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Will & Grace cast once got free Porsches from NBC

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One of the most memorable moments from Will & Grace’s eight-year run on NBC didn’t happen in front of the cameras or studio audience. There wasn’t even a still photographer there to record the occasion. And yet it will forever hold a place in television lore: After a solid first season, the NBC brass made the extravagant decision to reward the entire ensemble — Eric McCormack, Debra Messing, Sean Hayes, and Megan Mullally — with matching Porsche Boxters.

We asked the cast to look back on that day in August of 1999 when the NBC brass took the cast out to a celebratory lunch — and then guided them out to the parking lot where their flashy sports cars were waiting.

ERIC McCORMACK: I do remember [then NBC Entertainment President] Scott Sassa saying, ‘We just wanted to say thank you,’ and it was very pointed. So we all in a very pointed way said, well, thank you. He said, no, and then like Carol Merrill on Let’s Make a Deal, he gestured in a big way and went, no, thank you. And that’s when our heads turned like puppets and we saw four matching Porsches.

SEAN HAYES: They were all in a row. They had bows on them.

DEBRA MESSING: I remember looking over at Sean. His eyes fell out of his head. Like, here’s a kid who literally had just done a small indie film before he came to do this TV show. It was really a kind of an out-of-body Oprah moment, where you never, ever imagine in any scenario that someone would say, ‘Oh, this is your present.’

McCORMACK: The inference was, we’re not going to do this for all the shows. I’m working with Enrico Colantoni right now — he’s a guest star on my show [Travelers] for this season — and he was shooting Just Shoot Me next door to us at the time. And he told someone in the makeup trailer the other day, ‘Yeah, I remember the day. They got Porsches and NBC sent us a coffee truck.’

MEGAN MULLALLY: We didn’t have smart phones with cameras in them at the time. So there are no photographs of any of that. And it’s really pretty amazing. To NBC’s credit, it was mysterious and kind of really cool that they didn’t turn it into a big thing with, like, people jumping out of the bushes and taking our pictures.

National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images

MESSING: And obviously it was incredible because we looked at each other and were like, okay, we’re not getting canceled.

MULLALLY: Not to look a gift horse in the mouth, but I’m not a sports car person and I had just gotten my first dog as an adult. She was a miniature poodle and I took her with me everywhere. We got in that car and it was really loud ‘cause it was a sports car. It freaked her out. So I only ended up keeping the car for about a year or so because of her.

HAYES: Oh, I sold it immediately. It was a wonderful gesture of appreciation to us and one that I’ll always be thankful for, but at the same time, I needed to pay my rent. So I thought paying your rent was more important than driving your apartment around, you know?

MULLALLY: Sean drove, like, a Toyota Tercel until about 2013. We always give him sh– about it.

McCORMACK: I kept mine for a long time. I drove it for years and parked beside Debra on the lot. Eventually I put it up for auction for Project Angel Food in Los Angeles.

MESSING: I drove it for over 11 years. It was too meaningful to me. When you’re in the business and keep going from show to show or you try to get on certain shows, you feel like there’s a definite transience to the profession itself. To have this kind of gesture, it kind of gives you the illusion at least that you have some roots in your industry. It really was incredible.