Committed to Being Out
By Jeffrey Epstein
While we have loved Tammy Lynn Michaels ever since she played bitchy Nicole Julien on Popular (not to mention her turn as a stalker on The L Word), many people know her solely as Mrs. Melissa Etheridge. Well, that's changing. After taking several months to be a fulltime mom to their kids, Michaels is back, playing yet another killer quirky role: Tess on the NBC comedy Committed. Tess, who lives across the hall from one of the main characters, plays the kind of nanny that would make Mary Poppins toss her tea and crumpets. We chatted with Michaels to get the details on the show, about being out, and about how Melissa is doing.
So how did this all come about? Last I heard, you were happy being a mom!
I am, I am'I was so happy taking care of my family. And then I had an agent who looked at me and said, 'You're too talented, that's a waste.' And then I said, 'Well, you know what, give me a year. Start sending me out again, but right now I want to be home doing all the chores and be a housewife.' And she didn't listen to me and she sent me a script a couple weeks later and said, 'You can do this in your sleep.' And I read it and I laughed out loud.
Were you nervous auditioning, given that at this point, everyone knew you were gay?
You want to know what I was thinking? Right before the screen test'a screen test is when 20 suits are sitting on desks, looking you over'I was sweating. I was getting ready for the audition walking up and down the NBC corridor and their walls are filled with Will & Grace, Will & Grace, Will & Grace. And I thought, NBC, don't you put the Will and the Grace on the air and then not hire somebody out. And I didn't say it but I thought, Let's see what happens. Let's see. Everybody said, and all the warnings I got said, 'Don't come out.' I guess it didn't affect the two women who hired me. And I'm sort of like riding the wave and going like, 'Whoa, what happened? I thought I wanted to take a year off!'
You tend to play women with an edge'or on the edge. Are you attracted to these roles or are these roles attracted to you?
We find each other. I don't think I've had a lot of low-key, mellow, or 'normal' women in my life. I've had a lot of colorful souls, right? So the more colorful characters are what attract me.
It's funny I remember interviewing you for Out maybe five years ago. I don't know if it's because of Melissa or maturity or coming out, but you're very eloquent, comfortable with yourself. You seem very different.
Life is different when you accept everything and everyone. Life is different when you stop hiding. But you know, I was kind of fractured. I was very compartmentalized: Who knows the truth? Who knows half the truth? And who knows none of the truth? And I found that the longer I was with Melissa and out, the more life fit me. Life wasn't too big anymore, not too overwhelming. My experience was that when I came out, all the darkness went away.