Eric McCormack hopes Will & Grace made things easier for Schitt's Creek and other LGBTQ shows

Eric McCormack reflects on his iconic role in Will & Grace and how the show helped pave the way for future LGBTQ shows.

Best known for his role as Will Truman on Will & Grace, Eric McCormack reflects back on the show's legacy with deep pride. 

"I carry the mantle of Will & Grace very proudly," he says.

Will & Grace first aired in September 1998 and ran for eight seasons, over eight years. 11 years later, Will & Grace returned in 2017 for a reboot that lasted until April 2020.

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Will & Grace was about Will, a gay lawyer from New York City, and his best friend and roommate Grace (Debra Messing). Along with Grace's rich and often very blunt assistant Karen (Megan Mullally), and Will's friend Jack (Sean Hayes), who is also gay. The show was one of the first of its kind, centring around openly gay characters on prime-time television. 

"Like a lot of shows at the time, we were just trying to be funny and we kind of slipped a lot of the more sort of lifestyle stuff in. We just sort of hoped everyone would accept it," says McCormack. 

"And as time went by people not only accepted but people who never thought they would watch a couple of gay characters on television were tuning in every week." 

Eric McCormack as Will Truman and Debra Messing as Grace Adler in Will and Grace "Staten Island Ferry" Episode. (Chris Haston/NBC)

McCormack explains that the key to the show's success is that first and foremost it was a comedy, and that he's always said you can attract more flies with honey than you can with vinegar. 

During the late 90s and early 2000s, McCormack says there were lots of parades and marches in support of LGBTQ community and about AIDS and the people that were lost, but Will & Grace "didn't try to be any of those things."

"It was just funny. So you could sit down with your grandmother and watch it and suddenly your grandmother could feel differently and be introduced to the subject in a way, in your living room. It's not an Oscar-winning film, it's a sitcom that's in your house every week and I think that it was a great way to deliver the message," he says.

Almost 10 years later, Schitt's Creek seemed to have a similar effect on its fan base, by drawing in audiences from all different walks of life and using comedy to do so. However, McCormack points out that there are some differences in the way the two shows accomplished this. 

Sean Hayes as Jack McFarland, Eric McCormack as Will Truman in the Will and Grace episode "Sweatshop Annie & The Annoying Baby Shower". (Chris Haston/NBC)

Because it was the first of its kind, McCormack believes that Will & Grace had a "slow build," in that it slowly increased its fan base and introduced LGBTQ subject matter to individuals who may have otherwise never been exposed to it. 

"Whereas someone like Dan Levy is coming out and saying, 'Here's my characters, here's who he is and he's gonna get a boyfriend in this small town,'" he says. 

"I hope that [Will and Grace] made it easier for Schitt's Creek, for a Modern Family, and any of the shows that feature loud and proud LGBTQ characters."

Schitt's Creek was able to resonate with it's fans so deeply that it has received an outpouring of support from fans in the LGBTQ community who say it changed their life.

The show also set a new record for most Emmy wins by a comedy series in a single season, and was nominated for five Golden Globe awards this year, including best TV comedy series. 

You can stream all six seasons on Schitt's Creek for free on CBC GEM