Even before the first episode of Will & Grace airs 11 years after it went off the air, NBC has picked up the Emmy Award-winning comedy, starring Debra Messing, Eric McCormack, Sean Hayes and Megan Mullally, for a second season, plus the Peacock Network added four more episodes to Season 1, bringing its total up to 16.
“I think this show has always been relevant,” says Hayes, who will be reprising his role as Jack McFarland. “And under the umbrella of relevancy is everything. So it’s politics. It’s social issues. It’s sex. It’s popular culture.”
“That was the thing that made me want to come back,” Messing, who plays Grace Adler, adds. “It’s, like, OK, if we can be quintessential Will & Grace and do what we did before, which was to make people laugh out loud and maybe make them pee a little bit on the couch, that’s No. 1. And No. 2 is to shine a light on what’s happening today in our culture — and, that just covers everything.”
When the series ended in 2006, it flashed forwarded in time to show what Will Truman (McCormack), Grace, Jack and Karen Walker’s (Mullally) lives looked like in the future. But now that the show is back, show creators David Kohan and Max Mutchnick are going to explain that the last episode was a projection into the future.
So in order to get the show reestablished for 2017, they will be resetting the rules. But they are holding off revealing exactly what the event is that brings the four friends back together again because they want the audience to be surprised.
The cast sat down for the first table read of Season 9 — the first reunion season — on Monday, and according to Messing, it felt like coming home.
“We laughed so hard,” she says. “For the last year — at least I’ll speak for myself — it’s been a confusing time, and I haven’t laughed very much. And to come back together and to laugh out loud and to be surprised by one another, to have new stories to tell and to have the opportunity to do it, it’s a no brainer. It’s just a beautiful, crazy thing that’s happened.”
For McCormack, it wasn’t just about reuniting with his fellow actors. It was the positive reaction to the news of the revival that he felt from fans, but also from the media.
“For me, a big piece of it was the response we’ve had not just from fans, but from the people in this room,” he told reporters. “There’s been a very noncynical, nonjudgmental response, just a positive ‘glass more than half full’ response that made me think, ‘Well, then, we have a place. We’re not going to be fighting an uphill battle.’ And I thought, ‘Why not? Why would we not?'”
One familiar face we won’t be seeing is Shelley Morrison, who played Rosario Salazar, Karen’s maid, as the actress has retired from acting. Also missing will be Debbie Reynolds, who died last December, and the series will take time to explain the absence of Grace’s mother Bobbi Adler.
The one character who will definitely return is Grace’s husband, played by Harry Connick, Jr. As for some of the other memorable characters played by actors such as Bobby Cannavale, Alec Baldwin, Minnie Driver and Lesley Ann Warren, it remains to be seen.
“What you’re going to see the most of will be the four of them,” Mutchnick says.
Will & Grace returns for its second go-around on Thursday, Sept. 28 on NBC.