She may have died in Dec. 2016, but this week’s Will & Grace is all about Debbie Reynolds, as Will (Eric McCormack) joins Grace (Debra Messing) — along with her father (Robert Klein) and two sisters (Sara Rue, Mary McCormack) — to celebrate her late mother’s birthday. It’s not just a tribute to the fabulously over-the-top Bobbi Adler, but also to Reynolds and her dozen appearances on the NBC sitcom.
“Working with Debbie was really incredible. She would come on stage and she was a broad in the greatest sense. She always was entertaining and singing and dancing, and then she was running off and doing a one-woman show, you know, 300 days of the year. It was just crazy,” Messing recalled Saturday night during the show’s PaleyFest panel in Los Angeles. “She and I would sit together and we would talk about being mothers — because I was a new mother — and she would talk about [her daughter] Carrie [Fisher], and we would talk about the challenges of being a working mom. It.. she really… she really became someone very, very, very special in my heart, and I really wanted us to honor her. She meant so much to the show, and I really think that the episode that they wrote honors her — it’s funny and it’s moving.”
In the episode, Grace’s sisters think it’s time for their dad to sell the family home, but Grace is adamant her dad stay there, refusing to part with all of the memories of her mother. While we won’t spoil what happens, we will properly warn to have tissues ready for a couple tear-inducing scenes.
In Reynolds’ absence, the person who tops Messing’s guest-star wish list could very well help fill that void. “I want Barbra Streisand to come and play Grace’s aunt. I like the idea of her being Debbie Reynolds’ sister,” she told EW prior to the event.
Recalling Reynolds’ numerous guest spots, costar Sean Hayes told the PaleyFest crowd that the actress would always introduce herself to the show’s studio audience as “Princess Leia’s mother.”
Creator and executive producer Max Mutchnick, though, had a much more colorful memory of the first time he met the Hollywood icon for her debut as Bobbi in February 1999.
“She came and she sat down with us, and there’s Debbie Reynolds sitting in our office, and I respectfully said to her, ‘You’re going to be playing Debra’s mother, and you’re this fantastic blonde, but would you mind for our show dying your hair red so you could look a little bit more like Debra?'” Mutchnick told the crowd. “And she — this is the first time I’ve ever met her — and she said, ‘I have two hairs on my body, they’re gray, and they’re on my p—y.'”
Also at the panel, Mutchnick announced that season 2 (or, is it 10?) will now be 18 instead of 13 episodes, and Eric McCormack surprised the crowd with news that NBC picked up the revival for a third season.
Will & Grace airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET on NBC.