Sean P. Hayes became a household name when he played the flamboyant, hilarious Jack McFarland, best friend to the uptight Will, on “Will and Grace.” After that groundbreaking show ended, he became a prolific television producer whose credits include NBC’s “Grimm.” This fall he returns to NBC’s Thursday night line-up in “Sean Saves The World,” premiering Thursday, Oct. 3 at 9/8c on NBC.
“Will & Grace” was considered edgy when it premiered because it featured gay characters, even if they were never shown in romantic scenes. Now the television landscape has changed so dramatically that the premise of “Sean Saves the World,” which features Sean as a gay single dad to his 14-year-old daughter, is familiar to the point of being cliched. But Hayes is confident that this is more than just another gay comedy.
Here are five things you need to know about “Sean Saves the World”:
1. It’s a Post-Gay Show. Hayes says of the fictional Sean’s sexuality, “Thankfully, it’s an afterthought just like any other character on now, which is how it should be.” Showrunner Victor Fresco adds that he thinks of “Sean Saves the World” as a, “post-gay show in that there is a gay man in the center of it, but it’s not about being gay.” Though the only reason that we know Sean’s character is gay in the pilot is because it is mentioned in dialogue, his sexuality will play a greater role as the season progresses. “His focus is on his relationship with his daughter. That’s the big new thing in his life, and that’s where he’s going to be spending most of his time and energy and making sure he gets that right. But yes, he is a single man, and he will be dating.”
2. Megan Hilty Is the Grace to Sean’s Will. Hayes is a gay man without a love interest or even, seemingly, any gay friends. But he does have a female bestie played by “Smash” star Megan Hilty, who appears in future episodes of the show. Fresco explains Hilty’s role: “Their backstory is they’ve known each other for 15 years. We have said I don’t even know if you guys knew this, but they met because Megan was the caterer at Sean’s wedding and knew that he was gay and said, “What are you doing?” And Sean was not ready to come out at that point. So they have a long history. So Sean hired her for this job when he got the job that he currently has. And that history allows them to be good friends.”
3. Thomas Lennon Steals the Show. Thomas Lennon, best known for his work as Lieutenant Dangle on “Reno 911,” plays Sean’s mean, possibly insane new boss. He expects Sean to be at his beck and call 24/7. He has a pet bird. He’s the weird in a very normal world. Lennon explained why he was attracted to a role in a traditional, multi-camera sitcom. “I thought the odds that I would like a sitcom script starring the “Will & Grace” guy, who I was very unfamiliar with, I thought the odds of that are zero. Read it. I absolutely loved the material. It’s the best character I could ever hope to play. It’s the juiciest role.”
4. It’s Linda Lavin’s Return to Television. Television legend Linda Lavin (“Alice”) plays Sean’s very opinionated mother. She decided to return to weekly television because she was impressed by the writing for her character. “This is a place I want to be because I’m playing a character, a mother, who is not the butt of the joke, who is not a simpleton or a joke herself, who has something to say, who is hopefully going to be attractive and smart and challenging and has this relationship.”
5. Sean Is a Helicopter Dad. Sean’s character, who recently became a full-time dad when his ex-wife accepted a job out of state, is overprotective. A major storyline in the pilot involves Sean’s determination to be home for dinner so his daughter will not be alone. His daughter is 14 and capable of feeding herself. Fresco justifies Sean’s seemingly irrational behavior as, “He has to learn ‘How do I discipline the daughter? And I’m not necessarily the fun weekend guy anymore. I have this whole responsibility’.” Fresco thinks Sean’s attitude is typical among contemporary fathers. “This is something I think a single dad would feel, but I think even an evolved 2013 dad feels, because we’re not 1950 dads anymore, is wherever we are, we feel like we should be someplace else. And often when I’m working, I feel like I want to be home with my family. And when I’m with my family, I feel like I’m not getting the work done. So I think that’s also a tension of the show and a tension for Sean’s character, which is heightened because he also doesn’t have anyone at home. He doesn’t have a wife at home that’s taking care of his kid.”
“Sean Saves The World” premieres Thursday, Oct. 3 at 9/8c on NBC.