Producers of Will & Grace are making good on their promise to take their central gay character, Will (Eric McCormack), out on a few dates this season. But as Max Mutchnick, the show's cocreator/executive producer, explains, the road to romance will be paved with land mines... all of them named Jack (Sean Hayes).
"Very early on in the season, Will and Jack find that they're dating the same guy," Mutchnick tells Out magazine. "And right before Christmas, we do a story where Jack gets a new job at a store and meets a guy there that he's very taken by. But the guy seems a little too advanced for Jack. He uses big words like delicatessen and meticulous. Jack asks Will to come and help him speak to this guy through the headset system that Jack uses at the store.
"He puts Will into a Cyrano story," continues Mutchnick, "where the guy falls in love with Will through Jack."
Mutchnick points out, however, there are no concrete plans at this point to introduce a steady boyfriend for Will. "It will always come down to the best casting," insists the writer/producer, who confirms that he offered Robert Downey Jr. the chance to be Will's suitor, but the actor (currently seen on Ally McBeal) turned him down flat. "I just pray we find the right guy to play the part. God, if we can't find someone, then we have to keep writing these one-date episodes, because we're not going to give airtime to someone who's not seen as strong as Eric."
In addition to Downey, Mutchnick reveals that he's "out there aggressively pursuing some actors, [but] everybody says no. They're scared."
For his part, McCormack believes a long-term romance would unbalance the show, taking the focus away from the show's central theme: the friendship between Will and Grace (Debra Messing). "We're not going to add another permanent character," he says. "I just want to see him date someone for four or five episodes."
But if the Emmy-winning comedy enjoys a long life on NBC, McCormack concedes that anything is possible. "Maybe we'll get into our eighth season and Will at that point has a permanent boyfriend and they're raising a child," he hedges. "Hey, if it takes eight seasons to get there, wouldn't it be remarkable to have that on network television."