Debra Messing talks about singing in the forthcoming ABC remake of Dirty Dancing and the beauty products she can't live without.
Imagine idolizing a film as a kid and then growing up to star it in. That’s exactly what happened to Debra Messing. The former Will & Grace star plays Marjorie Houseman, Baby's mom, in ABC’s upcoming remake of the 1987 hit film Dirty Dancing.
As we all eagerly await the announcement of the film’s release date, we caught up with Messing to get a little sneak peek of what viewers can expect. Find out why she thought the experience was like summer camp, what it felt like to sing again, and her beauty secrets for dealing with allergies while on set in North Carolina.
We read that Dirty Dancing was one of the reasons you became an actress. How did it feel to be playing a role in a film that made such a big impact on your life and career? DEBRA MESSING: It was surreal and emotional and gratifying. As a young girl watching that movie, for the first time, I saw a character on screen that I related to and felt perhaps I could be cast in as an actor. It gave fire to my dreams. I never imagined that I would have the opportunity to step into the world of a film that was so meaningful to me, decades later, in the role of Baby's mom. I loved every minute of it.
What did you do to prepare for the role? DM: Well, because I knew I was going to be singing, which I hadn’t done in years, I got back into singing lessons. I had forgotten how much I loved to sing. Also, I did research on the political and social dynamics between men and women in the ‘50s and early ‘60s. I bought the famous book, The Second Sex, which was really eye opening. It was a completely different time then and covered all the interactions within the family.
Tell us more about the singing. What was the experience like? DM: It was terrifying! But it was also heaven. My mother was a singer when she was a teenager and recorded albums. When I was her age, I imagined that I would be a triple threat. My dream was to spend my life in musicals on Broadway. To return to music and singing was like coming home. However, going into the studio was traumatic for me. I say that jokingly, but it really was shocking. The process of recording a song is very detailed and complicated, and of course I was nervous because I wanted to do my best on that day. I was really grateful for everyone’s patience and support, and I am excited with how my song came out.
What are some of the similarities and differences viewers can expect from the remake? DM: I think anyone that loved the original is going to be very happy with our version. It has the entire original soundtrack and it’s set again in the Catskills in the early 1960s. Because it’s a special event movie, the available time was longer than the original film. So, as a result, the relationships between the family members were filled out and expanded. In the original film, you don’t know much about Marjorie, Baby’s mom, but in this version you really get to know her. And you also find out what happened after the summer ended.
What was the dynamic like between you and all the cast members on set? DM: It felt like camp! The kids (I called them the kids) stayed in this musty old lodge that felt like a dorm. They were inseparable. Bruce and I quickly became friends, and when we all got together, it was very easy and playful and there was always easy laughing amongst us all. With the costumes and the music and the dancing, it really was very joyful.
You filmed in North Carolina, which must have been difficult with your allergies. How did you deal with that? DM: Of course, because my whole life I had to contend with serious allergies, my knee jerk reaction when I heard I was going to North Carolina (in the mountains) was ‘uh oh.’ I've been a longtime user of Zyrtec and it’s never let me down. I don’t know if I’ve been put in an environment with so many allergens since I started Zyrtec so I was a little nervous, and then relieved and psyched that my allergies were not an issue in any way. Plus, I love that I only have to take it once a day since it gives me 24-hour relief.
Do allergies affect your beauty routine at all? DM: Yes, I’m allergic to fragrances, specifically florals. I’m mindful about reading the ingredients of anything that I put on my face, body, or hair. I try and find things that are simple, organic, and pure. I’m also vigilant about making sure my make-up brushes are washed regularly.
What are your favorite long-lasting beauty products? DM: I like IT gel-pot eyeliners. They are waterproof and do not move. Literally, they stay on as long as you don’t wash it off. I just tried Kat Von D’s foundation during a press day and was really amazed at how long lasting it was. Obviously, it’s better not to have to continue to reapply especially around your eyes if you’re sensitive like I am. I think saline drops are one of the best inventions around. They always help revive my eyes when I’m tired, if I’ve been wearing make-up for a long time, or if my eyes get dry or itchy. I know it will wash out any allergens that might be in the air.