'Love is love': Will & Grace star Debra Messing on the marriage equality debate

WILL & GRACE & JACK & KAREN | Eric McCormack (Will), Debra Messing (Grace), Sean Hayes (Jack) and Megan Mullally (Karen) on the set of the political viral video which kicked off the Will & Grace revival. Picture: NBC
WILL & GRACE & JACK & KAREN | Eric McCormack (Will), Debra Messing (Grace), Sean Hayes (Jack) and Megan Mullally (Karen) on the set of the political viral video which kicked off the Will & Grace revival. Picture: NBC

Will & Grace star Debra Messing has a message for Australia: "Love is love is love."

On the eve of Australia's forthcoming national postal survey on same sex marriage, Messing said: "I just can't imagine why anyone would begrudge someone's happiness."

Messing, 49, and her co-stars – Eric McCormack, Sean Hayes and Megan Mullally – are currently filming the reboot of the New York-set sitcom Will & Grace in Los Angeles.

The series, which ran from 1998 until 2006, is returning more than a decade after it ended.

Hailed at the time for its groundbreaking storytelling, it explored the friendship of gay lawyer Will Truman (McCormack) and his best friend, interior designer Grace Adler (Messing). 

Hayes played Will's best friend Jack McFarland, while Mullally played Grace's assistant, socialite Karen Walker.

Speaking to Fairfax Media on the set of the rebooted show, Messing said the series would not shy away from making political statements.

"It feels incredibly gratifying to have this platform," Messing said. "Will & Grace, from the very beginning, within its DNA, was all about commenting, shining a light on everything that's happening today, right now in pop culture, in politics.

Will and Grace is returning to television as a weekly sitcom more than a decade after it wrapped an eight-season run on the US network NBC.

Will and Grace is returning to television as a weekly sitcom more than a decade after it wrapped an eight-season run on the US network NBC.

"That's who we always were and now we're gonna continue what we always did. It was very important to me from the beginning. We are not going to shy away from commenting on politics. We haven't."

Same-sex marriage is already legal in many countries, including Canada, Denmark, France, New Zealand, Spain, the UK and the USA; most of those countries enacted marriage-equality laws via their parliaments.

In contrast, Australia's somewhat archaic path towards marriage equality – a non-binding plebiscite, which was then downgraded to a non-binding postal survey – seemed somewhat perplexing to American ears.

"What's a postal vote?" asked Hayes. After it was explained, he stared blankly, paused for a moment, and added: "Because . . . why?"

"There seem to be more bubbles than ever before that we all live in, and the bubbles are smaller and smaller and more confined and separated," he said. 

"And because of that you may think, oh, everybody's OK with gay people – and nothing could be further from the truth.

"We're all fighting to be looked at as a regular human being, like anybody else. That’s never-ending."

There seem to be more bubbles than ever before that we all live in, and the bubbles are smaller and smaller and more confined and separated.

Sean Hayes (Jack)

Mullally, who plays socialite Karen Walker on the series, was equally stunned that marriage equality was an issue.

"It kind of blows my mind," she said. "I’m aware of that but it's kind of easy to forget.

"Sometimes it's so hard to realise that not everyone has the same belief system and thinks in the same way and not everybody's as tolerant. The fact that gay marriage would be any kind of issue to me is unbelievable."

McCormack, 54, concurs with his co-stars.

"We were winning – didn't we win?" the Canadian-born actor asked. "I thought we won that one, so how are we having this conversation? How did things change so badly and so quickly?

"It's a debate again but it's a thing to be protected and defended and fought for. Our characters can't necessarily make a topical reference to something that happened today but we can fight that fight every week."

The original series of Will & Grace, which ended in 2006, had been off air for roughly a decade when its producers David Kohan and Max Mutchnick contacted the cast and asked if they’d be interested in returning for a one-off web stunt.

The show's original sets had been preserved as a display at Mutchnick's alma mater, Emerson College in Boston, and when they were being shipped back to Los Angeles Kohan and Mutchnick thought they’d use the opportunity to film a video clip intended to encourage Americans of all political persuasions to participate in the 2016 election.

In the 10-minute episode Karen, who declared herself a Donald Trump voter, and Will and Grace, who both backed Hillary Clinton, tried to sway the uncertain Jack over which candidate to back in the presidential election. (In the end Jack went with Katy Perry's choice, Clinton.)

Public reaction to the clip was so overwhelming, however, the network NBC commissioned a reboot series of ten half-hour episodes; the order was increased to 12 and then 16 episodes, and a second season of 13 episodes has already been commissioned.

Messing conceded the series, which straddled the Clinton and Bush presidencies, is returning to a "completely different" social and political landscape.

"There have been a lot of very scary and upsetting and confusing changes," Messing said. "That's part of the reason why I wanted to come back because I needed to laugh again, and I wanted to make people laugh."

  • The new season of Will & Grace debuts on Stan on September 29. Fairfax Media has an interest in Stan.