Debbie and Sharon: face-to-face


Debbie functions from the fifth chakra. She functions totally from the heart chakra. That's where she comes from and she's got a mouth on her. Before getting the role or even talking to the producers, I did this whole backstory on Debbie. I thought, "This is a woman who had gotten knocked up when she was very young. I think she wanted to go to beauty school. She had saved her money to go to beauty school to get her own beauty parlor, and that's why she's so outrageous." I assumed the father had deserted her so she had to start waiting tables. That's what she did and she just never left that post. I think she's been in that diner forever.
Debbie and Justin's relationship has grown as he's become a man. She honours that he's grown. She sort of helped to raise him that first year of his being out - with the permission of his mother, of course. That was nice. She got the permission from his mother to take in another that she boy she loved. I think that relationship will always stay. I think he will always have the gratitude of that first year, being out and being with her. He knows she's wacko, but no matter how old he gets, he still takes shit off her if she thinks he needs it. I am sure Melanie and Lindsay are going to rue the day they picked Michael as the father because Debbie comes with the dinner. You know she'll be over there with every piece of clothing she can make for the child. Can you imagine the awful things that she's going to sew for that little kid?
I love Jack. I think it's a real honor to have a man of his background on the show. My favourite scene was when they brought a dance instructor in and taught us the hustle. It was so free and so loving. We weren't dealing with Vic's illness or whatever Debbie would be going through with Michael. We were just having fun folding laundyry and "The Hustle" comes on the radio. It was like being brother and sister from years ago when life was simpler. I loved it because even when Michael came in and interruted us with the bad news that he had, I just kept doing the hustle. I was talking to Michael and dancing around the table while I'm talking to him. It was a fun, freedom scene.
It was huge for me when Debbie first got kissed. They took Peter MacNeill and me in for a sex meeting and they asked, "Would you like to try the kiss here?" And we were like, "No, we don't want to try it here!" But it was very exciting for me. I really respond to that moment of waiting and waiting and putting Horvath off, and then finally she lets him kiss her. Even though it's a show about the gay community, it's nice for Debbie to get a chance with somebody.
We were invited to the Museum of Television & Radio in Los Angeles for a panel on the show, and they opened it up to audience discussion. There was one guy in the audience who said, "I'm appalled at this show. I'm with someone who's HIV-positive and I'm disgusted by Debbie's response to Michael and Ben being together. Debbie of all people to treat him like that and not have the compassion." Everyone in the cast grabbed the mike and everyone wanted to talk. I waited until the end and I said, "May I speak for a moment ?" And they said, "Sure", and handed me the mike. I said, "Please understand, I know Debbie is everybody's champion, but this time her response is not fair. Michael is going with a man who is HIV-positive and going to be - excuse me - boinking her son, and all she sees is a killer. This man is going to kill her boy. 'If the rubber breaks, if my kid is infected, he may die. So, when it comes to my son, all bets are off.'" When it comes to Debbie's son, all bets are off. All this wonderful human being that she is, if she thinks his life is being threatened, she will kill anyone in his path.
Several times a week since I've started this show, men will come up to me and ask if they can be hugged or held. It's a real nice perk for me, because I'm not the one that people write to. They don't have any passion for Debbie or love affair with Debbie. But it's nice to have people come up who want to hold me or hug me or, more importantly, be held by me.
On a couple of occasions, two men - one in New York and one in Connecticut - just started sobbing in my arms. I could feel it as I was holding them because they were shaking. All I could think was "Damn, what has been done to this boy, that someone who plays this mother, if she holds him, he just dissolves?" I'm learning so much about how fragile we all are and what kindness like that can do. They don't understand that I'm getting a gift when they come and ask me to hug them. It validates that I'm doing my job.