Saying Goodbye for a Second Time: “Will & Grace”

by Brandon Hooks

HRC celebrates the series finale of "Will & Grace" and the show's impact on LGBTQ representation on television.

We were first introduced to the characters of Will, Grace, Jack and Karen in the fall of 1998 when television looked a lot different than it does today. Based around the friendship of Will (Erin McCormack), a gay lawyer, and Grace (Debra Messing), a straight interior designer, the sitcom quickly became a weeknight staple for millions across the country. While people fondly remember the show for its over the top characters and witty quips, “Will & Grace” truly broke barriers by featuring LGBTQ people and issues front and center.

Throughout the show, we witness both Will and Jack (Sean Hayes) navigate life’s ups and downs - jobs, love life, friendships - all while being unapologetically queer in their own right. America had been introduced to LGBTQ characters in the past, but never in a way that made them three-dimensional people we can actually relate to. The closest television had come to such a portrayal was Ellen DeGeneres’ coming out episode on “Ellen” in 1997 that resulted in the series’ abrupt cancellation. “Will & Grace” opted to not just make queerness a side joke or one-lined character, but instead a central focus of the entire show. In the characters of Will, Jack and many others that appeared across our screens, viewers began to break down assumptions about LGBTQ people and change the narrative around queer lives.

Fans welcomed “Will & Grace” back onto their television screens in 2016 via a reunion style special focused around turning out the vote in the elections. Flash forward to a year later when the revival kicked off and started tackling LGBTQ issues in the modern day. The characters we loved had grown up right alongside us, traversing the Trump administration and fighting once again for queer representation. This iteration of “Will & Grace” made sure to adapt to current times and tackle the issues people held near and dear. Through its second installment, the show both appealed to age-old fans while also garnering a new audience of queer, milliennial/Generation Z viewers who grew to see the show as an evolution of its former self.

As the LGBTQ community and mainstream media’s portrayal of it have evolved over time, so has the show’s own way of shining a light on queer issues and characters. At its heart, “Will & Grace” has been — and will continue to be — a show proven to change the hearts and minds of people nationwide.

Say goodbye to one of television’s favorite quartets during the series finale on April 23. Join in on the fun using HRC’s virtual watch party downloads here.