Charlie Reina, Debra Messing and Vincent Reina
Debra Messing has done sitcoms (Will & Grace) and dramas (the scarf-happy Smash), which is exactly why her upcoming series, NBC's The Mysteries of Laura, appealed to her.
"I didn't have to choose: 'Do I want to do a comedy or do I want to do a drama?'" she told reporters Sunday at the Television Critics Association fall previews. "It does feel like uncharted territory on network TV."
Based on the Mexican telenovela of the same name, The Mysteries of Laura follows Messing's character, a respected and successful homicide detective who must juggle her demanding career with her duties as a divorced single mom to rambunctious twin boys. "The show just tries to look behind the curtain a little bit," executive producer Jeff Rake said.
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Although Messing admitted it took time for her to become comfortable with a firearm — "I didn't feel as confident as I may have looked," she said — the Emmy winner also called it a "dream come true" to play a detective. "I have been an avid watcher of what was CourtTV and is now TruTV; live trials because I am fascinated by the judicial system. I am amazed by how extreme human nature can present itself. Life is more than interesting than art most of the time. In my downtime, I watch 48 Hours and Dateline and everything has to do with murder," she said. "I know there's something I should explore about that with my therapist."
But executive producers stressed that The Mysteries of Laura isn't just another crime procedural with vague hints to the crime-solver's personal life. The title is "a bit of a double entendre," Rake said, referring to not only the "closed-ended mysteries of the week" Laura will solve but also the mystery of how Laura balances it all and specifically "how in the world does she get it done."
Although that last question may sound like the premise of something on 1984 fall TV schedule (Kate & Allie, holler!), Messing is optimistic that the high number of working mothers and specifically working single mothers will make the show relatable to viewers. "There is something incredibly universal about the predicament and the thing that interested me was the specificity of her personal life and the specificity of the job she had to have," Messing said. "I never felt like we were creating a new wheel in terms of ... a woman can work and be a mother at the same time. If anything, the balance of the tone of the drama and the comedy that is going to be the newest adventure and the newest challenge because that we haven't seen on network TV before.
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"The thing that's challenging is finding the funny in the drama and finding the drama in the funny in order to maintain one consistent tone so that it all exists in the same world," Messing continued.
Part of that, executive producer McG said, is Laura's ability to use her apply her skills as a mother to her job. "Criminals are like kids and she applies that intelligence and that knowledge of that human condition" to her job, he said.
However, it sounds like Laura's biggest obstacles may not be the murderers she has to apprehend week in and week out, but her two young boys. "It's just as extreme chaos as you can get," Messing said. "As a mother, I relate to it. I relate to coming home after a long day of work and thinking, 'OK, now I can exhale,' and then things are much more insane at home than they were at work."
Don't believe them? Josh Lucas, who plays Laura's ex-husband Jake, teased a few choice upcoming scenes featuring his two TV children. "Imagine being 5 years old and being told 'OK, today you're going to pee on each other,'" he said with a laugh. And that's nothing compared to a scene in the pilot where one of the boys throws up on his father. "Kids do this. This is what five-year-old boys do," Lucas said with a laugh. "It's not that horrible. It's actually kind of hilarious."
The Mysteries of Laura premieres on Wednesday, Sept. 24 at 8/7c on NBC.