Back in the ‘90s, Will and Grace was more revolutionary than it seems. A show with a gay lead character whose gay identity was encouraged by the network was simply unheard of back then. Ellen DeGeneres lost her sitcom and almost had her career killed when she came out as a lesbian around the same time Will and Grace premiered, and yet here was a show that reveled in gayness.
Will and Grace remained one of the highest rated sitcoms on television for eight seasons before its curtain call – a curtain call that turned out to be temporary when the cast reunited in 2017 for a ninth season. Now, it looks as though the show could be around for another eight seasons – it’s an unstoppable force of progressive comedy!
The new season helped to kick off a trend of reviving old TV shows with the original actors and continuing their stories for a modern audience. The revival has been just as successful as the original series itself. The season 9 premiere, the first new episode to air in over a decade, attracted more than 10 million viewers, so the show still has legs and they’re not getting tired any time soon. A show that is not only an iconic sitcom, but also made leaps and bounds for a marginalized community in society certainly has a lot of interesting trivia hiding behind it.
So, listen to some Cher, let Grace Adler Designs get to work on redecorating your apartment, and enjoy 21 Behind The Scenes Details Behind Will And Grace.
21 Jack’s Cher doll is surprisingly expensive
Jack’s Cher doll is a prototype designed by Mattel that they sold for a very brief period in 2001. Due to the fact that very few were produced before the toy was discontinued, it is now worth $60,000. The doll that was used in the show currently resides in series co-creator Max Mutchnick’s house.
The Cher doll was made as a result of the writers of Will and Grace, NBC, Mattel, and Ketchum Entertainment Marketing all getting together to work in some sort of product placement that would play on parts of the Jack character that were already established and the show’s huge gay following. Since Jack is a Cher fan and a lot of Cher’s fans are gay, it was decided she would appear on the show and Jack would have a doll bearing her likeness.
20 There was almost a Karen Walker musical
If SpongeBob SquarePants and Spider-Man can be adapted into stage musicals, then why can’t Karen Walker? A few years ago, Megan Mullally managed to secure the rights from NBC to write and star in a Broadway musical about her beloved Will and Grace character. The show was simply going to be called Karen: The Musical and it would revolve around Karen’s rivalry with Beverly Leslie.
Talks were underway with Leslie Jordan’s people to get him on board, Fox Theatricals agreed to put up the money, and a director and composer were hired, but at the last minute, some financiers with irons in the Karen Walker fire got cold feet and stopped it from going into production.
19 The producers were careful not to depict Rosario badly
Throughout the series’ run, the producers were very attentive to Shelley Morrison, who played Karen’s Salvadoran maid, Rosario. Rosario was originally supposed to be a one-note character who only appeared briefly, but she proved to be so popular that the character was made a regular cast member. If Morrison ever alerted them to a line or stage direction that she felt was demeaning – which only happened on two occasions – they changed the script instantly.
Also, when Hispanic activist groups objected to the use of the word “tamale” in reference to Rosario, the network changed it to “honey” just two hours before the episode aired. Most TV producers would ignore such complaints and take the easy route of airing the show as planned – but the producers of Will and Grace always went that extra progressive mile.
18 The show’s many pop culture references made some of the guest stars confusing
Will and Grace achieved the kind of dizzying level of success that attracts the biggest celebrities in the world to appear as guest stars. But due to the show’s penchant for pop culture references, many of these celebrities’ real-life counterparts had already been referenced by the characters on the show.
People like to joke about the fact that on Friends, Joey and Chandler assert that Die Hard is their favorite movie before a character named Paul shows up played by Bruce Willis, but Will and Grace made dozens of those kinds of continuity errors. They referenced the real lives and careers of such stars as Alec Baldwin, Britney Spears, Madonna, and Matt Damon before having them appear as fictional characters on the show.
17 Sean Hayes threw the pilot script in the trash to avoid buying a plane ticket
When Sean Hayes made a splash at Sundance with his turn in Billy’s Hollywood Screen Kiss, he was faxed the pilot script for Will and Grace. The script made him laugh out loud, but since he’d only been at the iconic Utah film festival for two days, he’d have been required to buy his own plane ticket to fly out to L.A. and audition, so he threw the script in the trash.
Luckily, the casting directors were persistent, because they knew Hayes was the man for the job, and he ended up taking the job. Now that we’ve seen Hayes make the role his own for so many years, it’s impossible to picture anyone else in the role of Jack.
16 Will and Grace’s relationship was inspired by real life
Will and Grace was inspired by a relationship that series co-creator Max Mutchnick had in real life with a woman named Janet Eisenberg. He dated her before he came out as gay in college and they remained good friends afterward. So, Will and Grace are real and their names aren’t Will and Grace, they’re Max and Janet, except that doesn’t have the same ring to it.
