EXCLUSIVE: Debra Messing Talks a Big Twitter Game (and That Feud With Susan Sarandon)

Getty Images

“I'm very late to twitter,” Debra Messing tells ET about joining the platform. She joined -- presumably for the same reason a number of others celebrities have in the past -- at the behest of “my network in order to help market the TV show I was doing.”

On February 23, 2012, three days after the third episode of NBC’s Smash aired, Messing made herself known on Twitter. “HELLO!! My very FIRST tweet! Any others you've seen were FAkES! So i thought I'd enter the 21st cent., but bear with me! I'm a newbie!” she wrote with seemingly exuberant glee. (This was before the rise in popularity of emojis, after all.)

“I was very hesitant, and now, I can't imagine not having it,” Messing says. In the four years since joining Twitter, the Will & Grace star has amassed 303,000 followers and built a social brand on spreading the truth. “I feel like it’s a great forum to correct the record,” she says. It’s also become her go-to source for news, especially after long days on set, and a way for her to stay “up to date with what’s happening politically.” 

Most importantly, it’s Messing who is in control of her account. She does not rely on hired help to tweet for her. “I don’t know if it’s because I’m a control freak, but I like to be in control of my voice and how I’m represented,” she says. “I like to have the opportunity to post things that perhaps might make people say something.”

While the actress does tweet her truth, so to speak, more often than not, most of her activity consists of retweets of other accounts. A compliment from a fan gets a celebratory share, often with an added emoji (her favorite are the core options) or shocked delight. Major headlines or news are often shared without comment. 

Messing rarely makes gaffes on Twitter, though she did hilariously shame a man for sending an unsolicited penis pic. "Someone sent me a DM of his very VERY large penis.... That's all," she wrote, before sharing a censored image of the unidentified man's penis. 

Recently, especially as the country was voting in the Democratic primaries, Messing has become more political on Twitter, engaging in debate with other users and advocating for her issues. Most notably, she and Susan Sarandon got into a feud that quickly became fodder for headlines. “The Susan Sarandon–Debra Messing Twitter War Is History in the Making,” a Vanity Fair article read, while Vulture posted, “The Future of Politics Is Susan Sarandon and Debra Messing Fighting on Twitter.”

Some background: On Monday, March 28, Sarandon appeared on MSNBC’s All In With Chris Hayes, during which she made her case for Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders and controversially implied the election of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump over would-be Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton would prove revolutionary. Unsatisfied with her remarks, Messing took to Twitter to share her grievances.

“Susan Sarandon muses tht Trump prezcy wud b better 4 the country thn Hillary.Wonder if she'd say that if she were poor,gay,Muslim or immgrnt,” Messing wrote on March 29, setting off a back-and-forth between the two stars that somehow dragged Kathy Najimy, Rosie O’Donnell and “Sally Fields” (Messing’s spelling) into it. 

“It’s a little crazy from both of their perspectives,” Billy Eichner told Backstage. “But it is amazing in this day and age, when everyone is walking on eggshells, these two women are at a place in their lives and in their careers and clearly in their political affiliations where they are just willing to go for each other’s throats.”

The feud ended as quickly as it started. “I did not intend or expect it to become anything the media would be interested in,” Messing says in retrospect. “But having said that, I think I think from my point of view, the politics was always at the forefront of conversation.”

“I answered her on Twitter, and I felt that that was enough,” Sarandon told the Los Angeles Times in April. “When it started evolving into a life of its own, there was no point.”

On Monday, both Sarandon and Messing were spotted during the first night of the Democratic National Convention where Hillary Clinton will formally accept the presidential nomination, but the two were not seen together. Messing tweeted delighted selfies from the audience, while Sarandon retweeted a GIF of herself looking miserable. The following day, Messing was one of Hollywood’s many stars to speak at the Convention, taking the stage to introduce a first responder and a victim from the 9/11 terror attack.

“I'm just someone with an opinion,” Messing says. “You may not agree with it and that's fine too, but I like having the platform.”