Eric McCormack reflects on impact of 'Will & Grace' and show's return
Actor Eric McCormack stands on stage as he receives the Stratford Festival Legacy Award in Toronto on Monday, September 18, 2017. When ``Will & Grace'' originally aired, the cast didn't want to take credit for any shift in social attitudes toward the LGBTQ community, says Canadian star McCormack. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press
Published Tuesday, September 26, 2017 11:34AM EDT
TORONTO - When “Will & Grace” originally aired, the cast didn't want to take credit for any shift in social attitudes toward the LGBTQ community, says Canadian star Eric McCormack.
The 1998 sitcom, which featured one of network TV's only depiction of gay characters at the time, was warmly embraced by audiences and became part of the mainstream conversation. It returns Thursday with the same cast on Global and NBC.
McCormack says it took years before the show's impact truly became clear to everyone who made it. They got a reminder from Joe Biden, then U.S. vice president, when he appeared on “Meet the Press.”
“(He) says that as far as he's concerned, 'Will & Grace' did more to educate the American public about gay marriage and gay issues than any other thing,” Toronto-born McCormack, who plays gay lawyer Will Truman, recalled in a recent interview.
“We were all phoning each other like, 'Did you hear that?”'
Since then, McCormack has spent time to reflecting on the spot “Will & Grace” holds in TV history.
“We snuck in,” he said. “We were in your living room every week and, 'Isn't that one so funny?' and 'I like him.' Old women that had never met a gay man in their life were like, 'I hope Will finds a nice boy.'
“It permeated American culture slowly but surely, and all the more reason that we have to come back and remind people that that's why we got where we got - that's why we got to a place where gay marriage was passed, that marriage equality was passed as a right in 50 states.”
The new “Will & Grace” has the same lead cast members and picks up 11 years later. However, it does not acknowledge the circumstances of the 2006 finale, when it looked into the future and saw Will (McCormack) with a son and Grace (Debra Messing) with a daughter.
Instead, Will and Grace are now single, childless and living together. Sean Hayes reprises his role as Jack, their neighbour, and Megan Mullally is back as wealthy friend Karen.
The reboot came about after the cast shot a nine-minute video for Hillary Clinton in September and posted it on social media. NBC was unaware they were making the video but loved it and wanted more - so much so, that it's already ordered a second season.
“I had no idea that it had any kind of future to do it,” said McCormack.
“But the response on social media was great.”
McCormack, who won an Emmy for playing Will, said he's confident there's an appetite for a reboot and he hopes it will make the same impact it did originally.
“It was an unapologetically gay show. But to think that there could be vitriol now shows you how regressive the politics of the last five months have been,” he said.
“But at the same time, there's a lot of people out there that might fall prey to voting that way but still love 'Will & Grace' and that's where we can be of service, that we can get into some of those living rooms - the living rooms where maybe they don't think that two fellas should get married, but they still love those two gay fellas,” McCormack added.
“We can start to remind them that we're human, that gays and lesbians are humans.”