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Debra Messing had concerns before relaunching 'Will & Grace' — 'the logistics were nerve-racking'

Debra Messing had concerns before relaunching 'Will & Grace' — 'the logistics were nerve-racking'
Of bringing back "Will & Grace" after 11 years, Debra Messing says she had just one request: "I wanted Grace to be a more vocal, active feminist in this iteration. That made sense to me given who she was, what she’s been through and where we find her." (Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

In 2016, Debra Messing was asked by "Will & Grace" creators Max Mutchnick and David Kohan to reunite with the costars of her hit sitcom for a 10-minute get-out-the-vote special. "I don't think any of us anticipated that the video would get 7 or 8 million hits in a week," says Messing about the foursome who hadn't acted together since the series ended in 2006 but still showed their popping chemistry. "Suddenly, there was buzz." By September 2017, a revival was on the air. Recently, Messing, 49, could be found at the Montage Beverly Hills discussing Grace's newfound politicization, her late costar Debbie Reynolds, and who was most reluctant to resurrect the series (spoiler: It was her).

Debra Messing
Debra Messing (Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

Before agreeing to a "Will & Grace" series return, you, Eric McCormack, Sean Hayes and Megan Mullally discussed it over dinner. What were the sticking points?

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Sean and Megan were like, "Let's do it!" Eric and I were the ones who had the hesitation. My hesitation was "Why?" It was so joyful to be reunited that the idea of doing more was exciting to me. But it had never been done before. Eleven years later, you'd come back and do a series again? Also, I was the only one living in New York City. I'm a single mom with a then-13-year-old son. The logistics were nerve-racking.

Your son, Roman, was an infant during the first run of "Will & Grace." What's his take now on seeing you perform in front of a studio audience?

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He loves it. He's a funny kid. He's doing stand-up comedy in New York now. He's really interested in the anatomy of a joke. At one point he said, "Mom, don't you think it would be funnier if you did it this way?" I said to him [sternly], "Do not open your mouth. Do not pitch it." So it's the first scene and we do it in two takes. Then all of a sudden, Max comes up to me and says, "OK, Debra your new line is …." That's when I realized he'd gone up to Max and pitched a joke. I almost died. And I looked at him like, "Nooooo." But I did the joke and it got a big laugh. Afterwards, he came up to me and said, "See? It's funny." Then I thought, "Oh, crap. Now I'm in trouble."

You're an outspoken feminist. Did you have anything to do with Grace's newfound confidence?

That was my only request: I said I wanted Grace to be a more vocal, active feminist in this iteration. That made sense to me given who she was, what she's been through and where we find her.

The cast for the television series, "Will & Grace, " Eric McCormack, Debra Messing, Megan Mullally, and Sean Hayes, are photographed in the audience bleachers of the set at Universal Studios Hollywood in Universal City on September 7, 2017.
The cast for the television series, "Will & Grace, " Eric McCormack, Debra Messing, Megan Mullally, and Sean Hayes, are photographed in the audience bleachers of the set at Universal Studios Hollywood in Universal City on September 7, 2017. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)
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April 10 was Equal Pay Day. Talk about your red carpet confrontation with E!'s Giuliana Rancic about Catt Sadler, formerly of E! News.

I was lucky enough to be in the room pretty early on with Time's Up in New York. It was beautiful, banding together with all these women and saying, "How can we collectively use our voice and platform to help effect change?" The day of the Golden Globes I was texting with some of the women. I think it was Amy Schumer who said, "If one of you gets on E! bring up [Catt Sadler]. Ask why [her male co-host was paid almost double her salary]." I happened to be the first person that Giuliana interviewed. My hands were dripping with sweat, I was so nervous. I just wanted to make sure I was articulate. I'd have never done this in a million years except for the support of all of these women, knowing that if people came after me, they'd have my back. That was a new feeling for me. It's a very moving byproduct that I'm grateful for.

Debra Messing arriving at the 75th Golden Globes at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 7, 2018.
Debra Messing arriving at the 75th Golden Globes at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 7, 2018. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

In this season's finale, Will's mother and Grace's father announce that they're getting married. Thoughts?

It's very classic Max and Dave. In the whole run of the first go-around, they'd always try to paint themselves into a corner. But the idea that Will and Grace could become brother and sister? That's so outrageous, I can't even wrap my head around it.

The late, great Debbie Reynolds played Grace's mother from 1999 to 2006. Share a memory.

Debbie was a broad with a capital B in the best way. She was just a hoofer, a performer. Any time she'd come onstage she was always performing. It didn't matter if you were the audience or at the catering table. My son is the lead in [a school production of] "Singin' in the Rain." I was like, "Hey, want to watch Debbie?" The full circle of it was beautiful.

Debra Messing as Grace Adler, Debbie Reynolds as Bobbie Adler, Eric McCormack as Will Truman.
Debra Messing as Grace Adler, Debbie Reynolds as Bobbie Adler, Eric McCormack as Will Truman. (Chris Haston / NBC)
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