November 11, 1965– Max Mutchnick:
“I mean if Will & Grace made me proud of anything, I mean now because it’s over I guess, I could say I am proud that we kept a dignified gay man who lives with a great deal of integrity at the center of a of a television series for eight years. I always got a lot of heat that we didn’t take the character far enough, that we didn’t see the character sexualize himself enough. My thinking was always let’s just keep the guy on television. Let’s just show people that this man can exist and that he can be your neighbor, he can be your doctor or he can be your son, and we can learn to live with that. I think I was most pleased that the show just stayed on the air. That’s what I’m really proud of.”
Did Will & Grace make your Thursday nights a gay old time for eight years back in the last century? It was a golden time for the traditional sitcom. I was proud and pleased to have a well-written, funny show with a gay male lead character. At the time, I was fascinated that America would embrace a show where the male and female leads were not involved romantically.
As if you didn’t know, the show took place in New York City and told the tale of Will Truman, a gay lawyer, and his best friend Grace Adler, a Jewish woman who runs her own interior design firm, plus their friends Karen Walker, a rich socialite, and Jack McFarland, a very gay struggling actor/singer/dancer who also had brief careers as an acting teacher, back-up dancer, cater waiter, talk show host and student nurse. During its eight season run, Will & Grace won 16 Emmy Awards, with 83 nominations total. All four stars each received an Emmy Award during the run of the series, making it one of only three sitcoms in the award’s history to do so. Among the show’s hundreds of awards and accolades, it garnered seven Screen Actor Guild Awards.
For his own work on Will & Grace, the show’s creator/writer/producer Mutchnick has been honored with an Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series, two People’s Choice Awards, seven GLAAD Media Awards, and The National Award For Excellence from the Human Rights Campaign.
Mutchnick started his writing career 37 years ago with his high school best friend, David Kohan. As a team they began writing professionally for The Dennis Miller Show. Hillary Clinton pals, producers Linda Bloodworth and Harry Thomason, who gave us Designing Women (1986-1993) gave the kids their big break into the world of sitcoms when they hired them to work on their series about politics, Hearts Afire (1992-95), with the late, great John Ritter, Billy Bob Thornton and diminutive Leslie Jordon. His other television writing credits include: The Wonder Years (1988-93), Evening Shade (1990-94), and HBO’s Dream On (1990-96). In addition to Will & Grace, Mutchnick and Kohan also created and executive produced the comedy series Boston Common (1996-97) and Good Morning, Miami (2002-2004) for their company KoMut Entertainment.
Born in Chicago, but mostly raised in Los Angeles, Mutchnick grew up in a creative family. His father was a graphic designer who was a founder of the Museum Of Contemporary Art in Chicago, and his mother is a showbiz executive and writer of children’s books.
Mutchnick left California after high school to attend Emerson College in Boston. Starting as a theatre major, he switched to mass communications. At Emerson, he became involved in the school’s Television program, eventually running the campus station. In 2005, Mutchnick was appointed to Emerson’s Board of Trustees. In 2006, The Max Mutchnick Campus Center was erected. Known as “The Max”, the center is the hub of student life on the campus in Boston’s Back Bay.
Mutchnick is an active member of the Big Brother Program of Los Angeles, having mentored his “little brother” for 19 years. He has also been a longtime supporter of the Human Rights Campaign and the Lambda Legal Defense Fund.
Mutchnick lives in Los Angeles with his husband, entertainment lawyer Erik Hyman. They were legally married in their backyard in Autumn 2008. The couple are parents of twin daughters.
“I’m a big personality! I’m Mel Brooks and Erik is Anne Bancroft. He’s this sophisticated, elegant guy, and I’m the kind of guy who would have a piece of toilet paper stuck to my heel.”
“My career had been the centerpiece of my life. Then in 2006, the final episode of Will & Grace was broadcast, and I found myself envying Will Truman, who had committed to a life partner and started a family. Will had gotten ahead of me, and I was watching the character have an experience I knew nothing about.”
They moved in together a week after their first date, which was arranged by a mutual female friend. Mutchnick:
“We have not spent a night apart since; I had never met a man as intelligent and confident, or one who could withstand my insecurities and histrionics. I fell immediately for his passion, charm and humor.”
During the Jewish ceremony in their garden, Mutchnick, always the producer, abruptly stopped the ceremony to turn off a fountain that was burbling off-cue. Hyman:
“He’s a show runner, and he likes to run a show.”I
In fall 2016, the cast reunited for a 10-minute special, urging Americans to vote in the 2016 presidential election. The mini-episode got a lot of attention and love with its surprising reveal a year ago. Immediately after, there was talk of a possible real reunion.
It was Mutchnick who was behind the Will & Grace reunion mini-episode, getting the cast together, and getting the original set re-assembled. He and Kohan wrote the script. It had more than seven million viewers after its debut on the day of the first presidential debate. Unlike other reunion shows, the characters just picked up where they left off, all of them looking pretty much to the way they did a decade ago when the series ended, and so did their character dynamic. I love the way the original series finale was just cut off and forgotten, with the reboot starting off as if nothing had changed. It was like they never left us.
After the success the reunion special, NBC announced the series’ return. Season one (or nine, depending on how you are counting) of the revival premiered last fall and season two debuted last month. The second season has been expanded from 13 to 18 episodes and the show has been renewed for 18 episodes for a third season. It is NBC’s number one comedy.
This spring, Mutchnick donated a copy of A Day In The Life Of Marlon Bundo, a book about gay bunnies, to all 1121 public elementary school in Mike Pence’s home state. The Daily Show host John Oliver is the author and he released his book a day before the Pence family’s book, Marlon Bundo’s A Day In The Life Of The Vice President, was released.
The Pences’ book is about their family’s bunny, Marlon Bundo, and he’s not gay in that book. In Oliver’s much more successful book, also about Marlon, the bunny falls in love with another boy bunny and faces intolerance from a stink bug who looks a lot like Pence.
“My grammar school library was something I always remembered as a safe haven. Books allow children to dream and hope, but you know that already.”
In this sad world we live in, a little Will & Grace helps with the healing, don’t you think?