"Will Truman has become so real for me, I actually worry about him,'' says Eric McCormack of the character who finally brought him worldwide fame after a decade in the acting wilderness.
The offer to play the lead role in NBC sitcom Will & Grace in 1998 couldn't have come at a better moment for the Canadian actor. Four years earlier he had landed the part of Clay Mosby on Western period series Lonesome Dove and moved to its location in Alberta, Canada. But after two series the programme was dropped and Eric had to start all over again.
"When I went back to LA, I discovered no one down there watched Lonesome Dove, or knew about it... so the tape I had to show people for the last two years of my life was me with a beard and long hair and a southern accent,'' he says. "Nothing about it sold me as who I really am, so I really had to start from scratch."
Born April 18, 1963, and raised by his homemaker mum Doris and financial analyst dad Keith in the Toronto suburb of Scarborough, Eric attended school with two other future stars, Mike Myers and David Furnish. He studied drama at both Ryerson University in Toronto and the Banff School of Fine Arts, Alberta, and began his career at the prestigious Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Ontario, performing across Canada. In the early Nineties the handsome actor appeared in dozens of series and made-for-TV movies, of which the most memorable was Lonesome Dove.
It was the part of neurotic gay lawyer Will Truman in Will & Grace that finally brought him industry recognition and considerable earning power. Starring opposite Debra Messing, who played straight interior designer Grace Adler, the actor was reportedly bringing home $400,000 an episode by the seventh season, as well as royalties from syndication. Eric also won five Golden Globe nominations for the role and in 2001 he brought home the Emmy for outstanding lead actor in a comedy series.
The cast also won an SAG award in 2001 and in both 2002 and 2003 the show known for its clever banter and double entendres earned more Emmy nominations than any other comedy series. Second in popularity only to Friends at the time, it enjoyed a huge fan following.
A talented singer as well as a versatile actor, Eric made use of a break in filming the series to appear as Professor Harold Hill in a 2001 Broadway revival of The Music Man. He also wrote and sang a song called Living With Grace for the 2004 Will & Grace soundtrack, which featured piano music by Barry Manilow, and has appeared in musical revues in aid of charity.
After eight seasons, Will & Grace ended in 2006 allowing Eric to throw himself into new and challenging projects. He described working three hours a day on set in front of a live audience as too comfortable and "seductive" a routine although of course it meant plenty of time with his young son Finnigan and his wife Janet Holden, an assistant director whom he married in 1997.
No sooner had he shot the last episode, than Eric jumped on a plane to New York to appear in Neil LaBute's play Some Girls. He also set up a production company, Big Cattle Productions, with partner Michael Forman. In 2007 he disappeared from the limelight to work on several projects ranging from The Andromeda Strain mini-series to sci-fi thriller Alien Trespass and big new TV drama Trust Me. In the latter he stars as Mason McGuire, an ad exec who is unexpectedly promoted to creative director. The series, set in a powerful agency in Chicago, also features his fellow Canuck Tom Cavanagh.