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Megan Mullally Strikes Gold with "Will & Grace"

With her Emmy award-winning role as the elegantly wasted Karen Walker on "Will & Grace," the popular television sitcom launched Megan Mullally’s career as a queer icon with a fanatic gay following around the world.

The Oklahoma native was preparing recently for the sixth season of one of NBC’s most popular Thursday night programs when she spoke with Arjan on the show’s set in Studio City, Calif., about its groundbreaking storylines, gay humor, her bisexuality and queer television.

"The fact that [Will & Grace] did not create controversy is partly because 'Ellen' had broken some ground already," Mullally says. "Another reason is that gay-bashing is built into the show. So if you’re some truck driver in North Dakota, you get to laugh at the expense of these guys right along with the guys themselves."

More than 100 episodes after "Will & Grace" first aired, the comedy series has paved the way for more openly gay characters on the small screen. Despite the show’s focus on gay topics, it enjoys a huge mainstream audience and was never the focus of political fury or subject to NBC censors.

When actor Ellen DeGeneres’ character Ellen Morgan came out as a lesbian in 1997 on "Ellen," it resulted in a media firestorm and speculation that the show was canceled because of its gay-related storylines. But the sitcom already had begun to lose viewers even before the character and the actor came out.

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The episode on which the lesbian character acknowledged she was gay prompted more viewers to tune in, though not all of them continued to watch the sitcom. Eventually, "Ellen" was canceled, but the extent to which the gay storyline affected this is debatable.

Mullally believes what happened was rooted in the awkward way the character on "Ellen" came out of the closet.

"After the episode in which she came out, it was such a big deal that the show could not have a follow-up episode that was like ‘that crazy thing that happened when everybody went bowling,' " she says. "The show had to keep dealing with it, and that’s when the issue became politicized and everybody jumped on it.

"In 'Will & Grace,' Jack and Will happen to be gay, and viewers have known this from the start," Mullally says. "There was nothing to argue about."

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Appearing on "Will & Grace" was Mullally’s big break in Tinsel Town. Before her ongoing stint on network television, she was an accomplished theater actress in musicals and plays in Chicago and New York City. But Mullally never expected to be a comedic actress.

"What I think I do is that I play a comedy as if it’s a drama. I play it high-stakes, and that makes it funnier," she says. "If you really invest in the character’s little details, then it makes that character much funnier."

Mullally says "Will & Grace" is often very farcical, like a musical comedy.

"It is paced really fast. There have been a lot of things that I discovered that I really like about playing that kind of comedy," she says. "A lot of the physical comedy is also really fun to do, but I also find it really fun to watch."

Mullally credits much of Karen’s distinct qualities to the show’s writers, even though she was able to add some of her own ideas to the character.

"I came up with Karen’s high-pitched voice, the body language and the 'honeys,'" she says. "But beyond that, the writers write all of our dialogue. I think it was early on when we pitched a couple of ideas to the writers. But overall the writing is so good that we don’t have to step in."

All the show’s lead actors: Erick McCormack (Will), Debra Messing (Grace), Sean Hayes (Jack) and Mullally have been recognized for their outstanding acting performances. Messing won an Emmy on Sept. 21, for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series. The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation has honored "Will & Grace" with three awards.

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Over the years, many gay fans, among others, have questioned why the show is not called "Jack & Karen" to reflect the hilarity between the two satellite characters.

"Clearly, the center of the show remains the relationship between the gay guy and the straight girl," Mullally says. "I agree that Jack and Karen are the characters that people initially responded too. Now, Will and Grace’s characters are so much funnier and multi-faceted that in a way the gap has been narrowed."

Mullally is excited about having so many gay fans and has her own explanation for her popularity, which includes Karen’s distinct queer humor on the show.

"There are a lot of different sets of jokes you can do when its comes to queer humor. It has to do with being able to do more outrageous things," she says. "That is why I think Karen is so popular in the gay community — because she is so outrageous and outspoken. If you’re gay, you are in a repressed minority and you want to be able to speak up, and so you identify with strong personalities such as Karen."

Mullally, who married her longtime boyfriend, actor Nick Offerman, on the night before the Emmy Awards ceremony Sunday, never made a secret of her bisexuality.

