Sean Hayes Opens up About 'Feel Good' Legacy of 'Will & Grace'

When NBC’s critically acclaimed sitcom Will & Grace first aired in 1998, the series not only broke ground in helping audiences accept gay characters, but it also helped many in the LGBTQ community find their own voice to embrace their identities.

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(Photo: NBC / Chris Haston)

While promoting the second season of his CNN Original Series with Hazy Mills Productions partner Todd Milliner, Hayes spoke briefly about the lasting impact his sitcom has had on audiences embracing the LGBTQ community and those who have expressed coming out due in part to the show.

“I love it, that’s the best by-product of the show,” Hayes said with a smile. “I love that it makes people laugh, but it does that one extra thing that makes people feel good about themselves [and] I think that is the biggest win out of all this.”

During its initial eight-season run on NBC, Will & Grace was nominated for 83 Emmy Awards, nabbing 16 statues, along with seven GLAAD Media Awards. The sitcom was honored in the Smithsonian’s LGBTQ history collection and former Vice President Joe Biden spoke out in favor of the series, boasting about how it was a crucial point in educating the American public about the gay community.

Hayes is proud the series he shares with Eric McCormack, Debra Messing and Megan Mullally is back for a 10th season this fall and humbled that the revival connected with audiences after an 11-year gap.

“There’s so much content out there now and people’s time is more valuable than ever, so they want to tune into something they know will deliver,” Hayes said of the influx in revivals. “So instead of rolling the dice on investing six to 10 hours on this new show over here that I don’t know is going to make me laugh — it could, or could not, I know one of these tried and true friends I’ve developed through my living room over the years will.”

Will & Grace is among the more successful revivals in recent years. The show has averaged a solid 9.8 million viewers and 3.1 rating in the adults 18-49 demo in Nielsen’s live-plus-seven ratings since its fall debut in the Thursday 9 p.m. ET slot, with the episodes well received by audiences and critics.

Hayes says the success of the series has a lot to do with the cast, crew and writers challenging themselves every week.

“The writers do a brilliant, amazing job of spending hours and hours and hours each day in a room together breaking stories that hopefully make you laugh and think and entertain you just as they did before,” he said. “It’s an incredibly arduous but rewarding process that the writers go through, and it’s appreciated.”

On Wednesday, Hayes shared a snapshot on Twitter of the cast, crew and writers back in the studio for season 2.

“Our first table reading of the first script for Season 2 of the ‘reboot’ of [Will & Grace] a.k.a, Season 10 [winky face emoji] The first episode is soooooooooo funny! It’s great to be back in school with [McCormack, Messing and Mullally].

Season 2 of the CNN Original Series The History of Comedy premieres Sunday, July 15 at 10 p.m. ET on CNN, and is executive produced by Hayes and Todd Milliner — the masterminds behind Hot in Cleveland, Grimm and Hollywood Game Night.

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Will & Grace returns this fall on NBC.

Photo credit: Getty Images / Bruce Glikas