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15 Surprising Facts About Will & Grace

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In 1998, one year after Ellen DeGeneres came out of the closet on television, Will & Grace made its debut. The ensemble comedy series featured two gay characters—lawyer Will Truman (Eric McCormack) and aspiring actor Jack McFarland (Sean Hayes)—and their best friends, interior designer Grace Adler (Debra Messing) and eccentric socialite Karen Walker (Megan Mullally), whose fun-filled antics were enjoyed by millions of viewers for eight seasons on NBC. Here are some surprising facts about the groundbreaking series.

1. WILL AND GRACE WERE BASED ON THE SERIES' CO-CREATOR AND HIS CHILDHOOD FRIEND.

Max Mutchnick and David Kohan were inspired by Mutchnick’s friendship with voiceover casting agency owner Janet Eisenberg. Mutchnick and Eisenberg dated before Mutchnick came out of the closet in college. Kohan was a mutual friend who watched their relationship change and mature over the years.

2. IT WAS ORIGINALLY PITCHED AS AN ENSEMBLE SHOW WITH STRAIGHT COUPLES.

The only relationship NBC executive Warren Littlefield was interested in, however, was the one with the gay man living with the straight woman. It was originally set in San Francisco, and Will had both Will and Jack’s personalities. When Mutchnick and Kohan wrote the pilot, they just focused on the Will and Grace characters.

3. THE SHOW TITLE CAME FROM A BOOK.

The two creators named the show Will & Grace based on a concept in the Jewish philosophy book I and Thou by Martin Buber, in which he says that one needs the "will" to go after the presence of the Eternal and the "grace" to receive it.

4. KOHAN AND MUTCHNICK DID THEIR RESEARCH.

While waiting to hear about the fate of their show after submitting their pilot script, the two men sent Warren Littlefield faxes listing the box office numbers of The Birdcage and My Best Friend’s Wedding, two hit movies featuring gay characters.

5. SEAN HAYES THREW THE PILOT SCRIPT AWAY.

Sean Hayes was at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah when a network casting executive faxed him the pilot script for Will & Grace after seeing him in Billy’s Hollywood Screen Kiss. After reading the script, the actor promptly threw it away. "I laughed out loud—which is rare during pilot season,” Hayes told Entertainment Weekly. ”But I’d only been at Sundance two days, and I would have had to buy my own plane ticket [to L.A.] just to audition. So I tossed it, thinking there’d be 10,000 more sitcoms."

6. VODKA MAY HAVE FACTORED INTO DEBRA MESSING’S DECISION TO PLAY GRACE.

Mutchnick and Kohan wanted Messing so badly that they went to her house with a bottle of vodka, and spent hours pouring her shots and pitching her the show. "I'm a lightweight," said Messing. "I didn't need much to be a little giddy. By the end of the evening, they said, 'Will you do it?' I said, 'Let's talk tomorrow.'" The next day, she agreed to take the part.

7. JOHN BARROWMAN LOST OUT ON PLAYING WILL BECAUSE HE WAS "TOO STRAIGHT."

John Barrowman, who is gay, said he was told by Will & Grace producers that he was ‘too straight’ to play Will. Eric McCormack, who is straight, got the part instead.

8. MEGAN MULLALLY CHOSE PLAYING KAREN OVER PLAYING CARRIE ON THE KING OF QUEENS.

Instead of being the queen of an entire borough (or at least Kevin James' TV wife), Mullally went with playing Karen, after she auditioned to play Grace.

9. NICK OFFERMAN WOULD HAVE BEEN CAST AS GRACE’S BOYFRIEND NATHAN IF WOODY HARRELSON HAD TURNED DOWN THE PART.

Instead, Offerman—who was Mullally's then-boyfriend—played a plumber in the 2001 episode “Moveable Feast.” The couple married two years later.

10. HISPANIC RIGHTS GROUPS SUCCESSFULLY GOT A WORD TAKEN OUT OF AN EPISODE TWO HOURS BEFORE IT WAS SCHEDULED TO AIR.

NBC had the word “tamale” replaced with “honey” in the episode “Guess Who’s Not Coming to Dinner” after Hispanic rights groups and the NAACP believed the word was an ethnic slur coming from Karen to her Salvadoran maid, Rosario. Shelley Morrison, the actress who played Rosario, once said there were only two times throughout the series where she felt that Rosario was doing something demeaning. Both times, the producers changed the line or situation.

11. NBC REWARDED THE CAST WITH FREE CARS.

As a thank you for their work during the series' first season, McCormack, Messing, Hayes, and Mullally all received matching Porsche Boxster convertibles.

