Will & Grace star Sean Hayes ‘doesn’t want to offend’ by playing a cis woman in his new comedy film

Sean Hayes as Susan, in Lazy Susan

Will & Grace star Sean Hayes has addressed playing a “spectacularly unmotivated cisgender woman” in his new film Lazy Susan. 

Known for his role as Jack McFarland on the NBC sitcom Will & Grace, Hayes wrote the screenplay for, and stars as the titular character in, the off-beat comedy Lazy Susan. 

The film follows the self-centred, middle-aged Susan as she attempts to turn her life around and change things for herself for the first time in her life.

Hayes told The Advocate that he wanted to be especially careful about how Susan was portrayed, adding that the film was not a “cross-dressing comedy”.

“I wouldn’t call it cross-dressing,” he said.

I wouldn’t call it transgender. I wouldn’t call it drag. I wouldn’t call it anything other than, she is a woman, you know? Because I don’t want to offend those people.

“I’ve never seen this before, and it may be out there. I’ve just never seen it where a [cisgender] man plays a [cisgender] woman.”

Addressing the recent discussion around reserving trans roles for trans actors, the Will & Grace star said: “I can see both sides.

“I can see embracing the idea that the reason people become actors is to practice the craft of creating characters, and as well, you also at the same time have to be sensitive to the fact that there are people left out of the mix of casting for sake of business, and that has to change.”

Sean Hayes

Sean Hayes wrote and stars in Lazy Susan. (Jesse Grant/Getty)

He added that he was “probably the wrong person to ask” when it came to trans actors, but he described reserving gay roles for gay actors as a “catch-22”.

“I think whoever’s right for the parts should get the role,” he said.

“But that said, and I hope you don’t end my quote there because I want to finish. That said, I think the decision-makers have to be open. Because it’s a catch-22, right?

“From a business standpoint, decision-makers, people who are writing the checks, want to make their money back. So they cast out of the fear and fear means you cast names, right? And if you work so hard your whole life to become a name, you should be considered.

“But at the same time, the flip side of that, the people who want to make a name for themselves aren’t going to ever be able to unless you give them a chance.

“The easiest answer would be whoever is right for the role should get the part. And the studios and networks and decision-makers should be open to seeing all people.”

Sean Hayes also addressed the coronavirus pandemic.

In his interview with The Advocate, Sean Hayes joked: “I kind of feel like I’ve been training my mind and body for quarantine my entire life.”

On a more serious note, he had a message for those struggling with self-isolation: “It’s a horrible, horrible time and a horrible situation.

“So we all have to be kind to our neighbours and help anybody that we can and do our parts as citizens… Stay strong. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it.

“And my God, you know, try to find the smallest joy in the simplest things now … even if it’s one phone call or a FaceTime.

“Try to focus on the people in your life right now and the love that’s there for you.”