By Claire Downs
With last year’s viral election video and a 12-episode reboot coming this fall, Will & Grace seems to be everywhere. On Friday, June 23, stars Megan Mullally, Debra Messing, Eric McCormack and Sean Hayes will honor show creators, Max Mutchnick and David Kohan at the 2017 Logo Trailblazer Honors. When the show launched in 1998 and aired until 2006, it wasn’t clear how big an impact W&G would have. By featuring the first openly gay characters on a primetime series, the show increased visibility to issues facing the LGBTQ community with humor and style. Beyond vodka martinis and speedy quips, the show’s production had some shocking details that are only coming out now! Here are some of the craziest things you never knew about your friends at 155 Riverside Drive.
1. John Barrowman lost out on playing “Will” because he was “too straight”Getty Images
The actor, known for his roles in Zero Dark Thirty and Arrowhead, was told by Will & Grace producers that he was “too straight” to play the role, despite being gay. Eric McCormack, who identifies as a straight in real life, was instead cast in the part.
2. Megan Mullally almost played Kevin James’ TV wife instead.
3. The show’s title comes from a Jewish philosophy book.Getty Images
According to show creators, Max Mutchnick and David Kohan, the book I and Thou by Martin Buber provided titular inspiration. Buber states that one needs the “will” to go after the presence of the Eternal and the “grace” to receive it.
4. Memorabilia and props from Will & Grace are in the Smithsonian.Getty Images
On Meet the Press in 2012, then-VP Joe Biden said, “I think Will & Grace probably did more to educate the American public than almost anything anybody has ever done so far.” Biden’s words struck a chord, and in 2014, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American history collected W&G scripts, set pieces, and footage as part of their larger collection on LGBTQ history in the United States.
5. Will & Grace was based on one of the creator’s childhood friends.Getty Images
Will and Grace’s friendship was inspired by Max’s relationship-turned-friendship with voiceover casting director, Janet Eisenberg. Mutchnick dated Eisenberg before coming out in college, and Kohan watched the pair’s relationship grow and change over the years.
6. The show’s creators sent receipts to prove America was ready for a show with gay characters.Getty Images
After submitting the pilot script for W&G, Mutchnick and Kohan faxed NBC executive Warren Littlefield box office numbers of The Birdcage and My Best Friend’s Wedding, which both featured gay characters in their hit films.
7. Sean Hayes threw out the script after reading it.
After a successful debut at Sundance Film Festival for his work in Billy’s Hollywood Screen Kiss, Sean Hayes was receiving all kinds of offers. When a network executive faxed him the Will and Grace pilot, he loved it…but he realized he’d have to pay for his own plane ticket to LA just to audition. Fortunately, the network kept after him, and he nailed his audition. The deal was apparently sealed when he told Mutchnick, “stop looking at my ass” as he exited the room.
8. Karen’s voice wasn’t always that high.
Megan Mullally’s natural voice is actually quite lower than Karen Walker’s high pitched squeals. In the 1998 pilot episode, Mullally starts with her normal voice, but as the episodes progress, she goes full on shriek.
9. Guest star Cher asked Sean Hayes to go to her castle in Italy.
Speaking with Jimmy Kimmel, Megan Mullally said that Cher’s guest appearance was filmed so quickly that none of the stars had time to speak to her. “They flew her in, like on a crane. And when she was done, they airlifted her out.” Still, she somehow formed a bond with Sean Hayes (Jack), “She liked Sean. She invited him to go to her castle in Italy, and he was like ’nah’.”
Before you tune in to watch the 2017 Trailblazer Honors June 23rd 9/8c on Logo, check out actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson discuss the bravery and innovation of Will & Grace creators Max Mutchnick and David Kohan.