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Exclusive: Eric McCormack shares how 'Will & Grace' changed TV as he receives a special award and his new film premieres

The beloved star was honoured at the Whistler Film Festival

eric mccormack
Sarah Trumbley
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It’s been more than two decades since Canada's Eric McCormack officially packed up and moved to Hollywood. But the Toronto native, who now splits his time between L.A. and Vancouver – his "adopted hometown" –  is still Canadian to the core.

"I'm incredibly apologetic, which I'm sorry for," he jokes while describing the personality traits he inherited from his homeland. He also credits his kind-hearted nature to being Canadian. "I think that's just ingrained in us," he says with a smile.

Eric's patriotic pride also shines through as he talks about his new movie Drinkwater, which takes place in Penticton, B.C.

Eric McCormack and Daniel Doheny in 'Drinkwater'

Eric stars with Daniel Doheny in Drinkwater, which is set in Penticton, B.C. Photo: © Suitcase Charlie Films

"The whole thing is just so Canadian, it's great," he says of the upbeat coming-of-age comedy, which tells the story of an awkward teenager named Mike Drinkwater (Daniel Doheny), who struggles to fit in. Eric plays his quirky, hockey-loving father Hank, who lives in somewhat of a delusional world.

"I don't often get to play kind of a Will Ferrell, nutty part. And this had a taste of that," he says. "It was just something I couldn't say no to."

The movie premiered earlier this month during the Whistler Film Festival, where Eric was honoured with the annual Trailblazer Award – a celebration of the inspiring work he's done throughout his career. 

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In town to congratulate him on the award, HELLO! Canada chatted with the Emmy-winning actor and beloved Will & Grace star, 58, about his new film, his long-running career, and the wonderful impact playing an openly gay character in the late '90s had on the world. 

HELLO! Canada: Congratulations on being honoured with the Trailblazer Award, Eric! What does this kind of accolade mean to you?Eric McCormack: I was thinking about that yesterday, because I suddenly realized I didn't know. Obviously, the role of Will Truman blazed its own trail. And I've heard for 20 years all the good things that it did. But I didn't create the show, so I'd like to think that my particular trail was blazed just by how I went about it.

There were no other dreams for me, there was just acting. I've never wavered from it. I was 35 before Will & Grace came along. So, I'd like to think the trail I blazed was just for younger actors asking themselves, "How does it happen?" 

Well, for me, it didn't happen because I got discovered at 18. It happened because I worked really hard for a long time. And I still believe that's the best thing you can do in this business – to have a resume that you can look back on and be proud of and know that it wasn't happenstance. It was just nose to the grindstone. 

Eric McCormack with his Trailblazer Award

Eric was presented with his Trailblazer Award by George Stroumboulopoulos, who also chatted with him about his career at a special event at the Whistler Film Festival. Photo: © Whistler Film Festival

What was your initial reaction when you found out you'd be receiving this year's award?

I try not to take any award or honor for granted. I'm always excited to know that somebody is paying attention, and someone appreciates what I'm doing. And this is B.C. – I moved here 30 years ago from Toronto. So the fact that it happened here was really special.

Who in your life would you thank for helping you get to where you are today? There are a lot of obvious ones, like my parents, who were always supportive of me. I think as I got to the end of high school, they started to worry, like, "Oh no, he's really serious [about this acting thing]." So they went to my acting teacher at the time, a man named Mort, and they said, "We're concerned, he seems like he's really going to go for this.” And Mort said to them, "Don't stop him." And they didn't. [Smiles]

So I think of my parents, and I think of Mort. But in the end, it really comes down to my wife [Alberta-born Janet Holden]. We got married six months before Will & Grace came along, so she's been here for the whole ride. 

Eric McCormack and Janet Holden

Eric and Janet have been married since 1997. Photo: © Getty Images

Being awarded with something like this surely makes you look back on your career. What would you say is your proudest achievement?I think it has to be Will Truman. When we did the reboot… I realized how much I missed being that guy, and how much influence he had. I had heard it over the years, but the reboot made even more young men and women come up to me and say how much easier it made their lives to come out to their parents. It's a story I never tire of hearing. I'm so proud of it and I can't pretend there's something else that is bigger or more important to me. The time I spent as him and the effect that he's had as a character is my proudest. It's not something I would ever deny. 

Debra Messing, Sean Hayes and Eric McCormack

Eric's role as Will on Will & Grace was considered groundbreaking for LGBTQ+ representation in film and television. He's seen here with co-stars Debra Messing (Grace Adler) and Sean Hayes (Jack McFarland) in 2000. Photo: © Robert Gilberg/NBCU Photo Bank

Talk to us about your new movie Drinkwater, which also premiered at the Whistler Film Festival. What made you want to be a part of it? Well, it was a really funny script and after reading it, I said, "I have to talk to the director!" It's also shot in Penticton, which is where my wife grew up when she was a kid. Turns out the house that we shot in is across the street from where Janet's grandparents lived when she was a kid! So that was crazy. 

What do you love about representing Canada in the work you do? What I love about this movie is it's very, very Canadian, but without all the maple syrup jokes and the "eh" jokes. All the stuff that we allow the Americans to define us by, we don't do that. The Canadian stuff in the movie, I think Canadians will love laughing at more than the sort of the traditional laugh at ourselves stuff that we do. Certainly hockey is a big part of the movie, though. And yes, there's a Tim Hortons scene too. [Laughs]

Drinkwater will be available for virtual viewing until Dec. 31 

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