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Will & Grace just wrapped its very successful three-season revival toward the end of April, but star Debra Messing is already moving on from her unexpectedly extended time as Grace Adler. Messing is now heading to premium cable for a half-hour comedy called East Wing, which will have an unusual setting: the White House in the 1980s.
Debra Messing has now signed on to executive produce and star in East Wing, a new Starz comedy that will feature Messing as Hollis Carlisle, who's serving as the Social Secretary in the White House during Ronald Reagan's time as the president in the 1980s. Hollis is an esteemed hostess, and if all she had to do was plan, coordinate and execute social events for the president her life would be golden. But, she's dealing with some major roadblocks in the form of her rebellious kids, a husband who's threatened by her status, Nancy Reagan's Chief of Staff and her own intense social anxiety disorder.
East Wing is created and written by Ali Wentworth (Jerry Maguire, In Living Color), who based the story on her own mother's time as the White House Social Secretary while Reagan was the president. Wentworth will also appear in the show, alongside Debra Messing and Liz Tuccillo (Sex and the City, Divorce), and play Kelly Forbes, a stay at home mom who is Hollis's best friend, but also jealous of her success. In addition to Messing, the comedy will also be executive produced by Wentworth, Tuccillo, Molly Madden, and Howard Klein.
I have to admit, I can already see Debra Messing sauntering around the White House in some awesomely bad 1980s fashions as her Hollis plans parties, battles with other presidential staffers and then has to escape to a broom closet to get away from all the people. It helps that Messing just spent time on Will & Grace again, because it does sound like Hollis and Grace will have some things in common, albeit with some deeper and potentially more long-standing issues for this new character to deal with.
While there is sure to be some '80s glamour and political intrigue to the proceedings on East Wing, I'm most interested to see how someone with a social anxiety disorder so bad that it's described as "crippling" in the show synopsis ended up doing anything as people-centric as planning parties and the like for a major head of state. Not to mention how Hollis is going to deal with the constant pressures of the job while juggling so many personal dilemmas.
Of course, it helps that Ali Wentworth has the inside scoop from going through this experience with her own mother. Wentworth had a small part on the final season of Will & Grace, so I wouldn't be surprised if she and Debra Messing talked about her idea months ago and decided they'd be a good fit to partner on the project. And, Starz has high hopes for the show, with Christina Davis, the network's President of Original Programming saying:
The charm and relatability Debra brings to every character she inhabits will captivate audiences once again as she brings Hollis to life on the screen. This is a whip-smart comedy that despite its 1980’s set dressing, is a pointed commentary on politics and the politics of being a woman today that will be a valuable addition to our slate of premium programming by and for women. Debra, Ali and Liz will most definitely not be pulling any punches.