In case you haven't heard, Will & Grace returns to NBC on Thursday, September 28, a full eleven years after its finale. We're ducking back into the familiar lives of Will, Grace, Jack, and Karen over a decade later, and it's no surprise that their spaces have changed. We talked with the show's set decorator, Peter Gurski, and he answered some of our most burning questions.
While the show is a bit of a homecoming for the fans, cast, and crew, the set has also gone through a journey—literally.
"When the original run ended, the creators of the show, Max Mutchnick and David Kohan, sent the set to Emerson College, their alma mater, where it was on display," Peter, who worked as the Lead ("they're like very very cultured movers," he explains) on the original run, tells me in a phone interview from Los Angeles. "They had to cut up the set into three foot sections and haul it up a stairway and they Frankenstein reassembled it, and it was on display for about a decade."
Luckily, Emerson had sent the set back, and it was just sitting in storage. "It's amazing because it never happens," Peter says. "When a show ends, the props go to inventory, the couch goes back to the prop house. A producer might keep a memento or something, but we had everything."
So the new Will & Grace set is actually the old Will & Grace set, but that's not to say you won't notice some pretty big updates.
"Glenda [Rovello, the production designer] kept the entire back wall of the original set and we followed the same floor-plan as the original set. Because we wanted the fans to have some touchstones," he says. "Everything is pretty much set up the way it was, but everything is super upgraded and changed."
That has to do with the fact that it's eleven years later, and Will has progressed in his career and makes more money, but also because the way people watch TV is different now.
"There's no cheating on this one," Peter says. "It's out of respect for the fans. They can do repeat viewing on demand, they can watch an episode over and over, they're really going to be scrutinizing this time. From the front of the set to the very very back, everything is a real luxury item. It's the most expensive set I've ever worked on."
And he's not kidding: One item, an Hermés Pippa bench, retails for over $20,000. "You barely see it because in the original show, there was an ottoman or a low table downstage where they entered the door and you saw a surface—that's where it is." (You can see it in the lead photo above, though.)
Other upgrades include a Rose Tarlow coffee table, which was handpicked by Mutchnick and was originally designed for David Geffen, Cassina's Cab chairs for the dining area, and oh, maybe you noticed that the whole kitchen is totally renovated.
"We put in a SubZero refrigerator and now they have a proper wine fridge too," Peter says. And just to be clear: "I've set it for proper temperatures; the red is on the top in the small compartment and the white is down below. The white's at 45 degrees Fahrenheit the red is at 55 degrees Fahrenheit, in case anyone asks if they're set correctly." We'll alert our colleagues at Kitchn.
Of course, with a best friend who happens to be an interior designer, Will had to give Grace some control in the redecorating—right?
"Maybe 15 percent," Peter says, with a laugh. "I'm sure they fought about many things. They probably fought about the dining room chairs. I think the Hermes bench was something he probably had to have and bought on his own, and she probably scolded him for how much it cost. But I like to think that they went out on a gallery hop to find the artwork together."
Peter also made a point to source New York artists for the space for that very reason—Will would be shopping at local galleries.
But there's one piece of notable art that remains, and it has quite the backstory.
"The most important thing that came back was the portrait of the man by the fireplace," Peter says. "On the original show, Melinda [Ritz, the original show's set decorator] was like, 'we have to find these.' We weren't sure whether we were going to do a wall of flea market portraits or one of them or whatever. She was looking, I was helping her look, and I was dating someone at the time who collected them. I brought some of them in and they picked that one. It's not signed, we don't know who made it."
Though the portrait on set now is a little different: "Max Mutchnick now has the original, so we have a copy on set—I think it strikingly looks like Eric McCormack. He likes to deny it."
Will & Grace returns Thursday, September 28 on NBC, and new episodes will be available on Hulu next day.