Debra Messing was born in Brooklyn in the United States. She attended Brandeis University where she majored in theater arts. Messing spent half of her junior year studying in a London program which featured dramatic arts teachers recruited from various distinguished institutions such as the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts, Cambridge University and Oxford University. Upon graduating summa cum laude from Brandeis, she was accepted into New York University's elite Graduate Acting Program and received her master of fine arts degree.
On television, Messing's first leading role was in the comedy Ned & Stacey from 1995-97. She appeared in guest spots on NYPD Blue and Seinfeld, as well as a leading role in the short-lived series Prey, before landing the role of Grace Adler in Will & Grace in 1998. During the series' successful eight-year run, Messing received 5 Emmy Award nominations (2000, '01, '02, '03, and '06), winning the Emmy in 2003 for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series. After Will & Grace ended in 2006, Messing went on to star as Molly Kagan in the USA mini-series The Starter Wife, for which she earned her sixth Emmy Award nomination. With the success of the mini-series, based on the best-selling novel by Gigi Levangie Grazer, Messing returned the following year for a 10-episode follow-up to The Starter Wife. From there, Messing starred in NBC's musical drama Smash for two seasons before its cancellation in 2013.