Sean Hayes is one of those actors who does an amazing job at making us laugh both on and off screen. He’s provided giggles galore for over 20 years now on Will & Grace as one of the biggest and best sidekicks to ever appear on our television screens: Jack McFarland. The Chicago native has also excelled in other mediums like filling in for Ellen DeGeneres on her long-running talk show and earning a Tony nomination for his work in the 2010 play Promises, Promises.
He also had a pretty interesting upbringing before becoming the A-list star that he is today. Sean talked about that while sitting down with Seth Rudetsky on his podcast Back to School, where the Broadway mainstay interviews celebs on their high school experiences and how those continue to shape who they are today. Other big names he has interviewed so far include Ugly Betty alum Vanessa Williams and Michael Urie as well as the one and only Tina Fey.
One of the funnier moments discussed during the interview was how something went truly terrible for Sean while he worked backstage on a production of the classic musical Bye Bye Birdie.
Sean: There was a wheelchair, in the scene for the next scene. And there was a rope hanging from one of the battens, which holds the scenery. And I was controlling the batten machines to raise and lower them, we had a lot of flight space. It was a great theater. Anyway, so there was a rope hanging from one of the battens and it hooked onto the handle of the wheelchair.
Seth: On purpose or that was a mistake?
Sean: Mistake. Just hanging. And somebody left it by. So when I raised the scenery, it picked up the wheelchair, the rope and it raised it. And then the blankets sitting on the chair hung from the wheel of it. So it went batten, rope, wheelchair, blanket, and then the curtain came up and the first line was the girl was supposed to be in the wheelchair and it was something like, I can’t believe I can’t walk. I lost my leg and she’s just standing there. It was awful and I was crying. It was awful.
Seth: What were you laughing?
Sean: Uh, not then, Now, it’s hilarious. And so then that year at the Thespian Awards, they were giving away the Golden Crutch award.
Seth: Every year?
Sean: Every year. They’re giving away the Golden Crunch award to the clumsiest person of the year. And of course I got it for hanging the wheelchair and we sang “Who can hang a wheelchair? Hanging in midair. Hang it real high. So Ms. (name bleeped out) doesn’t care, Sean Hayes can, right. Anyway, so then I get up to get the Golden Crutch and Ms. (name bleeped out) standing there presented it to me. And of course I have this thing with physical comedy and tripping cause it’s so funny to me. I thought it’d be really funny if right before I go grab the Golden Crutch, I tripped when I grabbed it and I did and I knocked her in the face and her tooth came out. There was blood everywhere in front of everybody.
Seth: Oh my God.
Sean: I was like, do I talk? and she’s like freaking out holding her mouth. And, and, uh, it was awful. It was awful.
Another topic brought up was how coming out of the closet ultimately “saved” the Emmy-winning actor.
Sean: I find funny people and they bring joy into your life. And I think that’s what saved me that, and being gay saved me.
Seth: Wait a minute, saved you?
Sean: Yeah. Because I think it makes you, a survivor and it forces you to create coping mechanisms that otherwise you wouldn’t be able or forced to create.
Seth: I see. It helps you dealing, it helps you deal with hard things cause you’re constantly dealing with a hard thing.
Sean: That’s right.
The curtain is closing yet again for Sean, Eric McCormack, Debra Messing and Megan Mullally as the series finale of Will & Grace will air on Thursday, April 23. W&G was rebooted in the fall of 2017 after its first incarnation ended in 2006. Several guest stars have either returned or made their debut on the newer version of the hit NBC series including Jennifer Lopez, Molly Shannon and Ryan Phillippe.