Eric McCormack on the return of Will & Grace

Don’t adjust your TV screens, you haven’t gone back in time. Hugely popular sitcom Will & Grace returns to Global TV tonight for the first time since its 8-year run ended in 2006. The series, which follows the adventures of gay lawyer Will (Eric McCormack), his straight best friend/roommate Grace (Debra Messing) and their kooky sidekicks Jack (Sean Hayes)  and Karen (Megan Mullally), will pick up the action 11 years later.

TV audiences have become accustomed to beloved series returning from the dead. Netflix got the ball rolling in 2013 when they revived the criminally short-lived comedy Arrested Development and they continued to delight fans with revivals of Full House and Gilmore Girls. FOX joined the party with new seasons of The X-Files and Prison Break. Earlier this year Showtime took viewers back to Twin Peaks, when it revived the early 90s cult obsession.

But when NBC greenlit new episodes of Will & Grace they took things to new level. This is the first time a broadcaster has tackled the revival of a mainstream show with such broad appeal. Will & Grace isn’t a genre series or a cult favourite, it’s a mainstay of the once great and powerful ‘Must-See-Tv’ era. There’s a lot of hype surrounding the new season.

Interest in a revival was sparked last September after the cast reunited for a political video and re-inhabited their Will & Grace roles. At the Global TV Upfronts in June, Eric McCormack spoke about the strange turn of events. “We very much ended that show. We went into the future, we had kids. So we very definitively said ‘the show’s over’ and for years people have said ‘when is there going to be a reunion?’ and we always said ‘well there really isn’t.’ And we meant it. We weren’t being coy. When we did our political video in September it was just an opportunity to be on that set and to do something good and something that would land. It was not meant to be some backdoor pilot. But that’s what it ended up being.”

The original run of the series was not without controversy — despite its mainstream appeal — but it’s still one of most successful series in history with principal gay characters. McCormack thinks 2017 is the perfect political climate for the show to re-emerge. “The best things that we did is we existed at a time when Bush was in power and the Iraq war was being fought. We were an antidote to that, we were something else. And right now we clearly need something else again.”

The new season will not be quite as politically charged as their reunion video, but the series has never shied away from hot button issues and that spirit is still very much alive.  “When you think about the insults that Karen used years ago and that in the same episode I was making out with Taye Diggs, the show was political by daring to show both sides – good, bad and ugly. I think it’s quite possible we might be even more (political). I know that Bob Greenblatt at NBC has given us full permission. They’re not treading lightly. And I think they’re looking for us to push the envelope. That’s part of the reason there’s been such a tremendously positive response. People need to laugh man.”

When Will & Grace debuted, Will was in his 30s and still struggling with what it meant to be ‘out.’ McCormack is excited to explore a different dynamic now that the characters is in a new stage of his life. “Will was always the straight-acting gay man who was freed by some of Jack’s positivity. And now I think we’re going to see almost an opposite (dynamic). That it’s very hard for someone like Jack, who was everybody’s ‘boy,’ to be in his 40s. Whereas for Will, nobody – not Donald Trump, not nobody – is going to tell him how to be a gay man in his 50s. I think they’ll be a level of comfortability. He will own his own skin in a new way.”

McCormack promises that the look and feel of the series will remain very similar — it’s just about discovering what these characters are up to in 2017. But don’t expect a lot of high-profile guest-stars right out the gate. Although Will & Grace became notorious for their revolving door of celebrity cameos (Michael Douglas, Matt Damon, Geena Davis, Gene Wilder, etc.) it started to hinder the series creatively. “There was a time when the critics certainly turned on us and thought of us as The Love Boat. We’d have three major guest stars in an episode.” At least for now, everyone is focused on  Will, Grace, Karen and Jack and their unique bond. “We shouldn’t lose track of what the show really is and where it really lives”

Will & Grace airs Thursdays at 9pm ET on Global TV. NBC is so confident in its success that they’ve already renewed the series for Season 10.

Photo and Video Courtesy of NBC

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