As part of our cover story celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Screen Actors Guild, out this weekend, I got to talk to celebrities about their paths to becoming the stars they are today. All of them had funny or interesting stories about their humble beginnings, which you can read here. But one of my favorites was former Will & Grace star Megan Mullally: She was just so friendly, and even called me three times because I was having phone trouble. Most of my friends wouldn’t bother calling me three times, so imagine my surprise when a TV star was so patient.
Megan is a great storyteller. She shared with me that she was always singing and dancing around as a child, and announced to her parents when she was 8 that she wanted to be an actor “after a bout of making them sit on the couch while I stood on a stool and go-go danced.” She continued dancing all the way through her high school years, but when she was a high school senior realized she should branch out into acting. “ I was in a ballet company and did a lot of roles that required a lot of acting,” Mullally told me. “I couldn’t do as many pirouettes as some of the other dancers but I could act a little better.” She decided to focus on acting after she came off stage from a ballet about a circus, in which she played a tight rope walker who went crazy, and realized the only part she really liked was the scene when she got to act insane.
Mullally hit it big with Will & Grace, but before that she did a lot of voiceover work and was a waitress at a diner in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood. “I was horrible. I’d forget to turn in orders, take the wrong food to the wrong tables.” She’d been out of acting work for two years – she said she’d get so downcast about not working that she was considering enrolling in UCLA to study interior design — when she was cast in a episode of the old CBS drama Murder, She Wrote, which she said she was so excited about it was “like I’d gotten cast in a Scorsese film.”