s gender pay gap.
However, in a candid new interview, Messing has reminded us that she – like so many other actresses – did not always have the luxury of being able to speak out about the sexist, misogynistic and often straight-up abusive experiences she encountered early on in her career.
Indeed, when she landed her first sitcom role, she was ordered to “sex up” her image by male TV executives.
Appearing alongside Basic Instinct actress Sharon Stone in Variety’s Actors on Actors series, Messing revealed: “I had to wear fake boobs when I first started in Hollywood on my first sitcom.
“They gave me the cutlets, and I had just graduated from my Master’s from NYU and I was like, ‘I’m an actress,’ and they were like, ‘Here.’”
Messing went on to explain that she tried to shut down the request, and told her bosses that she would not be wearing the false breasts.
However, “they responded, ‘The president of the network called and said he wants you to wear those.’”
“I was in shock,” added Messing. “I was new to the industry and I just thought, ‘I can’t say no,’ you know?”
Sadly, this is not the only instance Messing has seen her body and physical appearance picked apart by TV bosses. She previously said that her first big film, 1995’s A Walk in the Clouds, was memorable for all the wrong reasons – claiming the director made a “power play” with an unnecessary nude scene and humiliated her with comments about her appearance.
Messing, who was 25 at the time, recalls a kissing scene with her co-star Keanu Reeves being interrupted by director Alfonso Arau, who reportedly “screamed ‘Cut’” and said, “How quickly can we get a plastic surgeon in here? Her nose is ruining my movie.”
“I was so confident coming out of graduate school with my masters in acting,” she continued. “I’d studied in London and I was so well equipped with skill sets, and then to walk on set and have that happen – I was reduced to an un-Hollywood nose.”
She adds: “I felt ugly, I felt like garbage.”
Thankfully, Messing is lucky enough to be in a position where she doesn’t have to put up with this kind of abusive behaviour anymore.
“Now, no-one comes at me with those things,” she said.
“I’m like, ‘I’m flat-chested, I love it.’”