LGBTQ+ Pride Month

'Will & Grace' Star Sean Hayes On Being Proud To Say 'Husband' And Wanting A Gay Superhero

"Do we still have a long way to go? Yes."

Don't even try asking Sean Hayes what his favorite memory from Will & Grace is — there are too many for him to choose from. Well, that and the fact that he has an entirely different viewpoint than we as fans do.

"I feel like I make them every day," Hayes recently told A Plus over the phone. "I know that's a terrible answer but, when I think of the show, I don't think of it as viewers think of it. Viewers think about episodes, jokes, and storylines — but I think of it as a second family."

Now that Will & Grace has made its epic comeback — having aired its first revival season since the original eight-season run ended more than a decade ago — we've welcomed the likes of Will Truman (Eric McCormack), Grace Adler (Debra Messing), Karen Walker (Megan Mullally), and Jack McFarland (Hayes) into our lives once more. Hayes, for one, is loving it.

During our chat with Hayes, we discussed why the revival has seemingly come at the perfect time, what playing Jack means to him, his hopes for the character in the future, finding pride in saying the word "husband," and why we need a gay superhero.

A PLUS: What made this the perfect time for "Will & Grace" to return?

Sean Hayes: I think any time is a perfect time for Will & Grace to come back. There is not a bad time for Will & Grace to come back ever because this show will always feel relevant in the moment. I always say the characters are going through the same things the audience is going through. The characters live in the same real world as you and everyone else watching, so anything that falls under the umbrella of relevancy — sex, religion, politics, or pop culture — Will & Grace will discuss and tell stories about. So it's always relatable ... it's kind of timeless that way.

Photo Credit: Chris Haston / NBC
Photo Credit: Chris Haston / NBC

What has playing Jack meant to you as a person?

That's such a good question and it's like a nine-hour answer. What has it meant to me? Well, gosh, I think it means more now than it did when I was younger, and I wasn't able to digest or absorb the weight of what I was doing as an actor and the role I was playing. That's why I'm also fortunate that it came back because I appreciate it in a different way. It's a whole different interview about why I wasn't out to the press but I was out to my friends, family, and everyone else in the business — everywhere I went I was out and proud. But I wasn't out in the press because I was young — you can find these interviews all over the internet so I'm repeating myself — but the quote I always say is, "I never had the DNA to be a spokesperson for one group of people." I contribute in my way now by saying the word "husband," by making videos with my husband online, and showing how comfortable and normal I am — just like any other human being — in my relationship with my husband. I never enjoyed activism in that way. I choose to show my activism by showing the world how comfortable I am with Scottie [Icenogle], my husband. 

The other part of the question, what playing Jack means to me, is a chance to continue, with this reboot, sharing with the world that these people exist — just like any other humans. That being gay is no different than being White, male, female, Black, Asian, Latinx, trans, or anything. We're all of the same race … and that's the human race. That's why I love playing Jack.

What do you hope for Jack as a character in the future?

Well, I don't want to change the character too much because that's where a lot of the comedy comes from, but I do hope he continues to grow in his own life. By that I mean maybe he'll actually hold down a relationship and get married one day — but still remain Jack. You can still check out guys, I suppose, when you're married. You just can't act on it, as we know. Maybe keep that part alive for Jack. 

I don't want him to change too much because the friends we have in our own lives — in the real world, not on television — are kind of the same from when we first met them. I have friends from high school that may look on the outside a little older but we act exactly the same. I think that's true about these characters because they're no different than any other group of friends you might have. They're your friends because they're the same on the inside. So that was my long answer to why I don't want Jack to change too much.

Photo Credit: Chris Haston / NBC
Photo Credit: Chris Haston / NBC

With this being Pride Month, when have you felt the most proud of just being yourself?

Gosh, that's such a good question. Well, it was really scary but I'm proud I did it: I went on David Letterman — and I'd never discussed my sexuality or my relationship with my husband — and I spoke about my wedding. I used the word "husband," which I think a lot of people, when you aren't used to, it it's a hard word to say, and the more you say it the more power you exude into the world for yourself. Letterman didn't flinch at all but the audience did a little bit — I'll never forget that. He was like, "How have you been?" And I go, "Well, I got married recently to a man … not to be confused with a woman." I thought it was a good joke but the audience didn't really respond to it so it was a little cricket-y, but I'm proud that I did that because I needed to do that. Now I say it more and more and it's more comfortable to say those words and be out and proud.

It’s been 20 years since "Will & Grace" premiered. How has Hollywood changed for LGBTQ people from 1998 to now?

They are more prevalent in every show more than ever — which is a great leap forward. Do we still have a long way to go? Yes. I think in feature films it would be great to have a gay actor actually play a gay role. Nothing against the wonderful acting that straight actors do portraying gay people, but I'm a little tired of the word "brave" being attached to a straight actor's portrayal of playing a gay person. I don't know that it's brave, why is it brave? Is it brave for a gay person to act like a straight person? I don't enjoy that double standard, and I think that should be looked at and debated over. 

There was Wonder Woman, which had a female superhero woman lead, and there was Black Panther, which had a Black superhero. I would love for there to be a gay superhero. I think that would be incredible.

The first season of the Will & Grace revival is now available on DVD.

More From A Plus

GET SOME POSITIVITY IN YOUR INBOX

Subscribe to our newsletter and get the latest news and exclusive updates.