"It is no big deal to me. I have always been attracted to women and I went on dates with women if they asked me and I thought they were interesting," she says. "It did not seem that different to me. I had made a pledge that if I ever would be in a relationship with a woman I would be really open about it.

"But then I met [Offerman] and now he is the apple of my eye," she says. "The lesson is not whether somebody is straight, gay or bisexual, the lesson is how you think about it. I feel that really everybody is innately bisexual but we’re acculturated differently."

Mullally, 44, and Offerman, 33, met three years ago while co-starring in a play in Los Angeles, Entertainment Weekly reported, and got engaged last year. She previously was married to talent agent Michael Katcher. This is Offerman’s first marriage.

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The actress describes herself as an avid fan of queer television and says she tapes all the episodes of "Queer Eye For The Straight Guy" and "Boy Meets Boy" on her Tivo.

Mullally believes that both shows are helping gays gain more acceptance because of the programs’ real-life depiction of some aspects of gay life.

She describes "Queer Eye" as "very touching and poignant because the straight guys are really open to it and, in the end, so happy, grateful and confident. It is a very interesting cultural study."

"Boy Meets Boy" is similar in that way, Mullally says. "Afterwards, all the straight guys admitted how similar gays are to them and that it is really about relationships with the same kind of emotional patterns," she says. "It is another step in the right direction without being political, but in the form of entertainment."

Mullally recently got the chance to meet some of her idols.

"We met the guys from 'Queer Eye' here yesterday, because they will make a guest appearance on another show, and they are really nice," she says. "They are really tiny people — tiny little-bitty people. It is so fascinating. Their jeans must be like a size 26. I am not kidding."

In Karen-like fashion, she says, "Some people say that Jack is too gay and that nobody is that flamboyant, but the blond guy [Carson Kressley] from the show even beats Jack. He is so funny."

Mullally realizes, though, that her adoration for the Fab Five has its limits.

"I’ve had a lot of gay men fall in love with me and vice versa," she says, "but you know, it can only go so far."

October 6, 2003 in TV Reviews | Permalink

Comments

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Megan is absolutely stunning. She is not only talented, but she is beautiful,funny and an inspiring actress.
My favourite show on tellie is, and I think, always will be - Will & Grace...I have watched the My season one DVD millions of times and i still love it!!!
Megan brings an extra something to the show, and the characters Jack and Karen are just adorable.
I also loved her movie - The Pact - it was interesting to see her play a more, dramatic and serious role...but she definately pulled it off.
She was excellent.
I love Megan and she i think she has the kindest heart, and the most warmest personality.
I wish her well.

~EMMA~

Posted by: ~Emma~ at Aug 10, 2004 12:25:06 AM

O my good golly gosh! I get so into Megan I get goosebumps like I do now. I cry all the time b/c of her..she is so incredible! She gave me my personlity and my joy and I only 13! I am obsessed and plz don't be weirded out. I can watch her for days staight just watching her on my Will & Grace DVD's. 1 time I played hookie and watched my season 1 DvD for 9 hrs!! And I know like every line!Sometimes I even talk to the people at the registers in stores about her! Even when I get my haircut(which is like hers and I flip it out like hers)except it is blonde. I adore her so much and the fab 5 too! And nobody is a bigger-more dedicated-commited-obsessed-#1-110% fan like I am! OHHHH no hoho. no way hosey. She is the 1st thing I think about when I wake up and the last thing I think about before I go to bed. i prayed for a long time that I meet her or be a guest on Will & Grace (I could be Olivia or someone)(Or another hidden child of Jacks) remember when she fell out of the chair when Elliot told jack he was his son? ha that was histarical! anyhoo she is a hoot & a half and i adore her. She is so talented and has pure bueaty. I would be so blessed if i ever saw her. And she says she is nothing like Karen- well if she can play her that well she is in good shape in acting. She is just amazing and she is the apple of MY eye. She is always on mind. you are always on my mind! She has the best voice and is a great singer! And I can't get enough of karen's high-pitched voice. Now i love karen's voice, not the Nanny's. ah ha ha. And for some reason, when I started to love megan, ha ha, my boobs got bigger ha ha it's weird and i didn't ask for them either but o well. She is so wonderful and like she says: Forget Will & Grace, call it jack and karen. And she is so much! And i hope she never makes me cry again like she did on The Pact. Oh goodness gracious my face was covered in tears. I just want to thank her for giving me so many things and making me want to become an actress just like her and inspire other people like she did me. I have a passion now, and so many dreams i hope come true. I would do ANYTHING to meet her! I just love that she is openly bi. I'm not bi or gay but someone to close to me is and I didn't hate him when I found out I loved him even more just like I did w/ Megan. And it was like she is there to help my troubles and she does. She makes me happy and laugh all the time & brings so much joy to me. Ok I gonna stop now cuz it is like whoo too much to read.
Best wishes-megan
Good luck at the emmy's I'll be watching and good luck w/ W&G and your marriage

