Debra Messing explains how she talks to her son, 18, about abortion rights after Roe v. Wade was overturned

·4-min read
'13: The Musical' star Debra Messing is opening up about how she holds space with her teenage son about important topics that impact women. (Photo: Getty; designed by Quinn Lemmers)
"13: The Musical" star Debra Messing is opening up about how she holds space with her teenage son about important topics that impact women. (Photo: Getty; designed by Quinn Lemmers)

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13: The Musical star Debra Messing, 53, has routinely used her platform to speak out on issues she cares about — such as the recent overturning of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark ruling that legalized abortion nationwide.

As the mother of an 18-year-old son, Roman, Messing says it's never been more important to educate the next generation about the importance of using their voices to fight for human rights around the world.

"As a parent, all we want is to keep our child safe," the Will & Grace alum tells Yahoo Life. "With the overturning [of Roe v. Wade], all of [my son's] friends, they are less safe now. They don't have the rights that I had, which is just unimaginable to me. So I do think, as a mother, it's important to talk about how long the fight was to get abortion passed — how long we've had it as a right and how important it is to health care. It is health care."

Messing describes the overturning of Roe v. Wade as a "catastrophic" event that's further shaped conversations she has about abortion rights with Roman — which, she says, are rooted in "respect for all humans and human boundaries."

Given that her son is of voting age, those conversations now include the upcoming elections.

"You have to talk about the impact of voting because that's our power," she explains. "The only way we could turn this around, and it's not going to be quick, is to elect people who support the autonomy of women and the access to health care everywhere."

Indeed, Messing is bringing those motherly tactics to her latest role in 13: The Musical as Jessica Goldman, the mother of the film's central character Evan, a New York City teenager who moves to small-town Indiana with his mom following his parents’ divorce.

The musical film, premiering Friday on Netflix, navigates Evan as he prepares for his upcoming bar mitzvah, which Messing calls the "Jewish Super Bowl," in the midst of navigating complicated social circles at a new school in a new town.

Like her character, Messing is the mother of an only son, and a divorcée. (She finalized her divorce with screenwriter Daniel Zelman, Roman's father, in 2016.) That experience, she says, helped give her unique insights into the life of a newly single mom who wants the world for her child.

"I grew up next to a farm and moved to New York City and had a family, and got divorced. Just like Jessica did," Messing explains. "I did have the same challenge of, 'OK, I'm a single mom now and I'm working.' This is a very hard transition for any child to go through, when their parents divorce."

Though the actress hadn't seen the musical when it was on Broadway from 2008-2009, she admits she's been a Broadway fan her entire life. "My mother says that I was singing before I could walk," she says.

Music played an important role in her own bat mitzvah — but not in the way you think.

"I was in Rhode Island. It was a very modest occasion," says Messing, who one of only three Jewish kids in her hometown. "The big thing was at the reception, when my father's best friend dressed up as Elvis."

For her son's bar mitzvah, while it wasn't a "traditional one," she says he was able to work one-on-one with a rabbi for a year. "Every week they would get together, and it was a discussion about ethics," she says, which included "all the lessons in the Bible, and being a good human."

Messing says that the film — a coming of age tale about finding love, community and understanding against the odds — is a chance for parents and their children to have open discussions about what it's like to feel different. For her, it was a role that came in the right place at the right time.

"When I was offered the part, I was like, I need this," she says. "And I think other people need it, too."

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