The Toronto-born actor is returning to the Will & Grace role he played for nearly a decade, and McCormack says it was like putting on an old pair of underwear: still fits.
Global News sat down with McCormack in Toronto to talk about his return, how the show’s humour has evolved since the ’90s, and whether that hilarious chemistry is still there.
Global News: There have been a ton of reboots recently, but I think Will & Grace has something special. Do you agree?
Eric McCormack: I do. I think the basic premise of most reboots is “Where are they now? How do we write the next chapter?” We’re kind of doing something different. We’re like “pfft!” Let’s do the show the way this show has always been done, it just happens to be 2017. There will be jokes about our age, cellphones, Trump… but we’re not going to spend a whole lot of time addressing what the last 10 years were like.
We’re a sitcom and it’s time to just drop in for 22 minutes and laugh.
You described the show earlier as the relief, the break from all this heaviness. Will & Grace has the ability to provide that.
I think so. I hope I’m not being naive, but I really hope it does bring people to the television at 9 o’clock on Thursdays. If we’re going to do a throwback to a show, let’s do a throwback to a time when that’s how people would actually watch television. It could be an amazing thing, because there was a time when we collectively gathered and had the same experience. It happens maybe with Game of Thrones or something, but even then, people are like, “Ah, I’ll watch it next week” or “I’ll record it.” I do the same thing.
Once in a while, it’s nice when there’s something that makes people say, “I gotta watch that live!” I hope people watch it live in bars! I want to inspire Will & Grace parties. I want to start a rumour that we’re going to go out on Thursdays across America and drop in at someone’s Will & Grace party. People will just have to start throwing them. [Laughs]
Can you speak more to the show’s multi-generational aspect? Its ageless appeal?
The journey of the show for me… in the first few years, it was women in their 30s and gay men. That was our audience, and a female fan would come up and talk to me while the boyfriend would stand way back there. [Laughs] With each season that went on, suddenly the boyfriend was a husband, and he would be like “My wife loves your show.” Then by Season 5, it would be “We love your show!” It became something that couples watched together.
Then in reruns, it became something that parents would allow their kids to watch. Once in a while, a really pretty woman will walk up to me and say, “Excuse me, my grandmother loves you,” and I’ll be like “Ohhhh.” [Laughs] That’s the thing, though: those moms who loved the show in ’98 are grandparents now. I think it’s crossed age lines, I think it’s crossed gender lines, it’s crossed race lines… though I will readily admit it wasn’t the most racially forward show. I’m very proud to think that the show has stood up, that people want to see us as them again.
Being gay in the ’90s is very different from being gay in 2017. Do you plan to address that or is it going to be the same old humour?
Let’s put it this way: If Hillary Clinton had got in, it would just feel like another fun episode of the show. But she didn’t, so arguably, I’d say we are more regressive than we were in 1998. We have more of a fight. It’s not our job to fight, per se, but we’ll fight with jokes. Those jokes will address that… how is possible that, 12 years ago, I made out with Taye Diggs on television and nobody batted an eye, and nowadays we’re at a point where gay rights — all rights, human rights — are in danger.
It’s not your job to be the ethics police.
Right. I think that thing we did in September is evidence of that. It was very fun to sit there, as Will and Grace, and talk about the obvious: Donald Trump is a nutjob and insane… and then have Karen come in singing, “Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump.” [Laughs] Of course she is! If we’re true to the characters, of course she’s Trump’s best friend and goes to Mar-a-Lago. What better show to deal with those two sides of that coin?
How many guest stars can we expect in this season?
[Laughs] I begged not to have a giant guest star every week… but there are going to be a few. I’m excited about the ones that were our family. I’m hoping Blythe Danner comes back as my mother. I don’t know if Alec Baldwin or those guys will be back. It’s only 12 episodes, so you don’t want to spend too much time on the outside characters. We’re going to get offers, that’s for sure.
Without spoiling, what can we expect from this new season?
They’ve written almost all of the episodes, but I’ve asked them not to tell me. What I love about a TV series is that I don’t know what’s coming for my character. There’s something really fun about that. It’ll be amazing.
READ MORE: Rick Mercer says goodbye to ‘The Rick Mercer Report’: ‘I didn’t decide it lightly’
Will & Grace with phones and social media. What a world.
At some point, I’m going to have to ask them, “Why did you come over? Why didn’t you just text me?” [Laughs] There are really no sitcoms with phones. No one would ever have to come to your house!
Was it easy for you to step back into Will’s shoes?
Will never goes away for me… I may have actually hurt my career in terms of getting other roles because I’d always say to the press that “This is kind of me.” I spent years trying to be some cop or some DA or whatever TV asked of me, but Will is just me, hanging out with my friends and pouring wine. It’s a pretty good fit. Plus, when I’m on that stage, when I’m in that apartment, when I’m with those three people, you can’t help but be gay. [Laughs]