The ''Three Stooges'' actor does double-time as co-founder of his production company Hazy Mills

By Dave Karger
April 13, 2012 at 04:00 AM EDT

Tell Sean Hayes that you assume he was offered the role of Larry in the big-screen adaptation of The Three Stooges (out April 13), and he’s happy to correct you. ”Look, I’m lucky to get a job anytime I can,” he says. ”I don’t play that ego game of ‘I made them chase me.’ No. We chase every job. I had to audition three or four times.”

Despite winning an Emmy during his eight-year stint as the lovably manic Jack McFarland on Will & Grace, Hayes, 41, has a remarkably realistic outlook on his place in Hollywood. ”I’m not an idiot; I know the fate of sitcom stars, especially when you play what people say is an iconic character,” he says. ”At some point you have to wake up and realize what is reality and what are possible dreams as opposed to unattainable dreams.” That’s why he founded the production company Hazy Mills with his college pal Todd Milliner. Together the pair have two TV series currently on the air: TV Land’s Hot in Cleveland and NBC’s Grimm. ”You cannot wait for the phone to ring,” Hayes says. ”If five minutes go by and I haven’t done something to accomplish something for Hazy Mills or my acting career, I panic.” Adds Milliner, ”We’re all about taking things that other people told us we couldn’t do. With Hot in Cleveland, we took a bunch of older ladies who nobody else would take a chance on. Or with Grimm we did a genre show when people said you couldn’t sell genre shows.”

Hayes has also found himself accepting acting jobs that are outside his comfort zone, namely the goofy, slapstick Stooges. ”I’m more of a fan of comedy that’s very surprising,” he says, pointing to his recent guest spots on Parks and Recreation as a snooty TV host and Portlandia as a bad-art salesman. ”If anything is shocking, I will laugh at that more than I will a fart joke, a dick joke, or a booger joke. But you have to consider your audience. [Three Stooges] is PG. It’s a live cartoon.”

Later this month he and Milliner will begin production on their latest series, the Hot in Cleveland spin-off The Soul Man, starring Cedric the Entertainer (it’ll debut on TV Land in June). Along with developing an as-yet-untitled Western for NBC, their wish list includes getting a feature film greenlit and producing a comeback series for Hayes. ”Now more than ever, you have to be self-generating,” he says. ”I need to be in control of my own life.”