12. CHER'S CAMEO WAS FILMED VERY, VERY QUICKLY.

Mullally told Entertainment Weekly of the experience: “They flew her in. Like, she was sort of dropped in on a crescent moon, she did the scene, and was, like, airlifted back out. And when I met her she was in her full Cher Land drag, so I didn’t get to experience her as a person.”

13. JAMES BURROWS DIRECTED EVERY EPISODE OF THE SERIES.

The veteran director, who was behind the camera for shows like Cheers and Frasier, was the consummate pro. He even made sure that every piece of mail on Will and Grace’s coffee table was either addressed to Truman or Adler at 30 Rockefeller Place, New York, NY, to give the characters authenticity.

14. A SPINOFF STARRING KAREN WAS CONSIDERED.

NBC changed their minds when the Friends spinoff Joey didn’t last more than one full season. Instead, the network gave Mullally a talk show.

15. VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN CREDITED THE SHOW WITH EDUCATING THE AMERICAN PUBLIC ABOUT LGBT ISSUES.

While appearing on Meet the Press in 2012, years after the show ended, Biden said, “I think Will & Grace probably did more to educate the American public than almost anything anybody has ever done so far.” In 2014, The Smithsonian Institute added items from Will & Grace as part of their collection documenting the history of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals.

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16 Geeky Coasters to Keep Your Coffee Table Safe
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Avoid unsightly ring stains on your coffee table with this delightful selection of coasters:

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

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Build your own coaster with this LEGO-esque design.

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This ceramic set celebrates all the best ships from Star Trek.

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Just make sure you don’t accidentally send your glass into a different time period when you set it down.

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Cover your counter space with the cute face of Rilakkuma.

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All the houses are present in this set of wood coasters.

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Just because it’s the end of the world doesn’t mean all manners go out the door: Never forget to use a coaster!

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This set comes with 10 coasters, each with a slice of brain specimen. When you’re not using them, you can stack them together to create a full brain.

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Getting totally wigged by the idea of a stained table? All your favorite characters from Buffy the Vampire Slayer can give you an assist.

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These coasters feature scenes from the classics My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, and Howl's Moving Castle.

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15 Educational Facts About Old School
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Old School starred Luke Wilson as Mitch Martin, an attorney who—after catching his girlfriend cheating, and through some real estate and bitter dean-related circumstances—becomes the leader of a not-quite-official college fraternity. Along with his fellow thirtysomething friends Bernard (Vince Vaughn) and newlywed Frank (Will Ferrell), they end up having to fight for their right to maintain their status as a party-loving frat on campus.

The film, which was released 15 years ago today, marked Vaughn’s return to major comedies and Ferrell’s first major starring role after seven years on Saturday Night Live. Here are some facts about the movie for everyone, but particularly for my boy, Blue.

1. THE IDEA ORIGINATED WITH AN AD GUY.

Writer-director Todd Phillips was talking to a friend of his from the advertising industry named Court Crandall one day. Crandall had seen and enjoyed Phillips's movie Frat House (1998) and told his director buddy, “You know what would be funny is a movie about older guys who start a fraternity of their own.” After being told by Phillips to write it, he presented Phillips with a “loose version” of the finished product.

2. SOME OF THE FRAT SHENANIGANS WERE REAL.

While Crandall received the story credit for Old School, Phillips and Scot Armstrong received the credit for writing the script. Armstrong put his own college fraternity experiences into the script. “We were in Peoria, Illinois, so it was up to us to entertain ourselves," Armstrong shared in the movie's official production notes. "A lot of ideas for Old School came from things that really happened. When it was cold, everyone would go stir crazy and it inspired some moments of brilliance. Of course, my definition of ‘brilliance' might be different from other people's.”

3. IVAN REITMAN HELPED OUT.

Ivan Reitman, director of Stripes and Ghostbusters, was an executive producer on the film. Phillips and Armstrong wrote and rewrote every day for two months at Reitman’s house, an experience Phillips described as comedy writing “boot camp.”

4. THE STUDIO DIDN’T WANT VINCE VAUGHN.

Vince Vaughn in 'Old School' (2003)
DreamWorks

It didn’t seem to make a difference to DreamWorks that Phillips and Armstrong had written the role of Bernard with Vince Vaughn in mind—the studio didn't want him. After his breakout success in Swingers, Vaughn had taken roles in dramas like the 1998 remake of Psycho. “So when Todd Phillips wanted me for Old School, the studio didn’t want me,” Vaughn told Variety in 2015. “They didn’t think I could do comedy! They said, ‘He’s a dramatic actor from smaller films.’ Todd really had to push for me.”

