Madonna's April 24 guest shot on NBC's Will & Grace caps a two-year pursuit on the part of the sitcom's coexecutive producer Tim Kaiser — a mission that involved some wishful thinking, a little behind-the-scenes diplomacy and, perhaps most importantly, a bribe no material girl could resist. "I sent a lot of flowers," Kaiser laughs. "Madonna loves English roses, so I began to send these fantastic arrangements."
The floral fawning helped Kaiser penetrate Madonna's inner circle, although, "There wasn't much interest," he notes. "I was informed Madonna didn't own a television, or know Will & Grace existed." But, crazy for the pop icon, the scribe didn't give up. "I sent tapes of appearances by Matt Damon, Michael Douglas and whatnot, and... pitched how wonderful it would be for her to come on the show."
But it wasn't until last November — shortly after her latest film, Swept Away, tanked — that the singer showed any true blue consideration. However, Madonna's manager, Caresse Henry, denies that her client saw an opportunity to justify her acting ambition in the wake of the movie's failure. "She didn't do it to redeem herself," insists Henry, adding that the Evita star wanted a chance to "show her comedic side, because she's very funny." Another perk? The episode coincides with the April 22 release of her latest album, American Life.
Armed with a tentative OK, Kaiser — along with W&G exec producers Jeff Greenstein and Jhoni Marchinko — ran by the "Music" maker a number of potential plots. "She had one parameter," notes Kaiser. "She would not play herself. She wanted to act." After passing on several ideas (including one that cast her as a pupil in Jack's acting class), Madonna — a quick convert to the cult of Megan Mullally's alter ego Karen — jumped at a storyline that had her playing the socialite's new working class roomie. "She's a wannabe Sex and the City girl," says Greenstein.
Despite her insane schedule, the Queen of all Media showed up on time for rehearsals and displayed no diva behavior on the set. "I expected to put a PA on full alert," jokes Kaiser, "but she was a real professional." Just as startling, at the March 18 taping, the sitcom virgin discovered what it feels like for the new girl. "She had a few nerves," he concedes, "but once she got the first take down, she hit it out of the park."
With that success story in the bag, Kaiser is already counting the hours until he corrals his next big get. Hints the ex-Seinfeld exec: "We're big Nicole Kidman fans." We hear she thinks red roses are to die for.