When most people think of Megan Mullally, the image of her spitting out sarcastic lines as the boozy, pill-popping, promiscuous Karen Walker on “Will & Grace” immediately comes to mind. But the Emmy Award-winning actress is much more well-rounded than that.
In fact, Mullally has starred on Broadway multiple times, in “Grease,” “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” and “Young Frankenstein,” and also sings in the musical groups Nancy and Beth (with Stephanie Hunt) and the Supreme Music Program, which has released three albums.
Mullally takes the stage Thursday night at the Parker Playhouse in Fort Lauderdale, where she’ll sing Broadway standards and classic songs accompanied by pianist Seth Rudetsky, who will add his own twisted humor to the show in between numbers. Mullally talked to Miami.com about the concert, the joy of portraying Karen, and her three favorite actors and singers.
Is it safe to say that people who know you only because of “Will & Grace” will be surprised by this show?
Yes, probably [laughs]. People are surprised by everything that I do that’s not “Will & Grace,” so that’s nothing new. First of all, I’ve never been to Florida, which is hilarious. So at this late juncture, I will be excited to experience it first-hand.
So what can we expect?
I’ll be performing with Seth Rudetsky, and we just started doing shows together the summer before last, but I’ve known Seth forever – we did the revival of “Grease” in like ’94. He’s really funny and has a sense of humor that’s very original, so he’s sort of a leader in that department, and so we would hang out a lot and screw around and make jokes.
What we do is come out and I sing a song, a big Broadway barn-burner, and then we sit down and he interviews me. And we’ve known each other for so long that he kind of knows where all the bodies are buried, so to speak. So he’ll get me in a lot of trouble, and then I’ll get up and sing another song, and then we’ll go back and talk some more.
So that’s kind of the format, and it works really well. We play a lot of great songs, some Broadway, a couple of standards, some funny songs and then some dirty blues. But people really like the interview part, because it’s very spontaneous – I never know what he’s gonna ask me about. And you get to learn a lot about some stuff that I’ve done in the past [laughs nervously]. But the only good stories are the ones that are sort of embarrassing.
Was theater your first love?
Yes, I would say that. I mean, I was in a ballet company when I was in high school, and I would consider that a form of theater. I’ve done quite a lot of theater, and I do love it. As a matter of fact, my husband [Nick Offerman] and I did a two-person play in Los Angeles this past spring called “Annapurna,” and that is moving off-Broadway this spring. So that’s kinda cool. And also I’m doing a one-night, fully staged, choreographed, costumed and wigged production of “Guys and Dolls” with Nathan Lane at Carnegie Hall on April 3. So I still do quite a bit of theater.
You seemed really at home playing Karen Walker on “Will & Grace.” How much of Karen is in you? Are you alike at all?
Not alike at all [laughs]. Yeah, I’m not really sure where that all came from – I mean, I know it came from the writers, but I would never have the nerve to do most of the things that Karen does. You know, Karen came from me and out of me, so there’s gotta be some part of me that’s similar, but I would try to not be as judgmental as Karen was. And many of her more dire traits I hope I don’t exhibit on a regular basis. But I love that character, and I feel like she exists on her own, somewhere in the ether, still going strong.
She must have been a blast to play.
I was so lucky to get to do that show for eight seasons and play that character. We were very spoiled with the writing and everything about it. Sometimes things just come together in a certain way, and that’s what happened there.
Are you good friends with the cast?
Oh yeah! I’m gonna do an episode of Sean [Hayes]’s show in February. And I talk to and see Eric [McCormack] quite a bit. Debra [Messing] I don’t really see as much – she lives in New York, but we’re friendly.
Who are three actors you really admire?
I was at the Golden Globes last night and I got to sit next to Helen Mirren for the entire show, so I’m gonna say Helen Mirren – she’s amazing, and I had so much fun. I’m gonna go with three women who were at the show last night. So let’s say Meryl Streep. And Diane Keaton: That was my favorite moment, when she sang [during her tribute to Woody Allen]. I thought it was beautiful, and touching and real and very sweet. And it took a lot of nerve, and it was really creative, and I just thought it was a beautiful moment. And she’s a good singer!
And who are three singers you love?
Nina Simone. Louis Armstrong. And Tom Waits.
Wow – old-school.
Yeah, I have some newer singers that I like, but you gotta go back and give it up to the originators.