Posted by: Megan at Aug 29, 2004 9:21:24 PM

I totally am just like her in that Queer Fan way..I watch almost anything that has queer people in it. I am fasinated by them because I know so many of them and everything that happens to me has to do with queer people. I love the fact that she says that we are all generally bisexual because when we are young we are still exploring our sexuality but eventually we determine what we are when we fall in love. Never be ashamed and support your fellow queer, they are people too!!

Posted by: Jordan at Sep 17, 2004 6:20:22 PM

Per megan è una persona fantastica mi piacerrebbe conoscerla! E poi will&greace non sarebbe lo stesso senza di lei! Ma chi è suo mrito? Secondo me lei starebbe benissimo con quel bellissimo uomo di George Clooney!

Posted by: caterina at Sep 25, 2004 2:41:52 AM

its sh#t!!!!

Posted by: at Oct 7, 2004 6:22:00 AM

Megan is the best acress ever, i am only 12, but she has really inspired me, and given me many dreams for when i'm older. She is the best, and so is Jack and Karen! I really want to go to America, as i live in England. And i would do anything to meet her! And Sean. I too love anything with queer people in it. I'm not, but i find gay people really fun!
Bye!!!

Posted by: Amy Johnson at Oct 13, 2004 11:13:46 AM

Megan Mullally is a taledted women that makes me laugh every time when i see Will&Grace, also Sean Hayes. The show sould really be Jack&karen, they mostly make up the show. Even though im 13 and supposed to watch MTV, I rather watch Megan Mullally act and have a good laugh.

LOVE U MEAGAN!!!!!!!

Posted by: Ol ivia at Nov 5, 2004 6:45:40 PM

I love Megan!! She inspires me and her character's personality is amazing!!!! I only 12 too!! I am glad I'm not the only one. She is sooooo funny. Sean Hayes's character is funny too! I don't really care for will or grace. Why don't they call the show Jack And Karen??? I mean their the funniest. I hope the show never ends.

Posted by: Stacey at Nov 10, 2004 4:26:16 PM

MEGAN è LA MIGLIORE...MI PIACEREBBE SE VENISSE IN ITALIA PERCHè VORREI VEDERLA DAL VIVO E DIRLE CHE QUANDO SONO TRISTE GUARDO WILL&GRACE PERCHè C'è LEI CHE MI FA TORNARE IL SORRISO...CREDO CHE SIA UNA PERSONA FANTASTICA...E CON NICK FORMANO UNA COPPIA STUPENDA..GRAZIE D'ESISTERE MEGAN!!!GAIA

Posted by: gaia at Nov 27, 2004 8:40:00 AM

Szeretlek Megan Mullally.....!!!Minden nap rád gondolok és tökéletes vagy számomra!!!!Veled szeretnék lenni mindíg és a W&Gben nagyon jó vagy!!!!!Szeretlek és szeretni foglak. Az összes filmedet láttam,amit bemutattak nálunk!!Gyönyörű,csodálatos,szexi és aranyos vagy.Csak így tovább szivi!:)

I Love you honey
Kata

Posted by: Kata at Dec 2, 2004 11:47:47 AM

megan sei fantatics, unica, speciale, riesci a rendere felice una persona anche quando non lo è.......sei la MIGLIORE...CONTINUA COSì...I LOVE YOU

Posted by: gaia at Dec 11, 2004 2:57:56 PM

I just love Megan!!!
She is soooooo great and talanted!I'm only 12 but I already have a role model- Megan Mullally and "Karen". When I'm going to be older I want to be just like her! She really inspired me! My favourite characters from "will & Grace" are karen and Jack! jack is sooooo funny, he always makes me laugh! I always wanted to meet him! I don't know why, but I find gay men more funny and stylish than straight men. In the show Will and jack are both gay but only jack is funny, so that's kinda weird.But I don't really like Will and Grace, so they are really pointles.I live in London (England), so I would love to come to America and be a guest star on the show because this is my favourite show ever!I watch "Will & Grace" every day long and I know all the lines by heart, espesially Megan's and Sean's.I'm a big fan of u! If u ever read this letter Megan- I love u honey (U too Sean)!
Take care luv-Your biggest fan,
Yekaterina!
xxxx

