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Homo Sweet Home: 'Will and Grace''s Set Design

Eric McCormack, Debra Messing, and others from the show’s cast talk about the eclectic set

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We understand they must be giddy over all that Emmy business, but the cast of Will & Grace needs to get a life. ”We very much hang out here,” says Eric McCormack (Will) of the sitcom’s quintessential New York set in Studio City, Calif. ”We eat lunch at the table and sit on the couch.” Echoes Debra Messing (Grace): ”Usually, you just step into a set and then step out as soon as you stop rehearsing. Here, we don’t want to leave!” Megan Mullally (Karen) has even enlisted production designer Glenda Rovello and set decorator Melinda Ritz to help furnish her brand-new L.A. pad. People! Can we say ”branch out”?

Then again, it’s easy to see why they’re so fond of the place. The set (reappearing on the season premiere Oct. 12) has an immaculate flair that suits the characters’ conspicuous consumption. ”In person, it looks so busy,” says Sean Hayes (Jack). ”Then on TV it doesn’t look busy at all.” The rabid attention to detail can be a plus. ”Every week you find something new,” says Messing. ”It’s sort of like an onion.” It’s certainly enough to make any real New Yorker cry.

Will and Grace’s Apartment

”Sophisticated, tasteful, handsome, and tailored.” Is Rovello talking about Will or his fab Upper West Side apartment? The all-GE kitchen is a nod to NBC’s parent company, while the TV nook in the back is the brainchild of director James Burrows. Cracks McCormack, ”It begs the question: If a lawyer is making enough money to afford this unbelievable apartment in Manhattan, why does he have a 10-inch television?” Grace, who lived across the hall last season, has now moved back in with Will; still, the apartment has a decidedly XY feel. ”I make a conscious effort to go into the male world,” says Ritz, who’s constantly upgrading Will’s furnishings as his law career heats up. ”Where would Will shop? What would he be collecting?” And the answer is … ? ”Everywhere,” she says. ”There’s not, like, the gay guy’s store.” She obviously hasn’t heard of Pottery Barn.

The cast’s favorite inside joke can be found inside the small box on the coffee table: Donny and Marie Osmond’s cheat sheets, souvenirs from the ex-talk-show hosts’ first-season visit to the set. Says McCormack, ”They needed little cue cards to remember the goofy, ‘spontaneous’ things they were going to say.” Adds Hayes: ”They’ll always be in there.”

Ritz mined her personal collection for the set’s most divisive doodad. ”I just thought he looked so cute with his little naked butt!” she says. Shockingly, not everyone agrees; the piece, which used to have front-and-center placement, has been moved waaaay back. ”This is the thing we all love to hate,” says McCormack. ”It’s Mao Tse-tung having his way with a trout.”

This weathered leather chair, which Ritz bought at Brenda Antin Antiques in Los Angeles, rarely comes in contact with any human flesh. ”We don’t use it much because it’s at an odd angle,” says McCormack. ”You’d have to shoot through the door.” What a waste: At around $2,800, it’s the set’s priciest prop.

Taking a cue from Will & Grace‘s sexual frankness, Ritz has sprinkled the apartment with artwork and other accoutrements reminiscent of, let’s say, certain mid-level body parts. ”I don’t think they want me to say ‘phallic symbols’ anymore,” says Ritz, who combines knickknacks featuring ”balls and obelisks” whenever and wherever possible. ”’Male-oriented icons’ is the new term.”