SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not yet watched “It’s a Family Affair,” the season finale of “Will & Grace.”
The 2017 return of “Will & Grace” saw its titular characters still living together in a two-bedroom apartment in Manhattan after 11 years away from the audience. The original series’ run end, which saw Grace (Debra Messing) and Will (Eric McCormack) raising children with their respective partners but in a fight with each other, was proven to be just a daydream of sorts from a spaced out Karen (Megan Mullally).
The first new season back saw the NBC sitcom returning to its roots with classic friendship dynamics and pop-ins from audience favorite guest stars from years past. But it also set its characters up for modern day stories that ranged from topical to character defining. Jack (Sean Hayes) came to realize he might actually be ready for a long-term relationship after all, while Karen had to say goodbye to her beloved maid and make a decision between her husband and her yearly tryst with Malcolm (Alec Baldwin).
Series co-creators Max Mutchnick and David Kohan knew they had a second season ordered when they were breaking the first season finale (a third season was ordered soon after), which allowed them to take a bigger swing with the episode that saw Will’s mother (guest star Blythe Danner) and Grace’s father (guest star Robert Klein) begin a romantic relationship.
“When you don’t know if the show’s going to continue you want to create a sense of finality here, but when you know you have some time, you can take a chance here and throw a wrench in the relationships and create some conflicts and see how it all works out — and then have the time to reassemble it later,” Kohan tells Variety.
The idea that Grace’s father is still staying with her in the city offers potential comedy for the second season, but more so does the fact that with their parents dating, Will and Grace are forced to see their relationship in a new light.
“They’re not [literally] brother and sister by any means but they are referred to that by friends and made fun of,” Mutchnick points out. “What does that make them have to do when they reflect on where they’re at in their lives and how they’ll have to change?”
Both writers and producers were excited about putting the characters into this emotionally uncomfortable area for where it can lead them next season. But they also shared they are eager to craft more stories about Grace dating.
“Women of a certain age who have done well [but are not] married and have to reflect back on the choices they have made, I think that’s going to provide a really interesting foundation for a story of Grace and another man and how she brings him into that life,” Mutchnick says.
“Will & Grace” has touched on Grace’s love life briefly, first by bringing back Leo to explain where they are in their relationship and then with an episode (“Three Wise Men”) in which she learns she has dated three generations of men from the same family.
“We wanted to see Leo again and acknowledge what happened — and [for Will] Michael, too, for that matter, and Vince. We knew going into the season that we needed to address those things because they were important people in the characters’ lives,” Kohan says.
For subsequent seasons, Kohan adds that “everything is on the table,” including characters like Vince and Leo popping back into Will and Grace’s lives, and Rosario’s memory still lingering for Karen.
He and Mutchnick also say they have some plans to bring to life ideas they “didn’t get to do” this year, as well as to pay off the more emotional moments from the end of this season.
“Jack getting proposed to and Karen realizing that this thing she looked forward to every year doesn’t exist and did she make the right choice? — the characters will have to react to that,” Kohan notes. “Any of those bigger, kind of watershed-y episodes will have an impact on the kinds of ideas we pitch subsequent to that.”
“This year was really about getting the show up and running again,” Mutchnick adds. “It’s not as if Dave and I have not had our share of failed pilots and series along the way, and there is something very gratifying about the form. When it works it’s quite exciting to make and to watch. I was really happy to see that everybody was still able to do that.”