The cast and creators of NBC’s “Will & Grace” revival gathered for a panel discussion at Paleyfest on Saturday, March 17. Stars Eric McCormack, Debra Messing, Sean Hayes, and Megan Mullally were on hand, as were creators David Kohan and Max Mutchnick and director James Burrows, who has helmed every single episode of the series. The event was moderated by Dan Bucatinsky, who has guest-starred twice on the show (once in 2000 and once in 2018) as a persistent suitor Will can’t seem to get rid of. Listen to their entire 45-minute Q&A above.
Interest in the revival was first piqued by a nine-minute online reunion scene released in 2016 in support of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Mullally recalled that upon reading the script she emailed Mutchnick and asked, “Why can’t we just do the show again?” While the video didn’t end up winning the campaign for Clinton, it did go a long way toward fulfilling Mullally’s wishes.
The rest of the cast was excited to embody their iconic roles again as well. “One of the great comforts was that not only did we pick up these characters, but that our friendships could just pick up,” said McCormack. “That we could blend in that sandbox again, and just start playing, literally just zero-to-sixty, was pretty reassuring.”
Hayes credited Burrows, Kohan and Mutchnick with creating “a playground to experiment and fail safely.” A lot of the best laugh-out-loud moments “come from the trust and respect we have … to not make somebody feel like an idiot if you try something that doesn’t work.”
Prior to the Q&A, the audience was treated to a sneak peak of the penultimate episode of the season, set to air on Thursday, March 22. Entitled “One Job,” it finds Grace dragging Will to her childhood home to celebrate the birthday of her recently deceased mother (who had been played by Debbie Reynolds). Meanwhile, Jack seeks relationship advice from Karen, who turns out to be having an affair with Malcolm (returning guest star Alec Baldwin).
Messing had hoped to do a tribute to Reynolds, who passed away in late 2016. She described the actress, who reaped a Best Comedy Guest Actress Emmy nomination for the series in 2000, as “an inspiring woman,” adding that “she really became someone very, very special in my heart, and I really wanted us to honor her because she meant so much to the show.”
Following the screening the panelists announced that the series has already been renewed for a third revival season (the show’s 11th overall) beginning in the fall of 2019. Additionally, its second season order has been upped from 13 episodes to 18. “Will & Grace” is the highest-rated NBC comedy in eight years, so it comes as no surprise.
During its original eight season run from 1998-2006 “Will & Grace” won 16 Emmys out of 83 nominations, including Best Comedy Series in 2000. All four regulars took home individual acting prizes as well: McCormack (Best Comedy Actor, 2001), Messing (Best Comedy Actress, 2003), Hayes (Best Comedy Supporting Actor, 2000) and Mullally (Best Comedy Supporting Actress, 2000, 2006). Messing was the last of the quartet to pick up a trophy, at which point the series joined the elite ranks of “All in the Family” and “The Golden Girls” as one of only three shows to win Emmys for all of its main cast members.
The revival of “Will & Grace” has already proved popular with awards bodies, reaping Golden Globe nominations for Best TV Comedy Series and Best TV Comedy Actor (McCormack), as well as SAG and Critics Choice bids for Hayes. Additionally, the show won the WGA prize for Best Episodic Comedy Writing for the episode “Rosario’s Quinceanera” (written by Tracy Poust and Jon Kinnally), which made it the first multi-cam sitcom to receive that honor since “Frasier” in 2003 (for the episode “No Sex, Please, We’re Skittish” by Bob Daily).
Will the resilient “Will & Grace” recapture its former Emmy glory next? Listen to the audio of the full Q&A above.
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