Mutchnick’s Will and Grace co-creator David Kohan was actually introduced to him by Eisenberg, and when Mutchnick came out and the pair’s relationship was strained, Kohan had to act as a liaison between the two. Sometime after this, Kohan and Mutchnick decided to write sitcoms together and the rest, as they say, is history.
15 Grace’s middle name is a little close to home for her mother
One of the first high-profile guest stars to tread the boards of the Will and Grace set was Debbie Reynolds, the late actress, singer, mother of Carrie Fisher, and star of Singin’ in the Rain. She played Grace’s mother Bobbi Adler in twelve episodes of the show – and one little detail of the character is a little close to home for Reynolds.
Bobbi is said to have taken Grace’s middle name, Elizabeth, from Elizabeth Taylor. But the unfortunate thing about this for Reynolds is that in real life, she would never name anyone after Elizabeth Taylor, because her husband, Eddie Fisher, left her for Taylor. It’s obvious Reynolds didn’t get a say in that part of the script.
14 It took 45 minutes for the cast to agree to a reboot
When executive producer Max Mutchnick reached out to his four main cast members about the possibility of rebooting the series, it only took 45 minutes before he had heard back from all four of them and they’d agreed to do it. None of them even needed a full hour to think about it.
The reunion was only supposed to be a one-off special in honor of the 2016 election, but after that special received an unexpectedly enthusiastic response from fans, NBC wasted no time ordering a full season. When the season premiered to huge ratings, the network ordered more episodes for that season. Shortly after that, they ordered a whole new season to air a year later. It’s unstoppable!
13 Nick Offerman has played two roles on the show
Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally are married in real life, and they often appear in each other’s projects. Mullally cameoed in her husband’s Netflix comedy special, American Ham, and played his ex-wife Tammy 2 in the show Parks and Recreation. Similarly, Offerman appeared alongside Mullally in Will and Grace – in two different roles.
Way back in season 4, he played Nick the plumber in a memorable Thanksgiving episode. Years later, in the revived version of the series, he played a celebrity chef who became involved in the characters’ lives when he slept with both Will and Grace. His character basically slept with every main character on the show that wasn’t played by someone he was married to (except for Jack).
12 Beverly Leslie was originally written as a woman
Karen’s rival Beverly Leslie was originally intended to be a female character played by Joan Collins. However, the role was retooled to be a man after Collins refused to have her wig torn off on-screen. After the character was rewritten to be male, Leslie Jordan was cast in the role and went on to win an Emmy for his performance.
Jordan has since become an acclaimed character actor with roles in American Horror Story, The Help, Monk, the Sharknado franchise, and Tracey Ullman’s HBO comedy special Tracey Ullman in the Trailer Tales. He has even reprised his role as Beverly Leslie for the revival of Will and Grace and been just as celebrated for his delightfully effeminate turn this time around.
11 Debra Messing pranked Madonna on the set
When Madonna guest starred on Will and Grace, it seems the pop star fancied herself above learning the other actors’ names. Obviously, everyone else on the set knew who Madonna was and treated her like royalty, but she didn’t return the favor by getting to know them, or even getting to know what they were called.
So, Debra Messing decided to play a little prank on her. As she explained to Graham Norton, “Madonna didn’t have a clue who we were and she could not remember our names, so I told her mine was Rachal. She said, ‘Really? That is my Kabbalah name!’ I said like, ‘How about that!’ So, for the rest of the week, she called me Rachal.”
10 Viewers only ever got to see Stan Walker’s hands and legs
Just like Mrs. Wolowitz in The Big Bang Theory and Maris Crane in Frasier, Karen Walker’s husband Stan was never fully shown in the series. But as with a lot of those characters, they’re not completely unseen. We’d occasionally see Maris from behind and there’s a framed picture of Mrs. Wolowitz hanging up in the upstairs hallway of Howard’s house.
In one episode, “New Will City,” we do see Stan Walker in almost full display. He is seen standing next to Karen and Will, but he is obscured by a plant, so only his hands and parts of his legs can actually be seen. So, the unseen character on the show isn’t entirely unseen after all.
9 The show made Emmy history
Along with All in the Family and The Golden Girls, Will and Grace is one of the only TV shows to win Emmy Awards for every one of the actors in its main cast. In three of the eight years the show was originally on the air, all four actors were nominated for Emmys. The show won a total of 18 Primetime Emmy Awards out of a whopping 83 nominations across its initial run of eight seasons.
Will and Grace was also included by the Writers Guild of America on their list of the 101 best-written TV series of all time and, between 2001 and 2005, it was the highest rated sitcom for viewers in the lucrative 18-49 demographic.
8 Early reviews dismissed the show as “a gay Seinfeld”
In Family Guy, Stewie jokingly refers to The Cleveland Show as “the black version of our show.” But in the actual reviews for Will and Grace when it first premiered, critics made comments not too dissimilar to that when they dismissed the show as “a gay Seinfeld.” It took a couple of seasons to find its feet and figure out its voice.
