Eric McCormack's new character, Dr. Daniel Pierce, which he plays on the new TNT show Perception, is as different from Will Truman — his Will & Grace role that made him famous — as possible. For one thing, Dr. Pierce is a brilliant, albeit paranoid schizophrenic, neuroscience professor who helps the FBI understand criminal minds, whereas Will was a witty, aesthetically savvy lawyer. More important, though, Dr. Pierce doesn't seem to own a razor, while Will's face was always immaculately clean-shaven.
And that's kind of what Canadian-born Eric is going for in his new role: a chance to really show us his acting chops and become known as part of what he believes is an incredible show. In a recent interview, Eric explained he was bracing himself for critical negativity, worried he might face comments about Perception or his character not being original enough. It's an understandable anxiety, since his last post-Will & Grace attempt at TV — Trust Me, also for TNT, about men working at an ad agency — was cast aside as redundant, thanks to the monolithic Mad Men more than covering the advertising world on TV. Clearly Eric is eager to firmly establish himself in the public eye as someone well apart from Will Truman.
We don't envy Eric or the many other stars like him, whose huge television success often curses them with the difficulty of ever again being seen as something more than their popular TV characters. After their shows end, we often only see most of them again in unsuccessful follow-up TV attempts or a dearth of mediocre films. A lot of the time these actors ultimately seem to end up adjusting to their popularity demotion and appreciate having been loved for the time that they were.
However, Eric need not be entirely discouraged. There are some actors who were once in his position who have managed to overcome this curse and find continued success in other projects. Jennifer Aniston is perhaps the best example of this, who, unlike the rest of her comparatively low-lying castmates, has become one of the biggest movie stars in the world post-Friends (though Courteney Cox has done pretty well for herself, starring on the hit show Cougar Town). Neil Patrick Harris is another prime exception to this unfortunate rule, finding huge celebrity with How I Met Your Mother after everyone figured his best days (as child doctor Doogie Howser) were behind him. And for some encouragement that hits a little closer to home, Eric can look to his former Will & Grace co-star, Debra Messing, who now stars on the very popular TV show Smash, leaving no trace whatsoever of Grace Adler.
We'll be crossing our fingers for Eric McCormack as he navigates the unsteady waters of a significant career post-Will & Grace. Our feeling is that the more unkempt he keeps his Dr. Daniel Pierce looking, the easier it will be for us to forget the pristine Will Truman.
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