Will & Grace star Eric McCormack reveals which Friends character he auditioned for

Virgin Radio

15 Mar 2024, 14:19

Eric McCormack talks to Chris Evans at Virgin Radio

Eric McCormack famously played Will in much-loved comedy Will & Grace, but had things had turned out differently, he could have actually been one of the stars of Friends.

When the Emmy Award-winning actor joined the Chris Evans Breakfast Show with webuyanycar ahead of starring in a new musical in concert; Wild About You, talked turned to how he scored his breakthrough role in Will & Grace.

He told Chris: “I had been around for a few years. I was already mid-30s, and I was due. I was in love with Seinfeld and I had auditioned for Friends. I got a callback for Ross. And years later, the same director [James Burrows] from that show directed Will & Grace, and I said, ‘Jimmy, I came pretty close on Ross?’ And he said, ‘Oh, honey, they wrote the part for Schwimmer. You were wasting your time!’”

On getting one of the titular roles in Will & Grace, he said: “It was my turn. I read this thing and I thought, ‘It's mine. I know this part’s mine’. Six, seven auditions and I got it.”

The sitcom ran for 11 series from 1998, and focused on gay lawyer Will and his best friend and flatmate Grace. “The first audition, I just came in, I was very me. It was a park bench scene with Grace and I finished and I looked up at the guy that created the show, who is gay, and he said, ‘Okay, just so you know, you never need to be gayer than that!’ And I went, ‘Huh. Thank you?’”  

He joked: “My father has said that to me throughout my life!” 

Grace was played by Debra Messing. Eric explained: “I had the part for like a month and we couldn't find Grace. And that final day that we finally met Messing was this whole elaborate scheme at Jimmy's house with actresses coming in and out, they weren't supposed to know that each other existed, and I was a mess from shooting all night with William Shatner of all things. So yeah, it was a journey to get there!”

On the show’s success, the actor told Chris: “It was a time when - and I'm sure it's the same over here - you get to discover people on television. Not everybody has to be a big star. And that's why those ensemble comedies worked so well, because people still to this day call me Will!" 

He added: “It’ll be on my tombstone, probably.”

Recalling a story which illustrates how he is better known as his character than by his own name, Eric said: “I remember going to Vegas, and we were going to a restaurant. And then I walked up and the woman said, ‘Oh, my god, oh my god, oh my god. You have no idea. I’ve watched every single episode 1000 times, my boyfriend and I. A thousand times, I've seen your show.’ And I said, ‘Oh, that's so great.’ She said, ‘Are you here tonight?’ I said, ‘Yeah I’ve got a reservation.’ She said, ‘Name?’ And I said, ‘You've seen the show 1000 times and you've never noticed my name?’"

Eric is in the UK to star in a new musical in concert; Wild About You, which is taking place at London’s Theatre Royal Drury Lane on the 25th and 26th March. He explained: “It is a very modern musical, six characters, very much about modern love; girl leaves her husband for another woman, then leaves the woman for another man, has a baby with him and the first guy raises the baby.” 

He enthused: “The music of this thing is great. Me aside, the singers of the show are so freakin’ great, and I'm falling in love with them. We've only been working for two days. You don't wanna miss this. You can be on the ground floor of something very big.”

Wild About You - Musical In Concert is at The Theatre Royal Drury Lane on 25th and 26th March. Tickets are available now via lwtheatres.co.uk.

For more great interviews listen to The Chris Evans Breakfast Show with webuyanycar weekdays from 6:30am on Virgin Radio, or catch up on-demand here.