I still remember where I was when I saw my first episode of Will & Grace. It was at a small hotel in Leavenworth where I was staying with my family for Thanksgiving Weekend 2001. I was instantly hooked. I had only just begun to start accepting myself and my own sexuality but still several years from coming out of the closet and I knew I had found something special. Something that was going to help me on becoming more comfortable with being gay; something that was going to constantly remind me that there is happiness after coming out; something that showed me that I can live life without forcing myself into a hetero normative pigeon hole. I finally had representation of who I was and who I wanted to be.
When the show wrapped in 2006 I was thankful for the time I got to spend getting to know these characters that had helped me find the confidence in myself to finally come out. I watched this show with friends and family, both before and after coming out, always watching for facial cues to see if they were offended or enjoying the show. I treated these viewings as a test run to see how they handled LGBT characters and situations, to see if they would accept me when I came out…an experience that I am sure mirrors a good portion of millennials in the gay community. My only regret (in regards to Will & Grace) was that I never got to see a live taping of the show that helped me be me.
In January 2017 it was announced that Will & Grace would be returning for a 9th season and I was instantly overcome with excitement. I had just finished securing an apartment in LA and finalizing a job transfer, and getting everything prepped for a February move that I had been working on for years. I knew this was my chance to finally see a taping of my favorite show…the show that I owed for giving me so much personal happiness.
Cut to: 8 months later. I got the email I had been waiting 16 years for:
I had a ticket for a taping of Will & Grace.
On August 23rd I attended the taping for the third episode of the upcoming 9th season. It was a literal dream come true. I was giddy all day leading up to the taping. Driving on to the Universal Studios back lot and getting my visitors pass I was giggling like a school girl.
Then came the waiting. Hours of waiting. My ticket told me to plan to be there by 2 PM for a 5 PM taping. Luckily it was a very gay crowd and the people around me were really fun and engaging. I passed the time talking with a cute bear named Brandon about our mutual love for everything Will & Grace, Disneyland, and The Haunted Mansion. He even runs an etsy shop selling recreations of the art from The Haunted Mansion and fake Death Certificates (in hindsight I probably should have got his number).
As soon as we got to the sound stage we all took pictures with a Will & Grace sign and then were ushered to our seats. Still about an hour and a half from the taping, you could hear everyone talking about their favorite Will & Grace moments and their excitement for the future two seasons of the show. Scouring the audience, I noticed a few familiar faces, including Justin Mikita (Jesse Tyler Ferguson’s husband) and Daniel Franzese (Damian from Mean Girls). I knew the was going to be a special day!
Finally it starts. The warm up comedian introduces a short video clip that showed some highlights from the show’s past and the cast accepting their Emmy Awards for their work on the show. The entire crowd is entranced and then everything goes dark. Suddenly there they are, the cast of Will & Grace…standing just a few dozen feet from me! Then the curtain is raised and we get our first glimpse of Will’s apartment. It is all too surreal, and it takes everything I have in me to keep from bursting into tears of excitement and happiness. I don’t even know where to look as I try to examine every detail of the set so I can relive this moment over and over again in my head.
The next 4 hours are filled with some amazing jokes and a story line that is going to leave every Will & Grace fan back in love with the show they hold so close to them. I don’t want to spoil anything in the show, but this episode will see the return of Leo (Harry Connick Jr.) and a brief but hilarious appearance by Laura Kightlinger as the beloved Nurse Sheila. I am pretty sure Harry Connick Jr has made a deal with the devil because goddamn he is aging well. He somehow looks younger than he did on the original run of the show. Ankles to Jesus, I swear that man could get it.
The chemistry of the cast is still there. They play off each other as well as they ever did, and you can just tell they are happy to be back in the roles that made them famous. Most of the crew of the original series is back too…you can tell this team is a giant family There is an energy of love and respect when you enter the sound stage. Several team members shared their favorite behind the scenes memories and cast stories. Even Eric McCormack got on the mic to talk for a bit about some of his favorite stories, including the time that he asked Craft Services for a healthier lunch option, since he was playing a gay man and he wanted to stay in shape. So they made him a salad, but instead of a normal salad dressing, they used bacon fat.
Before I knew it, it was over. The cast came back out to do their curtain call and we were instructed to start exiting the sound stage. On my way out I notice people are leaning on the front railing, and there was Eric McCormack signing autographs, so naturally I rush my ticket over the railing and I now have a cherished souvenir from this dream of a day.
Its been well over 24 hours since I left the taping, and I am still reliving every moment of the day. I feel like a lot of my life has come full circle. This show gave me the stepping stones to be the out and proud gay man I am today, and now my laughter will be forever a part of an episode. I am truly thankful for this experience and it will forever be one of the most exciting moments of my life.
Oh, and you better believe I am on the wait list for future tapings.
Make sure to tune in to NBC on Thursday, September 28th when Will & Grace returns for its 9th season.