In 1998, creators Max Mutchnick and David Kohan advanced LGBTQ visibility on television with their farcical sitcom Will & Grace. The show returned to NBC in 2017 for season 9, after 11 years off the air.
Before the premiere of its second revival season (and 10th overall) on Oct. 4, Mutchnick chatted with NewNowNext about whether an actor’s sexuality should determine the roles they play and an upcoming episode inspired by his real-life relationship with best friend Janet Eisenberg.
The characters of Will and Grace are based on you and Janet. Are you still drawing inspiration from your friendship?
In fact, I am. The best episode that we’ve done this year I’ve drawn from our relationship. It’s hard to imagine that 30-something years into this friendship there are still things to learn, but in the last two years, Janet and I had a very big revelation about our relationship.
I’m dying to ask you what this revelation is.
I’ll just say: Will and Grace start reading letters from their past, and what have I learned in all the years of doing this? I’ve learned that the heteronormative narrative is not the primary narrative in life. The homonormative narrative is as important and needs its due. One isn’t more important than the other. It’s exploring those two things.
Sounds like it could be a heavier episode.
It is. But at the end of the episode, Grace gets to say something that I think is maybe one of the most important things that she has ever said to Will. That episode is called “Who’s Sorry Now?” and it will air in the middle of the season.
How has being a father and a husband influenced the way that you approach these characters’ lives now?
Jack and Will dealing with the idea of being married and not being married are things that I can now write about because I have experienced it. I get to dip into all of that.
Having Joe Biden say that the show changed public opinion—what did that mean to you?
That was a huge moment for me. It meant that Joe Biden had actually been home and watched must-see TV. And it just took me out of my own experience. It’s always hard for me to comment on the bigness of what this show has meant to other people. I love when guys tell me that it helped [them] come out, but then I just go back to doing what I do.
Matt Bomer guest stars this season as Will’s boyfriend. Is it easier to find out gay actors to play these roles now versus 20 years ago?
It’s a little bit of everything. Matt Bomer is exactly right. He’s also not Eric (McCormack), but Matt and he’s gay, and so I guess there’s something cool about that. I have some mixed feelings that gay men have to play gay men. I don’t think that’s necessarily such a good thing for the art.
It’s an art form, OK? Actors are supposed to be able to play all different types of people and things, and I don’t know that we’re putting ourselves in a good position by saying that only gay men can play gay parts and only straight guys can play straight guys.
Did actors ever turn down gay guest roles?
There were a couple of people that we had issues with. The feedback was that they weren’t willing to do the show because they weren’t willing to play a gay part. I wouldn’t even want to give them the credit of being mentioned in the article.
Who do you still want to guest star on the show?
Debra Messing says it’s Barbra Streisand. For me, it would be Ruth Bader Ginsberg.
Miss Thing is very busy!