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Debra Messing Interview: Searching

Best known as Grace Adler on NBC’s Will & Grace, Debra Messing knows how to play comedy.  Now she is showing she can also do drama in her latest film Searching. Told mostly from the point-of-view of smartphones and computer screens, the movie is a missing persons thriller. Messing plays Detective Rosemary Vick, who is trying to find a young woman who went missing at college. The detective must also deal with the girl’s father, who grows more desperate by the hour.

Screen Rant: First of all, congratulations on this film. I loved it.

Debra Messing: Oh, yes!

Screen Rant: So good.

Debra Messing: Thank you.

Screen Rant: This explores technology a lot, but it also at the heart of its story, it's about a parent that's fighting for his daughter, fighting for any child really. So, why did this story resonate with you?

Debra Messing: Well, first and foremost, I am a mother of a child.  And I immediately responded to the main story. Nothing could be more horrific than your child going missing.  So, I realized that even though the device that Aneesh created, that had never been done in the history of cinema, that I couldn't really connect with emotionally. But the story underneath it, that was a classic suspense thriller and that it was a very emotional story. And once I realized that if you took that device out, the story could stand on its own, then I felt like I felt comfortable about it.

Screen Rant: Yeah, it's crazy watching it in a theater. Mainly because it felt like living in an episode of Dateline and almost this voyeuristic kind of thing in a person's life. As an actress, this is a new element, having to, at times you're a camera operator as well. So how was it, how difficult was it staying in the scene and making sure that you hit all these beats by doing this? It's a lot different than stuff that you've done before.

Debra Messing: It was the hardest thing I've ever done, for sure. The thing that it makes me want to go to a set every day, is not knowing what that magic is going to be onstage between me and the person that I'm acting with. And that was taken away. All I had was an empty screen and his voice in my ear. And so, it literally was, I was an island and it required that I imagine everything. And that was uncomfortable. And you're right, I was a camera operator. When I was running through the hall, I literally was holding the phone with the GoPro on it, running. And so, I had to think about the angles for them. And also act the scene which was, very, very high stakes. And so, it felt like a lot of this whole film was kind of like that. And then of course my character has a whole other thing happening. So, trying to figure out how to do all of that at the same time, made it an unbelievable challenge and one that I am incredibly grateful to have been given the opportunity to slog through.

Screen Rant: Right. So, you play the detective in this piece. And as the audience, we're also uncovering the mystery as your character is as well. Part of, without giving spoilers away, is a big part of that as well. How much research did you do into that side of this?

Debra Messing: I played two years, a homicide detective, for two years on Mysteries of Laura and had done a lot of research into that.  And so, in terms of just the world of being a detective, how it affects family life, I had a good handle on that. I did research into the missing persons department, and specifically in California. And it was this just the statistics of how many kids under 17 go missing, how many are found, how many are runaways, how many remain cold cases forever. And that information was helpful for me to be a jumping off point.

MORE: John Cho Interview for Searching

Key Release Dates
  • Searching (2018) release date: Aug 24, 2018
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