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For years, Will & Grace fans have yearned to see Debra Messing and Eric McCormack recreate Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz’s hilarious on-screen chemistry. Now, in its final season, the show is paying tribute to I Love Lucy with a special episode. But why did it take so long for Will & Grace to finally take on the iconic comedy series?

Will & Grace - I Love Lucy Tribute
Megan Mullally, Sean Hayes, Debra Messing, Eric McCormack |Chris Haston/NBC

‘Will & Grace’ is in its final season

Will & Grace first premiered on NBC in 1998 and over its eight-season run, the series earned 83 Primetime Emmy Award nominations and 18 wins. The show ended in 2006, but in 2017, NBC rebooted the series and brought back the entire original cast.

But in 2019, Will & Grace showrunners Max Mutchnick, David Kohan and James Burrows announced that this 2020 season would be the last. Because of the series’ decline in viewership, NBC and the show’s cast and crew decided it was time to say goodbye once and for all. 

“We think of the Will & Grace reboot episodes the way Karen Walker thinks of martinis — 51 is not enough, 53 is too many,” the showrunners wrote in a statement. “That is why, after consulting with the cast, we all have decided this will be the final season of Will & Grace.”

Fans have been pushing to see Debra Messing and Eric McCormack play Lucy and Desi

The on-screen comedic chemistry between Debra Messing, Eric McCormack, Sean Hayes, and Megan Mullaley is undeniable. And for years, fans of Will & Grace have been pushing to see the cast take on the characters from  I Love Lucy

“Please do an I Love Lucy episode before W@G goes off the air!” a fan wrote on Twitter last year.  “Debra and Eric even look like Lucy and Desi. You gotta do it!”

“Lucy & Desi Will & Grace…. seriously one in the same,” another fan tweeted in 2018. 

Why did it take so long for ‘Will & Grace’ to take on ‘I Love Lucy’?

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Will & Grace star Debra Messing revealed that producers have been wanting to do an I Love Lucy episode for decades.  But because of the show’s strict copyright policies, no one was allowed to recreate its iconic scenes. 

Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz’s children, Lucie Arnaz and Desi Arnaz Jr. own the rights to their parents series. So when Lucie Arnaz finally gave Will & Grace permission to take on I Love Lucy, Messing said the cast and crew was beyond thrilled.

“We were just beside ourselves when we heard that Lucie Arnaz had given us permission, and was actually going to participate as well, which was obviously the icing on the cake,” she told the outlet. “I think I actually started to tear up when we got the news because I just, I couldn’t believe it. It really, it meant so much to me personally, it was an incredibly emotional experience, and it just felt like the ultimate gift for our last season.”

As Messing revealed, Lucie Arnaz will make a cameo on the Will & Grace tribute to I Love Lucy, which airs Thursday, April 9 at 9 p.m. ET on NBC.