LOS ANGELES — Mary McCormack didn’t have to work hard to recruit real-life best friend Chelsea Handler to play her girlfriend on NBC’s revival of “Will & Grace.”
In fact, all she had to do was ask.
“I just told her, ‘I’m gonna go back, do you want to be my girlfriend,’ and she said that sounds like fun,” McCormack said Tuesday at the Television Critics Association summer press tour in Beverly Hills, where she was promoting her new ABC family comedy “The Kids Are Alright.”
The trip back to “Will & Grace” comes after McCormack took over the guest starring role of Janet, the sister of Debra Messing’s Grace, last spring. Geena Davis played the role in the original series run.
She appeared at the tail end of the revival’s first season in an episode that dealt with the on-screen death of Grace and Janet’s mother, Bobbi (played by the late Debbie Reynolds).
When the show returns in October for season two, Handler will guest star as a high-powered client of interior designer Grace who begins dating Janet.
“We really did have so much fun,” she said.
While the two friends embraced the chance to work together, McCormack said they came to a mutual decision not to lock lips, which was included in the original script.
“She lives around the corner from me, so we were driving to the set and I said, ‘I really don’t want to make out with you,’ and she said the same thing,” McCormack said, laughing.
Kissing costars is something McCormack knows is often part of the job as an actor. But planting one on Handler just seemed wrong, she said jokingly.
“We’re so close, we’re like sisters,” she said.
She texted “Will & Grace” co-creator Max Mutchnick about the kiss and he quickly nixed it.
A huge fan of the show, McCormack said guest starring on the show and sharing scenes with its core four cast — Messing, Eric McCormack, Megan Mullally and Sean Hayes — was a dream. She even hung around set when she wasn’t working to watch them film.
“I think it is better than ever,” she said. “It’s more political and edgier. They’re even more adept. They’re incredible to watch.”
It also exercises a different acting muscle for McCormack, who said she is far more accustomed to the style of “The Kids Are Alright,”
a1970’s-set family comedy based on the real-life upbringing of creator Tim Doyle. On the show, McCormack plays the matriarch of an Irish Catholic family with eight sons.
“I feel more comfortable in that land,” she said. “‘Will & Grace’ is really heightened and broad and amazing and funny, but (‘The Kids Are Alright’) is a truth-based show and I have more history with this. But it’s good to play in that world too, out of my comfort zone. It’s good to be a little scared.”
“Will & Grace” returns 9 p.m. Oct. 4. “The Kids Are Alright” premieres 8:30 p.m. Oct. 16 after the premiere of ABC’s “Roseanne” spinoff, “The Connors.”
— Reporter Hunter Ingram can be reached at 910-343-2327 or Hunter.Ingram@StarNewsOnline.com. Hunter is a member of the Television Critics Association.