The critical response to the series picked up later in its run, and by the eighth and what was then thought to be the final season, it was being called an “entertaining little anomaly.” Even the revival series has been critically acclaimed, with an approval rating of 86% on Rotten Tomatoes and a consensus praising the “ever-hilarious cast” and “sharply funny” storytelling.
7 The show’s title came from a Jewish philosophy book
The title of Will and Grace and, therefore, the names of its two lead characters, are based on a concept from Martin Buber’s Jewish philosophy book I and Thou. The book is about Buber’s thoughts on the afterlife and how to get there. He suggests that everybody needs the “will” to pursue an afterlife and the “grace” to accept it.
So, the names of these characters – and the name of the whole show – are all based on ideas about death and mortality and what we might be able to expect after the end. These are very morbid, very heavy topics to base a sitcom on. The show itself isn’t about any of these ideas, but it’s interesting that that’s where it came from.
6 There was almost a Jack and Karen spin-off
After Will and Grace ended, NBC proposed a spin-off called Jack and Karen that would shift the focus to those characters. However, the network was discouraged by the infamous failure of Friends spin-off Joey and decided not to go ahead with it. So, instead of starring in a spin-off, Megan Mullally got her own talk show and Sean Hayes starred in the movie Soul Men with Bernie Mac and Samuel L. Jackson.
Despite Joey’s failure, there have been plenty of successful sitcom spin-offs: Frasier, The Jeffersons, Mork and Mindy, and even Young Sheldon in more recent years. It’s hard to imagine a world where Jack and Karen wouldn’t be a huge hit. They were the two most popular characters on Will and Grace, which already had a huge fan base.
5 Megan Mullally was almost on The King of Queens
In the same pilot season, Megan Mullally was offered the roles of Karen Walker in Will and Grace and Carrie Heffernan, the wife of Kevin James’ character, in The King of Queens. She strongly considered taking the role of Carrie before deciding on playing Karen. She reportedly did an illegal U-turn out of excitement when she found out she’d been offered the role of Karen – she simply wasn’t as thrilled about the role of Carrie.
The King of Queens had its moments, but it was essentially a cookie-cutter sitcom: the bigger husband, the gorgeous wife, the black friend, the wacky old man who lives in the basement. The show basically wrote itself. But Will and Grace, with its gay lead character, genuinely broke new ground.
4 Jack’s website JustJack.com is real
One of the conscious decisions made by the producers of Will and Grace with the revival of the show was not to have “any of that ‘Just Jack’ stuff.” But that used to be such a memorable part of the Jack character. It’s part of what made him such an icon. It was so identifiable with the character that the website JustJack.com was set up for real by NBC.
It now just redirects to the Will and Grace page on NBC’s site, but it was once a full website complete with images and a letter to the INS written by Rosario. This isn’t the first time a fictional website from a movie or TV show was made for real: MonstersUniversity.com, JohnWatsonBlog.co.uk, and BarneysVideoResume.com all exist on the web.
3 Karen didn’t always have that nasal voice
Sitcom characters with distinctive voices don’t usually have them to begin with. Just look at Kevin in the first season of The Office or Jim in the first season of Friday Night Dinner. The actors simply hadn’t developed their characters’ voices yet. The same goes for Karen Walker, who didn’t have the voice that would make her iconic at the beginning of the series.
In the pilot episode, Megan Mullally simply used her normal speaking voice. It wasn’t until the show was picked up to series that she developed the character’s distinctive nasally voice. It’s the voice that would make both Karen and the actress playing her famous. It defined Mullally’s comedic persona for years to come.
2 Will and Grace were originally supposed to be supporting characters
David Kohan and Max Mutchnick originally developed just another sitcom about a bunch of straight couples – the same show you’ve seen a million times before with the same character tropes and the same tired gags – with a gay man and his female friend as supporting characters. Will and Grace were never supposed to take center stage.
However, despite the fact that the American public had just been in an uproar over the coming-out episode of Ellen leading ABC to cancel it, NBC decided that the gay character was more interesting and made him the lead. The massive box office success of My Best Friend’s Wedding and The Birdcage didn’t hurt either.
1 John Barrowman was turned down for the role of Will
In the early stages of casting, John Barrowman was up for the part of Will. However, the casting team decided against selecting him, because they thought he spoke and acted in a way that was “too straight.” Meanwhile, they felt that Eric McCormack was gay enough and cast him in the role. In real life, Barrowman is gay and McCormack is straight.
It’s a little like how in Modern Family, Cam is the campier, more dramatic gay character, while Mitch acts more “normal.” Unsurprisingly, Eric Stonestreet, who plays Cam, is straight, and Jesse Tyler Ferguson, who plays Mitch, is gay. With straight actors like Darren Criss swearing off gay roles, attitudes seem to be changing. This casting decision probably wouldn’t fly today.
How surprised were you with these Will and Grace behind the scenes details? Let us know in the comments!