'Will & Grace': Why Shelley Morrison's Rosario Won't Return for the Revival

Co-creator Max Mutchnick also discussed how the comedy will address the death of Debbie Reynolds, who appeared as Grace's mom on the original show.
NBC/Photofest
From left: Megan Mullally, Sean Hayes and Shelley Morrison on 'Will & Grace'

One familiar face won't be returning for NBC's highly anticipated Will & Grace revival.

Shelley Morrison, who played Rosario Salazar on the multicamera comedy, will not reprise her role in the new episodes, co-creator Max Mutchnick told a small group of reporters Thursday after the show's panel at the Television Critics Association's summer press tour.

"Shelley has decided to retire," he said. "It was with a heavy heart that she gave us that information and that we received it, but it is the way that it goes. It is a choice that she has made. We really wanted Shelley to be a part of this series, so we find ourselves having to figure that out moving forward. It was not an easy decision to make, but it's one that she made."

Morrison first made her debut as Rosario, maid to Karen Walker (Megan Mullally), in the season one finale of the comedy and went on to become a fan favorite. The actress ultimately appeared in 64 episodes of the comedy and more recently appeared briefly in the election-themed reunion video released in September. However, Morrison has otherwise retired from acting. Her last onscreen credited role is an episode of My Name Is Earl from 2006 — the same year Will & Grace originally went off the air. Her last acting credit is voice work on the 2012 animated film Foodfight!

When asked if there was a way for Rosario to still play some sort of offscreen role in the upcoming revival, similar to Karen's never-seen but oft-mentioned husband, Stan, Mutchnick shot down that possibility.

"We're not going to be doing that," he said. "The audience has come to know and love her — as we do — and we're dealing with her as a character and we're writing to it very specifically."

In addition to Morrison's departure, the writers plan to address the absence of Grace's mom, memorably played by Debbie Reynolds, who died in December. Reynolds played Bobbi Adler for 10 episodes, earning an Emmy nomination for best guest actress in a comedy series in 2000.

"That was another part of the story that we had to really spend time on addressing, all of the characters that existed in 198 episodes," Mutchnick said. "She's obviously not coming back, but we will be speaking to it and the characters will be speaking to it."

Aside from the core four of Debra Messing, Eric McCormack, Sean Hayes and Mullally, the only confirmed returning supporting actor so far is Harry Connick Jr., who played Grace's husband. "We're in the process with some of these other folks, and it will be great if it happens," co-creator and co-showrunner David Kohan said.

Will & Grace is set to return Thursday, Sept. 28, on NBC.

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