Sean Patrick Hayes (born June 26, 1970) is an American actor, comedian, and producer. He is best known for his role as Jack McFarland on the NBC sitcom Will & Grace, for which he won an Emmy Award, four SAG Awards, and one American Comedy Award, and earned six Golden Globe nominations.
Hayes was born in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, the son of Mary, the director of a non-profit food bank, and Ronald Hayes, a lithographer. He is of Irish descent and was raised as a Roman Catholic. His father left when Hayes was five years old, and he and his siblings were raised by their mother. After graduating from Glenbard West High School, Hayes attended Illinois State University, where he studied piano performance and conducting with a special focus on the music of Mozart. He left before graduating.
Hayes worked as a classical pianist, and served as a music director at the Pheasant Run Theater in St. Charles, Illinois. He also composed original music for a production of Antigone at the Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago. He moved to Los Angeles in 1995, where he found work as a stand-up comedian and actor on stage and television, including a 1998 commercial for Doritos which aired during Super Bowl XXXII.
As a teenager, Hayes was an extra in the film Lucas (1986), which was filmed at his high school. He made his professional debut in the independent film Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss (1998), which brought him wide attention and caught the attention of executives who cast him as Jack McFarland, a flamboyantly gay and frequently unemployed actor, in the NBC comedy series Will & Grace. The show became a long-running hit and Hayes' performance earned him seven consecutive Emmy Award nominations as Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series. He won the award for his first nomination. He was also nominated for six Golden Globe Awards for his performance.
Hayes also made film appearances in Cats & Dogs (2001), as Jerry Lewis in Martin and Lewis (2002), Wayne in Pieces of April (2003), The Cat in the Hat (2003), and Win a Date With Tad Hamilton! (2004). He was also the voice of Brain in the 2008 film Igor, and he has guest starred in television shows such as Scrubs and 30 Rock. In 2005, he was executive producer for Bravo's Situation: Comedy, a reality television series about sitcoms. He also executive produced The Sperm Donor and Stephen's Life, the two winning scripts that were chosen by NBC. He guest-starred in 2006 in the Adult Swim cameo-filled show Tom Goes to the Mayor. Hayes has created his own production company, Hazy Mills Productions, with Todd Milliner, his producing partner from college.
Hayes appeared as Matthew/Thomas in the film The Bucket List (2007). On July 5, 2008, he made his New York stage debut as Mr. Applegate/Devil in New York City Center's Encores! production of Damn Yankees. He also appeared as Mr. Hank Hummerfloob and the voice of "The Fish" in The Cat in the Hat. In a 2008 New York Times interview, Hayes talked about a television project, BiCoastal, about "a guy with a wife and kids in California and a boyfriend in New York" for Showtime. He made his Broadway debut in the April 2010 Broadway revival of the musical Promises, Promises. He received a nomination for the Drama League Award for Distinguished Performance and was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical.
Hayes was host of the 64th Annual Tony Awards on June 13, 2010 on CBS. In 2010, he reprised the role of Mr. Tinkles, the evil white Persian cat, in Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore. On November 15, 2010, he appeared in a satirical PSA for the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. He played Larry Fine in the film The Three Stooges (2012). He is co-executive producer of the TV Land original comedy series Hot in Cleveland, which premiered in June 2010. He is also a co-executive producer of the NBC series Grimm, as well as creator and executive producer on another NBC series, Hollywood Game Night.
Aware that his role in Will & Grace "wouldn't go on forever," Hayes teamed up with his friend Todd Milliner in 2004 to create the television production company Hazy Mills Productions. The company has produced multiple American television series, including Hot in Cleveland, Grimm, The Soul Man, Hollywood Game Night, and Sean Saves the World.
Hayes refused to discuss his sexual orientation for many years, saying he believed that audiences would therefore be more open-minded about his characters. In a 2010 interview with The Advocate, he appeared to imply that he is gay, stating, "Really? You're gonna shoot the gay guy down? I never have had a problem saying who I am. I am who I am." He also indicated that he was in a relationship. He states that he feels like he has "contributed monumentally to the success of the gay movement in America, and if anyone wants to argue that, I'm open to it." He received an honorary PhD from Illinois State University in February 2013.