Will and Grace have left their apartment for the final time.
“We’ve always just been Will and Grace,” says Debra Messing’s Grace. “That’s ok. Maybe we’ve been Will and Grace long enough,” adds Eric McCormack’s Will. Then just as the pair, joined by Megan Mullally’s Karen and Sean Hayes’s Jack, head for the door, Grace reveals she is about to go into labor.
The final episode of the NBC sitcom, written by David Kohan and Max Mutchnick, consists of a few false alarms by Grace. It also features Will trying not reminisce about his life in the city or his ex, McCoy, played by Matt Bomer, Karen going to the top of the Statue of Liberty to get closure with her ex-husband Stan and Jack’s dream of taking a bow on a Broadway stage becoming a very real possibility.
It’s the second time that the gang have closed the door. However, unlike the finale of the first run of the show, which aired eight seasons between 1998 and 2006 before returning in 2017, this time it’s not all a dream.
David Kohan and Max Mutchnick spoke to Deadline about how they ended the 11-season run, featuring 246 episodes, how they have no wish to return to the characters and what they’re up to next.
The pair also teased a few details that were not answered during the final season.
You filmed the Will & Grace finale back in December. Now that you’ve had a few months to live with it, how do you feel about ending the show for a second time?
David Kohan: It feels right. It feels like we went out on the terms that we wanted to go out on. It feels like we didn’t overstay our welcome and we didn’t end prematurely either. I feel pretty good about that.
Max Mutchnick: It was supposed to be ten episodes. We were going to do it as a special event on NBC, Bob Greenblatt thought that would be a fun way to go and we agreed and from ten episodes we found ourselves doing 53 three years later. It was a wonderful experience but I agree with David, it’s exactly as it should be. We did as many as we should have and it was like having a once in a lifetime experience for a second time. It was such a gift to have it happen in your life, why would we ever think that would happen again so it was a little wonderful miracle.
You wrote the final episode yourselves. How was that second time around?
Mutchnick: It felt like we knew the characters better and we were doing right by the characters a little better than we did the first time around. As we aged, we understand life a little bit better, we understand the characters we’ve created a little bit better and in this finale, they were honestly who they were conceived to be, which was a couple who had everything but for this one thing. Because of the way world changed since we were writing the first show, we were able to talk about non-traditional families, really there is no judgement of what a family is as long as it works for the family and I think that’s where we were able to get to with this finale.
Kohan: You think about how different it feels than when Prop 8 was a really controversial thing, the idea of two [men] getting married in California. Then when we started back up again, it felt like a relic, maybe not to the rest of the country, but it did to us, it certainly did to Max, who had been married for years by this point. So, it was a different landscape and a landscape that changed radically and quickly so it never felt like we were swimming upstream against the currents of history, we were now with it. It didn’t seem that it was that far off. The thing that I always said coming into this, it was no longer that the show wasn’t a novelty and an outlier, we were coming back as something that was old and familiar and comfortable.
Mutchnick: The first finale was a wish fulfilment for the audience that wanted to see this heteronormative narrative take place (Will and Grace’s children get married). It was the more traditional way things should go, they both ended up going to their corners and had their version of marriage and partnership, that was the first go around.
Kohan: The kids were able to realise the thing that they weren’t.
Mutchnick: But it’s all written from the ideal version of a relationship that is a heterosexual one. We realised the ultimate fantasy, the boy and the girl love story, that’s what we told with the first finale. With this finale, we were more at peace and had come to terms with society, it’s more acceptable for these two people to be together and have lovers and live under one roof and still call themselves an American family, a gay man and a straight woman are very close and adore each other and speak the same language so they’re going to raise their children together. The first time around, we were still kind of following an old trope in an odd way. All of that unevolved thinking was a dream.
You haven’t done a flash forward for this finale, have you left the door open in case you want to revisit the characters in a few years?
Mutchnick: We’re not coming back. There’s no version of us coming back. David and I don’t want to do it anymore. We own these characters and love them, we’ve shared them and the four actors that play them certainly have a piece of the DNA of these characters in them and the network would ultimately be the ones to decide, but if David and I were given the authority to make the choice, I think it’s time that this story is over. We’ve told every story that we can tell for these characters.
You filmed this back in December; you must be pleased that the finale wasn’t shutdown by COVID-19?
Mutchnick: We lucked out that we were finished. But we’re airing a retrospective afterwards and that was not done. That show has almost 150 clips from the 246 episodes that we made so there was a great deal of work after we were all pronounced shut-ins. So that wasn’t easy but we were thrilled to finish it and lock it. Elton John was not shot and trying to get Elton John to shoot something during a quarantine… he’s not the easiest bloke to get to do this, but god bless him.
James Burrows directed every single episode of Will & Grace. That feels like something that we won’t see again on network television. Can you talk about your relationship with him?
Kohan: It’s like a ball player playing for one team. It’s such a rarity now but once upon a time, it was expected. Frankly, I don’t know if we would have done it, if we had not all down it together. You take any part of this away and it becomes something different. Jimmy, especially, we were always a team on this and it would not have felt right unless we were all doing this together. It’s so nice to have this ongoing partnership, for almost a quarter century. When Max and I first started working with Jimmy, it was the sort of thing that almost made us feel validated as creators and showrunners. He’s the man. Over the course, to feel like we were genuine partners and teammates, it’s such a special thing.
You wrap up most subjects on the show, but there’s a few threads left hanging. For instance, we’ve never seen Karen’s (ex) husband Stan, although in the finale you half expect him to come down from his helicopter. Why didn’t you show him?
Mutchnick: There was a high-ranking writer on the staff who very much wanted Stan to make an appearance the finale. Speaking for myself, I never wanted to do it unless it was Marlon Brando or Robert Redford, a spectacular person that played Stan. I don’t think there was ever a way to pull it off and why blow it at the end. I’m really glad we never did it.
Kohan: Orson Welles could have done it as well but we couldn’t get either one of them.
It’s also not clear who is the father of Grace’s baby.
Kohan: That was intentional.
Mutchnick: It’s not one of those guys that you met [earlier in the season]. There’s a backstory that we’re not going to share. Something else happened. It wasn’t an immaculate conception but she did leave out one person she was with in Europe and that’s who the father is. There was a scheduling issue that made it impossible to happen. The father of the child exists. We had decided creatively that a past lover of hers was the father and she saw him in Europe.
Now that Will & Grace has ended, you’re working on a new comedy pilot for CBS. How is that going amidst the current situation?
Mutchnick: We are on the second script right now. It’s now called The Big Bad Wolf.
Kohan: We’ll see. It really is such a curious time. You don’t really know where you stand. In the normal world, by now, you’d be producing the pilot or it would have already been shot.
Mutchnick: We’ve got Julie Bowen to play Frankie Wolfe, she’s such an exciting piece of casting and I’m sure we will get to it as soon as we’re allowed to it but a lot has to happen for us to get on that sound stage and shoot that pilot. We hope that this second script excites them.