Off Script: How Sean Hayes Survives Starring on Broadway While Producing TV in L.A. (Q&A)

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Sean Hayes

The sitcom star of 'Will & Grace' and producer of 'Hollywood Game Night' opts for cocktails and creativity to get him through his New York City run of 'An Act of God,' following Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Sean Hayes — known onscreen as a sitcom star and behind-the-scenes as one-half of Hazy Mills Productions (including NBC’s Hollywood Game Night and CNN’s upcoming History of Comedy) — has spent the bulk of this year dictating a new draft of the Ten Commandments in David Javerbaum’s play An Act of God. After playing Los Angeles and San Francisco, the Joe Mantello-directed comedy returns to Broadway a year after its premiere with Jim Parsons, running at the Booth Theatre through Sept. 4.

The Hollywood Reporter’s review says of Hayes, “[He] has no problem slipping into the white robes of the All Powerful, a role that requires comedic timing and attitude, attributes audiences associate with the actor since his days playing narcissist Jack McFarland on Will & Grace. Here, he offers a personable charm enabling him to cut to the quick during God’s more wrathful moments, then smooth things over with a smile.”

Hayes, 46 (and currently on vocal rest), goes Off Script and reveals his secrets for repeatedly mastering, essentially, a monologue on Broadway: calendars, cough drops, creativity, vodka-cranberry cocktails and rest (but not with a superfan).

What’s the best part about being inhabited by God onstage?

The best part about having God enter your body is that I didn’t have to snuggle with him afterwards.

Any initial apprehensions about taking on the role?

Besides the memorization of a 90-minute monologue? Yeah — everything. Like, what if I suck? What if I forget my lines? What if I’m not funny? What if I’m not serious? I never want to disappoint a paying audience. That’s a lot of pressure to withstand every day, but for some reason I thrive on that pressure. I love it and that’s why I do it.


Sean Hayes in 'An Act of God.' Photo credit: Jim Cox

You’re currently on vocal rest. How are you handling it?

My instinct is to be at 150 percent every single show, but one has to realize it’s impossible for any human to perform at that level, eight times a week for months on end. So you find your pocket of giving as much of yourself as you possibly can while making sure that you’re not damaging your vocal cords. Rest is the most important thing to any stage actor — and a vodka-cranberry on Sundays.

What have you given up to play this role?

I have to work remotely with my company Hazy Mills Productions [producing partner Todd Milliner runs the day-to-day], I don’t get to see my dog Buzz and I spend less time with my husband.

What time do you wake up on a show day?

I usually wake up around 4 or 5 a.m., then I go back to sleep around 9 and get up at 11-ish. It adds up to about seven or eight hours of sleep a night. I can’t help it; it’s my insane body clock, and my insane brain that never shuts off.

Do you eat dinner before or after a performance?

Ah, the most challenging decision of the day! It’s all about timing, isn’t it? Can’t have that acid reflux hit you in the middle of a show ... Zantac, anyone? It’s simple — I eat when I’m hungry, until two hours before a show.

 

It was so wonderful to see @therealjimparsons today at @actofgodbway. It was a real meeting of the Gods.

A photo posted by Sean Hayes (@theseanhayes) on

What’s something special in your dressing room?

Me.

Other than that, I have a show countdown on the wall that I rip off before each performance. As I write this, we have 71 shows left. It’s not because I don’t want to be there, I’m just a goal-oriented person and it keeps me focused.

Any pre-show rituals?

Right before I go on, I throw a Halls menthol cough drop in my mouth and leave it there. I don’t know if it clears my throat or not, but it sure feels like it.

What’s toughest section of the show to execute?

The entire eighth Commandment is difficult because it’s about Jesus, and the tone takes a slight turn. It’s sometimes difficult to maintain the audience’s attention at that point, so there’s a lot of extra energy I need to expel in order to propel the piece to the end.

What do you do on your day off in NYC?

I’ll try spending it with a friend, but otherwise, I’ll work. Something creative. I love this business and I love the people in it, so I enjoy creating during any down time I have.

Favorite backstage guest in any city?

Marty Short. Isn’t he everyone’s favorite guest?

Best stage-door reaction so far, in any city?

One woman was very insistent that I come and spend a few nights with her in her home in Vermont. Very insistent. I told her I have to work and that, oh yeah, I don’t know her. But it was very sweet.


Sean Hayes in 'An Act of God.' Photo credit: Jim Cox

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