Gary Baum Interview: ‘Will and Grace’ cinematographer
“It’s a seminal show for me,” exclaims cinematographer Gary Baum about “Will and Grace,” on which Baum has worked since the show’s inception. This year, Baum has earned his 11th Emmy nomination for Best Multi-Camera Cinematography. He has already won two Emmys in this category: in 2015 for “Mike and Molly,” and in 2018 for “Will and Grace.” In our exclusive video interview (watch above), Baum talks about his Emmy submission and his long association with director James Burrows.
Baum began working on “Will and Grace” as a camera operator before becoming director of photography in the final season of the series’s original run. When the show returned in 2016, Baum says the decision to come back was easy. “They asked if I wanted to shoot it and I go yes, of course,” he says. “How do you say no? It’s a family, a ‘Will and Grace’ family.”
Baum has submitted the final season’s 11th episode “Accidentally on Porpoise” to Emmy voters. The episode included locations that moved away from the more common sets that “Will and Grace” uses. This particular episode includes scenes in a church, a confessional and even a large dolphin tank. That tank, in particular, created its own set of challenges for Baum. “We had to pre-light everything,” he explains. “Once the tank was filled with water– and Debra [Messing]‘s in the tank and we have the animatronic porpoise– you can’t really stop to continue to light. You have to accept what you have and work around it.”
As both camera operator and cinematographer, Baum has worked closely with James Burrows, who directed every episode of the series. Baum praises Burrows’s natural ability as a director. “He instinctively will know if you have the shot or not,” says Baum. “For some reason it’s just innate nature for him.” However, Baum says there is a key difference in the way Burrows interacted with him after he took over as director of photography. “He’ll defer to me when we go out to a location,” he explains. “As an operator you don’t get that leeway.”