Posted by: Yekaterina at Dec 15, 2004 3:39:50 PM

megan è la mia attrice preferita! Tutti i giorni guardo will&grace dall'italia su foxlife,sono d'accordo con l'altra caterina sul fattto che Megan starebbe benissimo con George Clooney; ho propri pensato la stessa cosa! Perchè non si sposano?Will&grace è bellissimo ma senza lei non sarebbe così... anche se sono una femmina,ti amo Megan!

Posted by: cate at Dec 19, 2004 2:15:28 AM

I love this gal so much! Shes amazingly talented & so beautiful. WOW can she sing! xxxxxxxxxx HUGE FAN of Ms. Mullallys work & her.!!!!!

Posted by: Rachel at Dec 22, 2004 6:51:57 AM

I love Karen Walker!!! She is the best. And the serie is so much funny!! I like it!

Saludos desde Chile!

Oscar

Posted by: Oscar at Dec 22, 2004 12:42:59 PM

Megan is soooooooooo great!!!
The role she plays as karen Walker suits her well.My favourite things about Karen are her high pitched voise, her sence of style & her sence of Queer humour. megan always looks amaizing and I cannot believe that she is in her 40's, I would love to look like her at that age!
W&G is my favourite show ever! Most kids my age (Im 12) watch MTV and the mosr "popular" TV show "Friends". Lot's of people say that Friends are better than W&G but I disagree! I dont find anything funny about that lame show! So I prefer W&G and i don't care whar anyone says!
In W&G my favourite characters are Jack& Karen! The are the best!!!
Most people say that W&G should be called Jack & Karen and I think they are right!
I also like Sean Hayes, and his character Jack McFarland. He is sooooo funny! Jack is my role model, I know that he is a man but in the show his fefanine side makes a lot of difference!
Megan & Sean are so great I would love to meat them both! I live in England, so Im not quite sure how I can manage that nut I'll try my best!
Megan ig you'll ever read this letter - U ARE THE BEST!!!

PS: love your solo album!
Luv Kat!!!
xxxx

Posted by: Kat at Jan 6, 2005 3:55:34 PM

You fuckers have no life and I'm sorry to say that I would never EVER kiss you, you whore. I hate all of you, and I hope you all burn.
-Megan

Posted by: megan mullally at Jan 22, 2005 4:30:28 PM

Um, ok! Lol! The woman's a legend

x x x

Posted by: Jen at Jan 23, 2005 11:36:46 AM

megan you're the best that happened to jack will and grace.keep up the good work ...g'luck and if u ever come across this love u and ur boobs lol .

Posted by: nids at Feb 6, 2005 9:03:47 PM

OMG!!! u r so cool on W&G. i love your show. luv u 2. u go megan.


oxxoxodsoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo
vicki

Posted by: vicki at Feb 18, 2005 12:18:41 PM

i love megan so much she is the best the show shud be called karen she is well gud espesilly tht bit "you move tht desk bitch" ha ha i laughed 4 hours i wish her well gud luk huni luv ya xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Posted by: lucy at Feb 24, 2005 9:58:21 AM

i love megan so much she is the best the show shud be called karen she is well gud espesilly tht bit "you move tht desk bitch" ha ha i laughed 4 hours i wish her well gud luk huni luv ya xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Posted by: lucy at Feb 24, 2005 9:58:42 AM

i luv her sooooooooooo much she is the best! i love her voice it is so gud if u eva read this then hiya lv!

Posted by: lucy at Feb 24, 2005 10:04:39 AM

i luv her sooooooooooo much she is the best! i love her voice it is so gud if u eva read this then hiya lv!

Posted by: lucy at Feb 24, 2005 10:04:59 AM

i did not no tht megan was a bisexual will sum 1 plz tell me if its tru plz thanx xxxxxxxxxxxx

Posted by: lucy at Feb 24, 2005 2:22:50 PM

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