‘Will & Grace’ Star Sean Hayes Trashed Pilot Script Because He Didn’t Want to Audition

Will & Grace is a popular sitcom that, for many fans, perfectly encapsulates the late ’90s and early 2000s. The series broke new ground for LGBTQ characters on television and is widely considered to be one of the best-written TV shows of all time.

Sean Hayes starred in the first incarnation of the show as well as the 2017 series revival, and as Jack McFarland, Hayes made waves. Still, there was a time when Hayes was openly derisive toward the series and actually resisted auditioning for the series. 

What is ‘Will & Grace’ about?

Cast of 'Will & Grace'
Cast of ‘Will & Grace’ | Chris Haston/NBC

Will & Grace premiered on television in 1998, starring Debra Messing, Eric McCormack, Megan Mullally, and Sean Hayes, as well as a plethora of guest stars. The show was set in New York City and focused on the friendship between Grace Adler, a woman who owns an interior design firm, and Will Truman, a lawyer who also happens to be gay.

Cultural stereotypes and jokes about dating and relationships are the high points of the series, as Will, Grace, and their friends Karen and Jack, deal with the trials and tribulations of career and love. Will & Grace ran until 2006 and earned serious critical acclaim during its initial run. Fans praised the way that the show handled complex situations and LGBTQ issues, and many loved the way that the series was filmed in front of a live studio audience.

In 2017, after years of rumors and speculation, Will & Grace returned for three additional series, starring the original cast.

In 2019, the final eleventh season premiered, signaling an end to a series that changed the lives of cast members and fans alike. 

Sean Hayes did not originally want to audition for ‘Will & Grace’

Sean Hayes
Sean Hayes | Maarten de Boer/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

As Jack McFarland, Hayes became one of the most popular characters on Will & Grace. Jack is free-spirited, open about his sexuality, and often changes jobs, based on his mood or whim at the time. He establishes a close friendship early on in the series with Karen, and together, the two get into many sticky situations. 

When Will & Grace was in the early casting stages, Hayes was still an up and coming actor. He had worked in Broadway and independent films but had not yet established a name for himself in Hollywood.

Still, showrunners for Will & Grace were determined to cast Hayes in their new series. Reportedly, after Hayes appeared in the independent film Billy’s Hollywood Screen Kiss, he was sent the script for the pilot episode of Will & Grace.

Hayes liked the script, but according to the report, he would have had to go out of his way in order to travel to LA for the audition. Deciding against it, Hayes tossed the script in the trash. Still, showrunners were persistent, and after repeatedly contacting the actor, he finally agreed to accept the role. 

Sean Hayes is still best known as Jack McFarland

Hayes quickly earned acclaim as Jack McFarland, ultimately receiving six Golden Globe nominations and winning a Primetime Emmy Award. His work on the series led to other work, in movies such as Cats & Dogs, The Cat in the Hat, The Three Stooges, and Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!

Additionally, Hayes has remained active on Broadway and has worked as a host for several popular television programs. 

Still, Hayes remains best known as Jack McFarland from Will & Grace, and fans continue to turn to the show in order to enjoy Hayes’s fun, enthusiastic performance. At this point, it seems unlikely that Will & Grace will return for further seasons — but many fans are still holding out hope for more.