‘Will & Grace’ will nav­i­gate new era

Af­ter 11 years, the sit­com will re­turn to a changed na­tion. The gang is ready.

Los Angeles Times - - CALENDAR - By Mered­ith Blake mered­ith.blake@la­times.com Twit­ter: @Mered­ithBlake

For­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Bi­den fa­mously cred­ited “Will & Grace” with help­ing to trans­form his views on same-sex mar­riage.

The ground­break­ing sit­com, which aired for eight sea­sons on NBC from 1998 to 2006, re­turns to tele­vi­sion this fall af­ter more than a decade — a pe­riod that has seen enor­mous progress, as well as con­tin­ued chal­lenges, for the LGBTQ com­mu­nity.

Pop cul­ture has also evolved in that time, with de­pic­tions of gay men and women as well as trans­gen­der peo­ple be­com­ing in­creas­ingly com­mon­place.

So can a show from the “don’t ask, don’t tell” era feel rel­e­vant at a time when same-sex mar­riage is le­gal in all 50 states?

The short an­swer is yes, ac­cord­ing to the cast and cre­ators of the se­ries, who spoke to re­porters Thurs­day at the Tele­vi­sion Crit­ics Assn. sum­mer press tour.

“When we started, it was rev­o­lu­tion­ary to have two gay char­ac­ters,” said star De­bra Mess­ing. “What we were able to ad­dress at the time was ‘LGB.’ We stopped at ‘B.’ My hope now is that we can fin­ish the al­pha­bet.”

Ad­dress­ing a ques­tion about whether the show’s de­pic­tion of gay cul­ture might seem dated, co-cre­ator Max Mutch­nick said, “We’re not go­ing to be writ­ing the show as if it’s 1996 or ’97. We will be writ­ing the show as if th­ese four are liv­ing in 2017. And we have fan­tas­tic young tal­ent in that writers’ room keep­ing us on our toes and fresh.”

And, as Eric McCor­mack noted, the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion is also giv­ing the writers plenty to work with, such as the re­cently an­nounced ban on trans­gen­der peo­ple in the mil­i­tary.

“I think the fight goes on and will go on for a long time,” said costar Sean Hayes.

The po­lit­i­cal di­vide af­fect­ing the coun­try will make its way into the fic­tional world of “Will & Grace.” As re­vealed in the elec­tion-themed video re­leased in the fall, Karen (Megan Mul­lally) is a Trump sup­porter, a fact that hor­ri­fies her friends.

“One of the things we all have to deal with is re­al­iz­ing that some of the peo­ple around us didn’t vote for who we voted for and they might be friends. How are we main­tain­ing that friend­ship?” said McCor­mack. “That is not inherently about the pol­i­tics of to­day or yes­ter­day. It’s about the pol­i­tics of friend­ship and how you nav­i­gate that.”

For Mess­ing, who cam­paigned for Hil­lary Clin­ton, re­turn­ing to “Will & Grace” “felt like com­ing home” dur­ing a “con­fus­ing time.”

“To come back to­gether and to laugh out loud and to be sur­prised by one an­other and to have new sto­ries to tell . ... It’s just a beau­ti­ful, crazy thing,” she said.

And while the se­ries will strive for time­li­ness, the ul­ti­mate goal will be to en­ter­tain view­ers. Or, as Mess­ing put it, to “maybe make them pee a lit­tle bit on the couch.”

They also ad­dressed the thorny is­sue of how the re­vival would move for­ward con­sid­er­ing the fi­nale of the orig­i­nal, which saw Will and Grace drift apart, then re­unite many years later, among other dra­matic changes.

Or, rather, they won’t: The re­vival will es­sen­tially ig­nore those events be­cause, as Mutch­nick ex­plained, “We never would have gone in that di­rec­tion if we weren’t end­ing the show.”

Even be­fore its re­turn to prime time on Sept. 28 af­ter an 11-year ab­sence, NBC En­ter­tain­ment Chair­man Bob Green­blatt an­nounced that the net­work has al­ready or­dered a 13-episode sec­ond sea­son.

More­over, the first sea­son has been ex­tended by four episodes, for a to­tal of 16, all directed by James Bur­rows, who directed ev­ery episode of the show’s ini­tial eight-year run.

Mutch­nick was equally can­did when asked a ques­tion about work­ing with the net­work again fol­low­ing a con­tentious law­suit over the se­ries rights.

“Bob Green­blatt’s NBC is very dif­fer­ent from Jeff Zucker’s NBC,” he said, re­fer­ring to the pre­vi­ous head of the net­work. “We are very, very happy to be a part of Bob Green­blatt’s NBC.”

Willy San­juan In­vi­sion/AP

THE MOVERS of “Will & Grace” speak to the press: co-cre­ators/ex­ec­u­tive pro­duc­ers David Ko­han, from left, and Max Mutch­nick and ac­tors De­bra Mess­ing, Eric McCor­mack, Megan Mul­lally and Sean Hayes. The show is sched­uled to re­turn to NBC on Sept. 28.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.