5. RECYCLED SHOTS OF HARVARD UNIVERSITY WERE USED.

The film was mainly shot on the Westwood campus of UCLA. The aerial shots of the fictitious Harrison University, however, were of Harvard; they had been shot for Road Trip (2000).

6. VINCE VAUGHN FANS MIGHT RECOGNIZE THE CHURCH.

In the film, Frank gets married at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Pasadena, California. Vaughn and Owen Wilson were in that same church two years later for Wedding Crashers (2005).

7. WILL FERRELL SCARED MEMBERS OF A 24-HOUR GYM.

Frank’s streaking scene was shot on a city street. As Ferrell remembered it, one of the storefronts was a 24-hour gym with Stairmasters and treadmills in the window. “I was rehearsing in a robe, and all these people are in the gym, watching me. I asked one of the production assistants, ‘Shouldn’t we tell them I’m going to be naked?’ Sure enough, I dropped my robe and there were shrieks of pure horror. After the first take, nobody was at the window anymore. I took that as a sign of approval.”

8. FERRELL REALLY WAS NAKED.

Ferrell justified it by saying it showed his character falling off the wagon. “The fact that it made sense was the reason I was really into doing it, and why I was able to commit on that level," Ferrell told the BBC. "If it was just for the sake of doing a crazy shot, then I don't think it makes sense.” Still, Ferrell needed some liquid courage, and was intimidated by the presence of Snoop Dogg.

9. ROB CORDDRY WAS NOT NAKED, BUT HE STILL HAD TO SIGN AWAY HIS NUDITY RIGHTS.

Old School marked the first major film role for Rob Corddry, who at the time was best known as a correspondent for The Daily Show. He had a jewel bag around his private parts for his nude scene, but his butt made it into the final cut. He had to sign a nudity clause, which gave the film the right to use his naked image “in any part of the universe, in any form, even that which is not devised.”

10. SNOOP DOGG AGREED TO CAMEO SO HE COULD PLAY HUGGY BEAR IN STARSKY & HUTCH.

Phillips admitted to essentially bribing the hip-hop artist/actor, using Snoop Dogg’s desire to play the street informant in the modern movie adaptation of the classic TV show (which Phillips was also directing) to his advantage. “So when I went to him I said, 'I want you to do Huggy Bear,' he was really excited. And I said, 'Oh yeah, also will you do this little thing for me in Old School a little cameo?' So he kind of had to do it I think."

11. SNOOP WANTED TO HANG OUT WITH VINCE VAUGHN ON SET, BUT NOT LUKE WILSON.

Snoop Dogg in 'Old School' (2003)
Richard Foreman, Dreamworks

Vaughn and his friends accepted an invitation to hang out in Snoop Dogg’s trailer to play video games on the last day of shooting. Vaughn recalled seeing Luke Wilson later watching the news alone in his trailer; he had not been informed of the get-together.

12. WILSON WAS TEASED BY HIS CO-STARS.

Vaughn, Wilson, and Ferrell dubbed themselves “The Wolfpack”—years before Phillips directed The Hangover—because they would always make fun of each other. A particularly stinging exchange had Ferrell refer to Legally Blonde (which Wilson had starred in) as Legally Bland. Wilson said it didn’t make him feel great. Wilson retorted by telling Ferrell that "the transition from TV to the movies isn't a very easy one, so you might just want to keep one foot back in TV just in case this whole movie thing falls through!"

13. TERRY O’QUINN SCARED HIS SONS INTO THINKING THEY WERE TRIPPING.

Terry O’Quinn (who went on to play John Locke on Lost the following year) agreed to play Goldberg, uncredited, in what was a two-day job for him. He neglected to inform his sons he was in the movie, and when they saw it, one of them called their father. “I got a call from my sons one night, and they said, ‘What were you doing in Old School? We didn’t even know you were in it!’ They said, ‘We’re sitting there, and the first time we see you, it’s, like, in a reflection in a window. And when we saw it, and we both thought we were, like, tripping or something!’”

14. THE EARMUFFS WERE IMPROVISED.

Before filming, Vaughn worked with Ferrell to figure out their characters' backstories and how they knew each other; he credited that with helping him figure out who Bernard was, which led to several ad-libbed moments. “The earmuff scene where he swears in front of the kids, and then I tell the kid to earmuff, that all is off the cuff. But that stuff is a lot easier to do when you know who you are and your circumstances, and who your characters are,” Vaughn explained.

15. FERRELL AND VAUGHN DIDN’T LOVE A SCRIPT FOR A SEQUEL.

Armstrong had written Old School Dos in 2006, which saw the frat going to Spring Break. Ferrell said that he and Vaughn read the script but felt like they would just be “kind of doing the same thing again.” Wilson, on the other hand, was excited over the new script.

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