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PaleyFest 2018: ‘Will and Grace’ Continues to Pave the Way for Change 20 Years Later

The Paley Television Festival in Los Angeles turns 35 this year as it returns to the Dolby Theatre from March 16th-25th to connect fans with the stars of their favorite TV shows. At PaleyFest, showcasing today’s hottest TV shows, you are able to see your favorite stars in person as they answer questions, do a Q&A with the cast and creative time, and screen a new episode of the show. 

On Saturday, March 17th at 7:00PM the funny and ground-breaking TV sitcom Will and Grace took the stage. Will and Grace was first honored at PaleyFest in 1999 after the first season aired, and now the show is being brought back to the stage in 2018 with its revival when we need it most. This night is even more special to the cast because this night was the 20th anniversary of when they shot the pilot.

Will and Grace is a sitcom, set in New York City, that features the relationship between best friends who live with each other. Will Truman, played by Eric McCormack, is a gay lawyer, and Grace Adler, played by Debra Messing, is an interior designer. The show aired from 1998 to 2006 on NBC and was revived in 2017 with its original cast members. Will and Grace shocked the world by focusing on homosexual characters, and ended up ultimately giving homosexual people a voice in society. With 16 Emmy Awards and 1 of 3 shows to have its entire cast win an Emmy, Will and Grace has become a world-renowned phenomenon.

The host of the night, Dan Bucatinsky, first stepped out on the stage to share his personal connection to Will and Grace. Bucatinsky is an actor, writer, and producer, known for his role as James Novak in the TV series Scandal. He also was a guest star on Will and Grace, and stressed that the show gave gay people, including himself, a voice, began to change people around the country, and paved the way for marriage equality.

The night started off with a screening of the penultimate episode of this season, featuring Alec Baldwin. The funny but emotional episode centered around Grace bringing Will home to celebrate her deceased mother’s birthday. This episode was an emotional celebration in honor of the late Debbie Reynolds, who played Grace’s mother.  

After the screening of the episode, creators David Kohan and Max Mutchnick, Director James Burrows, and the cast including Eric McCormack, Debra Messing, Megan Mullally, and Sean Hayes took the stage for a panel and then a Q&A session with the audience.

Lots of questions came up about what filming the revival series was like after taking a break for over 10 years. Bucatinsky led the panel by asking the cast what was most rewarding about seeing the evolution of your characters from back then to now. Eric McCormack, who plays Will, responded by saying, “One of the great comforts was that not only could we pick up these characters but that our friendships could just pick up. We didn’t spend a lot of time as a foursome in ten years but that we could land in that sandbox again and just start playing 0 to 60” Debra Messing, who plays Grace, added by saying “I was really excited to see what was going on in Grace’s life after all that time. I love the fact that she was a single working woman who was thriving and happy and had great questions”

On the same theme of the showing ending and coming back, many people were curious what things the cast took home with them when the show ended. Debra shared a funny story by saying “All I wanted was Grace Adler’s door because I thought it would be cool to have it in my house leaning against something. So Max and Dave were like it’s a door sure take it. A week later I get a call from NBC saying you owe us $250 for the door. I said sue me. I said f them. It was on for 8 years we made them a zillion dollar it was only 200 bucks. No!” The audience proceeded to laugh as McCormick joked about Debra showing up after a few drinks.

As the panel continued, the creators shared the new and amazing news that the show has been picked up for 5 more episodes next year so we are not doing 13 we are doing 18. Also, NBC has has picked up Will and Grace  for a 3rd season! This amazing news had the audience ecstatic and the cast members were cheering and holding up 3’s in celebration.

Additionally, since Will and Grace is known for some of the best guest stars, including Jennifer Lopez this season, Debra was asked to speak about one of her favorites that the world has recently lost, Debbie Reynolds. Bucatinsky asked “What did working with Debbie Reynolds mean to you?” Debra responded by saying, “Working with Debbie was really indescribable. She would come on stage and she was a broad in the greatest sense and she was always entertaining and singing and dancing and then running off and doing a one woman show 300 days a year. It was just crazy, but she and I would sit together and talk about being mothers because I was a new mother. She would talk about Carrie and we would talk about the challenges of being a working mom. She really became someone very very very special in my heart and I wanted us to honor her because she meant so much to the show. I really think the episode they wrote honors her and is funny and moving. She is with us”

Lastly, McCormack was asked “What advice you as Eric would give to Will Truman now in 2018?” He responded by first joking about keeping the apartment he had, but continued on to provide a response that really sums up the meaning and premise of Will and Grace. He says, “People always say Will didn’t settle down. If Will settled down I’m not sure how much fun that is. WE keep trying and fail and find each other. Maybe in season 15, but right now I love that the kill to Will is he tries and isn’t afraid to fail because he always has her”

The night overall was funny, full of laughter, and inspiring as it was made so clear why Will and Grace is a renowned and popular television show that has change the views of many people throughout the world.  

Photos Courtesy of Brian To for the Paley Center

Alyssa is the Senior Editor of the UCLA Chapter of Her Campus. She is a 4th year Communication Studies major and Film, TV, and Media minor. In her free time, Alyssa loves working out, going to tons of concerts, and binging reality TV episodes. Contact Alyssa via email: alyssabonchick@me.com
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