Hollywood loves nostalgia—head to Youtube or Netflix and you can stumble onto a variety of much loved shows from yesteryear. But what if your much loved, much missed show could actually return to television? That’s exactly what has happened with NBC’s successful series “Will & Grace,” which in its heyday 11 years ago, had 83 Emmy nominations and 16 wins for Best Comedy.
The successful series followed a gay man (Eric McCormack) and his straight, female best friend (Debra Messing) and ran on the network from 1998 to 2006.
How could this unprecedented revamp possibly happen? It all started when the cast reunited for a 10-minute episode about the U.S. presidential election, as the two candidates, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, were about to debate. An outpouring of love from the fans came in and presto—the show was brought back to life.
At the TV Critics Press Tour, the cast—Messing, McCormack, Sean Hayes and Megan Mullally—talked about how good it felt to be together again at their first table read.
“When we sat down together, it just came to life in a way that I had never experienced with anything else or since,” said Messing. “Because we all started out in the theater and we sort of grew as artists, as collaborators, it very quickly became a place that was very safe to try things and to fail.
“I think funny happens when you take risks. I like to think of the four of us as I think of comedy— as music…Each one of us is a different instrument. And when we play together, we’re at our best,” Messing acknowledged.
The veteran actress likened the experience to “coming home.”
“We laughed so hard. For the last year, 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 and to have new stories to tell and to have another opportunity to do it, it’s a no-brainer.”
McCormack was thrilled by the response from the fans and co-creator/executive producers, Max Mutchnick and David Kohan.
“There’s been a very non-cynical, non-judgmental response, just a positive ‘glass more than half full’ response that made me think, ‘well, then, we have a place for this show. We’re not going to be fighting an uphill battle,’ And I thought, ‘Why not? Why would we not?’”
But don’t expect the series to pick up where the show left off during the finale — all the characters will be single.
Calling the ending “more or less a fantasy,” Mutchnick said that the last episode was a “projection” into the future.
“One of the things when we thought about bringing this back was what was it that we missed? And I think we missed the dynamic between the four of them more than we missed the possibility of seeing what their lives would be like as parents.”
During the panel, a critic brought up that the show has often been credited with educating TV audiences about the LGBT community.
“We’ve always said that the good effects that we had were fantastic gravy, that we set out to be funny… to be a sitcom that brought as many people in as possible,” noted McCormack.
When the series first started, it was considered “revolutionary” to have two gay characters,” said Messing.
“So what we were able to address at the time was LGB. We stopped at B, and my hope is that now we can finish the alphabet. And with gender identity, there’s so many things that are being discussed in our culture now,” she said.
Added Mutchnick: “This show is always about inclusion…that’s what we started with and that’s the type of people they are…I think when we come back, we will get to it again.
“But it’s just going to be about trying to make the funniest shows that we can with these characters passing through the life that you all know that is taking place out there right now.”
In 2012, Vice President Joe Biden made headlines when he endorsed equal marriage rights for gay and lesbian people, and said the show “did more to educate the American public more than almost anything anybody has done so far. People fear that which is different. Now they’re beginning to understand.”
Since the show aired, Hayes has publicly come out as gay.
About Hayes being in the closet while the show was on air, Mullally said: “It’s nobody’s business what anybody’s sexual orientation is, and I felt that Sean really took a lot of heat and was under a great amount of pressure to come out. And I was offended by that on his behalf.
“I just don’t have the DNA at the time, I didn’t have the DNA to speak for an entire community,” said Hayes. “I didn’t know how to do that, and I wish I did. But now I find words come easier.”
The “Will & Grace” reboot is in production for 16 episodes and has already been renewed for a second season. Check out its NBC premiere on Sept. 28.