Will & Grace is coming to an end, again.
The popular sitcom, which returned to the air in 2017 after its initial hit run on NBC from 1998 to 2006, will air its (second) series finale on Thursday night. The show's reboot was initially planned to be only one season, but was extended to three after besting its ratings from the mid-2000s.
"It was a little sadder this go-around only because I'm older and hopefully — knock on wood — wiser, and aware of what I am appreciating and grateful for," the show's Emmy-winning co-star Sean Hayes tells Yahoo Entertainment recently while promoting his new film Lazy Susan (watch above). "I was very, very grateful to get into the skin of that character again. And what was supposed to be 10 episodes turned into 52 episodes.
"So it was such a gift, and I was very aware of it and grateful every single day. Not that I wasn't before, I was just even moreso this time."
Hayes plays the fabulous fan favorite Jack McFarland, who along with Eric McCormack's Will Truman, became two of the first openly gay characters prominently featured in a major network television when Will & Grace premiered in 1998.
The Chicago-born actor, 49, teased what audiences can expect from the last episode featuring the core four stars: Hayes, McCormack, Debra Messing (Grace Adler) and Megan Mullally (Karen Walker).
"Every character gets something that they've kind of always wanted," Hayes says. "For my character Jack, especially, there is a dream that he's had his whole life that kind of actually happens, but in a really funny way."
Hayes also reflects on his role on a show that featured groundbreaking representations of gay characters in mainstream entertainment. "At the time I was just happy to get a job," he says. "I was so young, I was 26 years old, and I was just pounding the pavement like all actors do, and I got a pilot. I didn't even think it was going to [air], 'cause the odds are that they don't. So I was happy to pay my rent for the year with this pilot.
"And then as it started to grow and become something bigger than any of us in its messaging, I didn't realize until many seasons in that 'Oh, this is like the greatest byproduct of this show, that it's helping people.'"
Among the show's admirers is presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden, who, when serving in the White House in 2012, told Meet the Press host David Gregory that Will & Grace "probably did more to educate the American public [on gay rights] than almost anything anybody else has done so far. People fear that which is different. Now they're beginning to understand."
Hayes remembers the moment well. "I was sitting in my pajamas at home when that aired," he says. "I was like, 'Oh my god, what?' That was so huge. And again, until a mirror is held up to you, you live in a tiny bubble of your own world and you're like 'Wow, I guess it did do a lot, so I'm told.'
"I don't want to be like, 'I'm the pioneer.' There were bigger pioneers than me, that's for sure. But I'm proud to be part of that choir of forward movement."
— Video produced by Jon San
Will & Grace's finale episode airs Thursday, April 24 on NBC.
Watch Sean Hayes talk about playing a cisgender woman in Lazy Susan:
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