Even huddled under an umbrella Debra Messing was impossible to miss as she left “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” the other week. There was the torrent of red hair. There was the explosive, infectious laugh.
“It was my first time on his show, so I was nervous,” said Ms. Messing, 47, making a dash for the black S.U.V. that would take her and her friend Ted Gibson, a celebrity hairstylist, to dinner at Sant Ambroeus on the Upper East Side, then to to her next TV appearance on “Watch What Happens Live” on Bravo.
“Colbert was riffing,” said Ms. Messing, who wore an ivory gown, cigarette pants and a metal belt. “That’s the sign of someone who’s a really great host. It was just awesome. He was free-floating, and I was with him.”
She paused to take a breath. “And I found out the most amazing thing: that he auditioned for the N.Y.U. graduate acting program that I went to, and he was accepted and didn’t go,” she said. “I try to think of him in Shakespeare class and in circus class. I was really good on the trapeze.”
Her giddiness was impressive to behold. “I’ve got all these little secrets,” she said. “In due time it will all come out.”
Mr. Gibson, who took a seat in the back of the S.U.V., seemed amazed that there was something about Ms. Messing that he didn’t yet know. “Debra’s my absolute favorite client,” he said with a grin. According to his website (where he calls himself “stylist to the stars”), other clients include Angelina Jolie, Anne Hathaway, Lupita Nyong’o, Tina Fey and Brie Larson.
Oh, please. “He says that about everybody,” she replied without missing a beat. It was a mobile talk show for the 15 minutes it took the S.U.V. to get to the restaurant with her the host; the dapper Mr. Gibson, her sidekick.
Ms. Messing, who was born in Brooklyn and grew up in Rhode Island (she was the state’s Junior Miss) graduated summa cum laude from Brandeis. Her father, she said, is prouder of that academic high-water mark than anything else she has done as an actress, including “Will & Grace,” “The Starter Wife” and the comedy-drama police procedural “The Mysteries of Laura,” which recently ended its second season.
This summer, Ms. Messing will be shooting ABC’s remake of “Dirty Dancing.” She is playing Baby’s mother.
“When I heard you were doing it, I screamed,” Mr. Gibson said.
Ms. Messing said: “It’s such an iconic movie and it’s very meaningful to me. I lost my mom two years ago, and I remember watching it with her. It’s kind of beautiful to be returning to it in the role of the mother, when the first time I watched it, I identified with Baby.”
The restaurant was mostly empty. None of the diners paid Ms. Messing any mind as she walked in with Mr. Gibson. The two sat side by side in a corner banquette, as Ms. Messing explained how Ms. Jolie brought them together. “I saw magazine covers of her that I liked and I called my publicist and said, ‘O.K., who does her?’ and they said, ‘Ted Gibson,’” Ms. Messing said.
That was a decade ago. The two have since developed a “Will and Grace”-like intimacy that incorporates lots of eye rolls and code words like “major” and “crazy.” They even predicted each other’s dinner: salmon.
“Now that I have food in my belly, I can feel the inklings of a food coma coming on,” Ms. Messing said. “And that’s deadly. What will probably happen — good thing this interview isn’t on video — is that by the end of dinner I’ll be leaning against the wall. I’ll be listing. That will be my new normal.”
The conversation turned to Lisa Rinna, one of the “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills,” who was going to be a guest with her on “Watch What Happens.” “You watch ‘Beverly Hills’?” she asked Mr. Gibson, who confessed to missing the whole last season. “Oh, you have let me down. You don’t know what you missed.”
“What have you been doing?” Ms. Messing demanded. “Working with Lupita? And Brie Larson? Oscar people? You can do that and still stay up to date with your DVR.”
The S.U.V. was waiting to take Ms. Messing to her Upper East Side apartment. She had to change into a different outfit and have Mr. Gibson redo her hair for “Watch What Happens.” She knew what was in store. “Andy Cohen,” she said, “is a little rascal.”