'Will & Grace' Stars Reveal Why They Returned for Two-Season Revival

The cast and co-creators tease what to expect from the highly anticipated new season, which is set to premiere Thursday.
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From left: Eric McCormack, Megan Mullally, Debra Messing and Sean Hayes

For as many beloved shows that have been revived in recent years (Full House, Gilmore Girls, The X-Files), there are just as many stars of hit series who have said they're not interested in a revival — perhaps most famously, members of the cast of Friends.

But for fans of NBC's Will & Grace, the show they loved for eight seasons that has been off the air for 11 years is about to make its triumphant return, launching what is essentially the show's ninth season on Thursday. In addition to forthcoming 16-episode season, the series has already been renewed for another 13-episode season.

So why did stars Debra Messing, Eric McCormack, Sean Hayes and Megan Mullally commit so strongly to returning to their beloved characters and series?

"It's a great show. It's a great piece of our history. We're very proud of it," McCormack told The Hollywood Reporter about why he decided to reprise his role of Will Truman.

Added Hayes, who plays Jack McFarland, "And we had more to say."

"And we had full confidence in [co-creators] Max [Mutchnick] and David [Kohan]," McCormack, who chatted with THR alongside Hayes, continued. "When they asked, my first and only question was, 'Do you have the stories to tell?' They said, 'Absolutely.' We said, 'Then let's go.' We have full trust in them that they have a plan."

Messing concurred that the stories and chance to say something made returning seem like a winning prospect, and the enthusiasm for the revival among the stars and NBC executives led to more episodes.

"Originally we only committed to 10, and then we got the first episode and we did a table read of it and it was electric and the laughter was deafening and the president of the network was there and that night he asked for more and for next year as well," the actress, who plays Grace Adler, explained to THR ahead of a panel and screening of the first episode of the revival at the inaugural Tribeca TV Festival in New York. "I think once we sat down and read the words together and realized that the most fundamental thing that allowed us to do what we did back then is still there and alive, we were like, 'OK, let's do this. We have something to say. We have an opportunity to do something that's never been done before. We get to explore characters 11 years later. We love each other and we love working together.' Win, win, win all around."

For Mullally, she was ready to keep playing the character of Karen Walker 11 years ago.

"I would still be doing it from 2006. It was a no-brainer. Everything made me want to come back," she said.

And as much as the stars, Kohan and Mutchnick have said the experience of working on the show is the same as it was 11 years ago, the world has changed significantly since then. Beyond the current political landscape that the revival will explore, the new episodes find Will, Grace, Jack and Karen in a world in which technology has changed and smartphones are far more ubiquitous than they were then.

"It's something that's just in everybody's hands at all times, so it will be in the characters' hands because that's how they communicate. So it's no different than it is in the real world," Kohan said.

Added Mutchnick, "It's a part of your world, it's part of our world, so it'll be a part of their world."

McCormack pointed out that Will's answering machine is gone and that whenever Jack burst through the door he wanted Will to say, "Why doesn't he just text me?"

"But there'd be no sitcom if we just texted each other all day," McCormack said.

Nonetheless, in his comments to THR and on the panel later, the actor revealed that the show would address the characters' age and what it's like to be both dealing with technology and dating.

"I'm old. My character's old. We have to address what technology has done for people in middle age and how we use it and don't know how to use it," he told THR.

Later on during the panel, addressing how both Will and Grace are once again single after their marriages have ended, McCormack said, "It allows dating. He's comfortable with himself as an older gay man. Perhaps more comfortable than Jack is, which is the fun of that episode. And the guys that we're going to bring in — we're all going to get to date cool guest stars."

Perhaps most significantly for the show, the way people watch TV has changed since 2006, but the people behind the NBC series are still hoping people tune in on Thursdays at 9 p.m.

"We're asking America to do something that they only really do for game shows and reality shows — we're asking them to show up, like actually show up at 9 p.m. on a Thursday, because it's fun, it's really fun to sit down with the family and laugh together and talk about it at work tomorrow," McCormack said. "That's what we used to do before everything was DVR'ed. I have hope that will happen."

Those who do tune in will see tributes to the actors who played Grace's mom and Will's dad, Debbie Reynolds and Sydney Pollack, both of whom have died since the show went off the air.

Karen will also bond with a young inner city girl and get a visit from her frenemy Beverley Leslie (Leslie Jordan), with Mullally quipping, "I've got him right here in my pocket." Kohan also joked of the actor's resemblance to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, that he'd be back, "once he quits running the Department of Justice."

And Jack has trademarked a new performance style called, "Jackting," with some of his techniques set to be shared in an online video series that will supplement the show called "Just the Tips," Hayes said. Karen will also provide court-ordered life lessons, which Mutchnick teased are "DUI meets DIY."

"Don't drink and drive and get caught," Mullally added. "That's the tag."

And by the end of the season, Mutchnick teased a "big change" in the "complexion" of the show, with Will and Grace working together.

"They're both doing very well. Grace Adler Designs has become quite a thing, and Will's job as a lawyer — he's doing as well as he can possibly do and he wakes up one day and says he can't spent his life around lawyers and clients and 'I want to do something that I love with someone that I love,' so Will and Grace go into business together," McCormack explained. "I'm not cutting cloth or anything. I'm still a lawyer, but I'm Grace's lawyer, and I think that's going to create a lot of hilarity."

And since the reality that the revival's precursor, a 2016 election video, tried to prevent has come to pass in Donald Trump becoming president, what if Karen's friend "Donnie" fires off a tweet about the show, perhaps calling someone a "son of a bitch," as he famously referred to protesting NFL players on Friday night?

"I'd rather be a son of a bitch than the son of someone who was arrested at a KKK rally," Kohan said.

After the screening and panel, the cast and co-creators of Will & Grace celebrated the new season with a party at the Lower East Side venue Mr. Purple at the Hotel Indigo LES.

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