Debra Messing on 'Will & Grace' return: 'If not for the presidential campaign, we would not be here right now'

Kimberly Potts
Writer, Yahoo Entertainment

If the prospect of seeing Will and Grace and Jack and Karen together again on your TV screen (or computer monitor or phone or … you get the point) feels like a reunion with a beloved group of friends, Debra Messing knows exactly how you feel.

“When we got together for that little seven-minute election video, it had been 10 years. It was stunning when the four of us walked on that set, the connection, the chemistry, it was all there,” Messing says of the 2016 viral video that led to the Will & Grace revival that premieres on NBC this week. “And we’re family to each other, we truly adore each other. So, to have the opportunity to come back 11 years later and to hopefully bring some belly laughs — I think we all need some belly laughs. And to be able to do it with friends, it feels like a miracle.”

Messing — who talks about why she originally said no to starring in Will & Grace in 1998 and the airport encounter that made her realize just how strongly and widely the show was resonating with viewers in the new Makers series video above — told Yahoo Entertainment that she is also happy the new Will & Grace episodes give her, as an actress and an activist, a chance to continue to help open minds through comedy.

“If not for the campaign between Trump and Clinton, we would not be here right now,” she said. “We would not be resurrecting the show. And we came together to do that because we felt a threat [against] the progress that has been made. We wanted to do our part to try and protect those gains. And obviously now … we’re seeing at every angle attempts to push progress backwards. Personally, it feels like an imperative to take advantage of this opportunity, because the show, from its conception, was a show that looked at pop culture and politics and what’s happening right now. We would shine a light on hypocrisy, and we would make fun of things. Obviously, being funny was always the first priority, but the unintended result was that it was shifting attitudes and opening up hearts, and making bridges that had not been there before.”

Messing on how Will & Grace continues to be groundbreaking TV:
“There has never been a time when a cast has been able to come back, over a decade later, and rediscover characters that we knew very, very well, and learning about them in a new way. As people, we’ve all grown. We’ve all changed over the last 11 years, and there are a lot of new avenues for comedy that didn’t exist before. There is Tinder and Grindr and all the social media that didn’t exist before. That’s the fun part. It’s fun to address the issue of aging. We address it head-on, and it’s funny. It’s funny, and it’s also something that is not usually addressed in any real way. Megan [Mullally] was telling me the other day that’s what she is most excited about, being able to really delve into the way that our country feels with an aging population.”

On why the new episodes ignore the 2006 series finale, so we meet up with a now-single Will and Grace, who never had children:
“They realized that really, all people wanted was to see these four characters play off of each other, the way that is most familiar to our fans. So that’s why they took the children away, because the show would be a completely different show if the children were present. It would either be a show about Will and Grace as parents, or, if the kids were there but we never saw them, it would be about Will and Grace being bad parents. And neither is funny.”

On why she asked the writers to make 2017 Grace Adler a feminist:
“It was important for me for Grace to have a strong point of view. When we meet her [in the new episodes], she is a very successful, very established interior designer, and she is very proud of that. She is proud of her ambition and of her achievements. And she no longer is neurotically worrying about finding a partner. She is single right now, and she is fine with that. And I like where Grace has come. I thought it was important to reflect, again, a woman who is independent and strong. I think about all the attacks on Planned Parenthood and all the attacks on women now with this administration — it goes along with [the revival] being an opportunity, an opportunity to put an image out there that is positive and shows progress.”

On returning to comedy, after post-original Will & Grace starring roles in the dramas The Starter Wife, Smash, and The Mysteries of Laura:
“[Will & Grace] existed at a happier time in our history, in our country’s history. And so, selfishly, I really wanted to immerse myself someplace where I felt safe, and where I felt free, and where I felt that we could put something positive out into the world, even if it’s just for 30 minutes a week … to give people an option if they want a respite from the news, and they want to go somewhere to escape, and laugh out loud. The idea of that made me very happy.”

On how she and her castmates have the best Will & Grace premiere viewing party plans:
“We’re going to Sean’s [Hayes’] house, and we’re all going to be wearing pajamas.”

Will & Grace returns Sept. 28 at 8 p.m. on NBC.

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