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‘Will & Grace’ Creators on Filming Longtime Character’s Exit: Cast Was ‘Crying So Hard’

David Kohan and Max Mutchnick tell TheWrap about moment that made audience react ”in such a big way“

(Warning: Spoilers ahead from Thursday’s “Will & Grace“) 

“Will & Grace” said goodbye to a fan-favorite character this week, and the emotional episode was just as powerful for the people making it as it was for those watching.

The revived NBC sitcom’s Thursday episode centered on Karen (Megan Mullally) slowly coming to terms with her sorrow after learning that longtime housekeeper and sparring partner Rosario (Shelley Morrison) had died.

Series creators David Kohan and Max Mutchnick told TheWrap that they tried over and over to convince Morrison to return for the new episodes, but the actress had made up her mind to retire from acting. So they decided that the best way to give the character a proper sendoff would be to give the leads a chance to grieve.

“We want people to know how much Karen loved this character, that all of the fighting and all of the bluster and all the attitude was really just her showing her affection — or masking her affection,” Kohan said.

Mutchnick pointed out that Karen’s final goodbye speech was filmed the way it had initially been written by episode scribes Tracy Poust and Jon Kinnally, with the exception of Mutchnick and Kohan taking out all of the jokes in order to really lean in on the emotion.

The co-creators’ decision paid off, as co-stars Debra Messing (Grace), Eric McCormack (Will) and Sean Hayes (Jack) had trouble keeping their composure while watching Mullally’s performance from within the scene. This led the show to need to film an additional take for the moment in which those three onlookers hug each other.

“The other [three] characters were crying so hard when they were watching her because they were inside the scene but got very lost in what they were playing, and when Debra went to grab Sean and pull him, she kind of stuck one of her fingers in his mouth and pulled him in and crinkled up his eye, and so we took a better pass at that,” Mutchnick said.

Providing welcome comic relief was the return of bartender Smitty (Charles C. Stevenson Jr.), and the show hopes to bring him back for later episodes.

“We knew that by using him — if Karen was going to laugh during the episode, we knew we could get the audience to laugh,” Mutchnick said. “The minute that the studio audience laid eyes on him, they responded in such a big way.”

“Will & Grace” airs Thursdays at 9/8c on NBC.