TCA17: 'Will & Grace' to be Politically, Pop Culturally Relevant in Return

Complete Coverage: 2017 TCA Summer Press Tour

Beverly Hills, Calif. — After a digital episode of Will & Grace on YouTube went viral last September with nearly eight million views, the cast began discussing what it would be like to come back for real after 10 years off the air. It wasn’t long before NBC, with support from NBC Entertainment Chairman Bob Greenblatt, had ordered a revival of the series with a 10-episode order.

The cast just met Wednesday for its first table read and apparently things went well because that order has increased from 10 to 12 to 16 first-season episodes. On Thursday, Greenblatt announced a second-season order at the TCA summer press tour.

The creators, David Kohan and Max Mutchnick, the original cast and famed TV director James Burrows will all be back with Burrows directing every episode.

Related: TCA17: NBC Picks Up Season 2 of 'Will & Grace'

“Jimmy is like the fifth Beatle,” said Megan Mullally, who plays Karen.

The show will not pick up where it left off. In the series' 2006 finale, Will (Eric McCormack) and Grace (Debra Messing) met again after not speaking to each other for 20 years. That finale will be treated a little bit like a dream, said Kohan and Mutchnick, and instead the foursome will be back together.

That said, the show also won’t act like the characters have been doing exactly the same thing for the past 11 years.

Related: TCA17: Season 2 of 'This Is Us' to Open on Big Three's 37th Birthday

“We aren’t going to be writing the show like it’s 1997,” said Kohan. “We will be writing the show as if these four are living in 2017. We have fantastic young talent in that writing room keeping us on our toes and keeping it fresh.”

In the September video, which was created to encourage people to vote, Karen is a Donald Trump supporter and friend, while Will and Grace are both stalwartly liberal. Jack (Sean Hayes) remains mostly about Jack. Those sorts of political and pop-cultural issues will remain in play in the new version.

“I think what we missed is the dynamic of the four of them together,” said Kohan.

“We spent the most time in story camp figuring out what would be the best way to tell the audience what [these four] have been up to in the least amount of time. We want to hold off on telling you what that is because it will take away some of the fun,” said Mutchnick.

One of the hallmarks of Will & Grace when it aired between 1998 and 2006 was that it was the first show to feature two gay characters in lead roles. Today, that’s more common, but there’s still plenty of ground to tread, said the cast.

“When we started it was revolutionary to have two gay characters but we were LGB. Now I hope we can finish the alphabet,” said Messing.

In response to a critic who asked whether gay issues were “dated” in light of cultural progress, Hayes said: “I don’t think gay issues are dated at all. I think the fight goes on.”

“I don’t think you can have a transgender ban in the military and say that gay issues are dated. They are pretty relevant,” said McCormack, whose Will provides the grounding force of Will, Grace, Karen and Jack.

While the show is mostly about the dynamic of those four, what makes it especially fun is how it deals with pop culture, politics and other issues of the day and that won’t change in the new iteration.

“I think the show has always been relevant and under the umbrella of relevancy is everything,” said Hayes.

Paige Albiniak

Contributing editor Paige Albiniak has been covering the business of television for more than 25 years. She is a longtime contributor to Next TV, Broadcasting + Cable and Multichannel News. She concurrently serves as editorial director for The Global Entertainment Marketing Academy of Arts & Sciences (G.E.M.A.). She has written for such publications as TVNewsCheck, The New York Post, Variety, CBS Watch and more. Albiniak was B+C’s Los Angeles bureau chief from September 2002 to 2004, and an associate editor covering Congress and lobbying for the magazine in Washington, D.C., from January 1997 - September 2002.