Out actor Sean Hayes on Monday expressed regret over not coming out sooner.

Hayes, 46, won an Emmy Award and four SAG Awards for his portrayal of Jack McFarland on the NBC comedy Will & Grace. The show was the first prime time network sitcom to feature a gay lead (Eric McCormack's uptight gay lawyer Will) and has been credited for increasing acceptance of LGBT rights. Despite playing a gay character on television, Hayes did not publicly come out until 2010, four years after Will & Grace ended its run.

On Monday, The Legacy Awards, which benefit the Outfest UCLA Archives Legacy Project, honored Hayes with its Trailblazer Award.

“I was a young closeted actor having his first taste of a little success and unfortunately, in my mind, my lucky break was inextricably tied to me thinking that I had to stay in the closet in order to keep moving forward,” Hayes said in accepting his award.

“When it comes to night’s like tonight and honors like this, I’m consumed with what I didn’t do.”

“I know I should’ve come out sooner and I’m sorry for that. Especially when I think about the possibility that I might have made a difference in someone’s life. I would probably be able to sleep a lot better than I do if I had acted sooner, but such is life. We learn our lessons only when we are ready.”

“Today I stand before you as a proud gay man and I humbly accept this award on behalf of all of us,” Hayes added.