The Inspiration Behind Will & Grace's Emotional Episode About Sexual Assault

Photo: Courtesy of NBC.
Thursday night's episode of Will & Grace, titled "Grace's Secret," featured something that a lot of television shows have decided to relay: sexual assault. In the episode, Grace (Debra Messing) goes on a long drive with her father (played by Robert Klein). Eventually, when they take lunch at a diner, she tells him that a friend of his assaulted her when she was just 15. When Grace was a teen, she took a summer job working for Harry, a friend of her father's. He assaulted her, and Grace stole cash from the office and left. Afraid no one would believe her, Grace didn't share her story, leading her father to believe that she was just a petty thief.
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In the episode's climax, right after Grace's dad makes a cheap pass at the waitress (who, in good sitcom form, can't stop reciting the specials), Grace tells her dad what really happened that day, voice wavering. The story is somewhat graphic, and, according to co-creator Max Mutchnick, that's how it was supposed to be.
Mutchnick told The Hollywood Reporter, "There was a lot of discussion in the room about how far we would go. But we were always on board with getting specific. We knew that we were not going to tell the story in broad strokes." The episode was in part inspired by the trial of Bill Cosby. Mutchnick said that he was awed by how matter-of-fact the women who testified were when they recounted their stories. He wanted Grace to be the same. The writers were also inspired by the recent trial of Supreme Court hopeful Brett Kavanaugh. When Grace's dad questions if maybe she's "misremembering", she replies, "No. I remember. I remember every single thing that happened that day." This line came directly from the Kavanaugh hearing and its subsequent reactions.
"There is something so upsetting and condescending and minimizing about somebody saying, 'Hey, I believe this happened to you but maybe you’re misremembering the person," David Kohan, the other co-creator, told THR.
After she tells her story, her father exclaims, "I'm never gonna visit that bastard in the cemetery...he's dead to me!"
"Well, he's dead to everybody, Daddy," Grace replies.
Messing, for her part, got the monologue in one take, a testament to her talents as an actress. Messing has been a sly champion of the Hollywood revolution these past two years. In an Instagram from the official Will & Grace account, Messing told fans that the episode was deeply personal.
"This episode is incredibly personal, and difficult and powerful," Messing said, "and I'm very very proud that we are putting this story out there in the world because it's an incredibly important time in our history." Messing will be taking questions about the episode there for the rest of the day, should you have any.
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