Best known as the acerbic, morally bankrupt Karen on Will & Grace, gay icon Megan Mullally returns to prime time TV this Thursday on a show featuring three women of a certain age dealing with being mothers and having mothers. No, it’s not a remake of The Golden Girls, it’s In The Motherhood, a sitcom based on a popular web-series that originally starred Chelsea Handler. So what’s life like so many years after popping pills and swigging vodka at noon as Karen? Queerty talked to Megan about what it’s like being on a woman-dominated show, her views on bisexuality, and just what the deal is with that Karen & Jack spin-off.
QUEERTY: Audiences, especially gay audiences, remember you best as Karen from Will & Grace. If you had to compare Rosemary [your character on Motherhood] to Karen, are they similar? Will we see you sipping martinis at the PTA Conference?
Megan Mullally: No, I think they’re really different characters because Rosemary is a 50 year old former punk rocker, sort of bad ass criminal. Hopefully, the one trait that they share is a kind of childlike — you know, every once in a while, Karen would really want to have fun and childlike. She has a joy that I like to carry through into other characters, because I think that’s a really fun quality for an audience and it’s a fun quality to play. It gives you a lot of places to go in the character. Other than that though, I think they’re totally different.
The show is based on real-life stories of actual moms. Do you think of yourself as maternal? Has the show made you think about what sort of mother you’d be?
Well, I have children, but I have dogs. I feel like I can see what kind of mother I would be if I had children, but I do enjoy being a dog woman. And of course, I’m a daughter and I had a really good mother and my character on the show is a really bad mother — though her son’s turned out great anyway. Go figure.
You live in West Hollywood, one of the country’s big gay meccas. How do you like living in a big gay village?
I’ve lived here since 1985, so I guess I like it pretty much. I guess I like it a lot. I’ve lived here for all these many years and I don’t necessarily think of it as gay or straight, but the part of town I like the most.
What do you like about it so much?
I love that it’s centrally located. I love the goods and services available to its citizens and I think it’s pretty. It feels like home to me. I’ve lived here for so long that it’s my home.
In 1999, you told the Advocate “I consider myself bisexual, and my philosophy is, everyone innately is.” Then you got married in 2003. Do you still consider yourself bisexual?
Have you read that quote from The Advocate?
Well, the quote, yes.
I said that I thought that everybody is innately bisexual. I think there are different levels of awareness attached to that, so I may believe that everybody is innately bisexual, but somebody who is very homophobic may not see that quality in themselves in any way, shape or form. That’s on a very philosophical or even metaphysical level, you know what I mean? It’s not something that I think people are ready for yet. I think if you ask the average guy on the street if he was innately bisexual, he’d be like, ‘What the fuck are you talking about?’ and then he’d punch you in the face. So, we’re not quite there.
On the show, do you think there’s any chance we’ll see some gay mommies? And is that something you’d like to see?
You know, I think it’s just getting to the point in our culture where the lines are getting so blurred that it’s going to be a part of everything. Every show and every character and every story. You know, I really feel that the lines are becoming so blurred, which is great. We just shot a scene yesterday where I say to Jessica St.Clair — we’re supposed to have a girl’s night with Cheryl Hines’ character and Cheryl can’t do it and I walk into Jessica St. Clair’s house with her and say, ‘So, I guess it’s just us for girl’s night. What do you want to do? Make out?’ You know, you’re just tossing it off, but it’s in the zeitgeist now, so it’s not like there’s a big decision as to ‘Okay, can we make a reference to someone being gay?’ You know, it’s on. Cat’s out of the bag.
So, for skeptical gay fans, who might go, ‘Oh, this is a show about moms and it seems far removed from a lot of gay people’s lives’, what would do you think the gay appeal of the show is?
Because it’s funny. You know, Will & Grace was funny. It could have been a show with the same premise, but if it hadn’t been funny and there hadn’t been chemistry with the actors, I don’t think anybody would have cared at all. I think it’s the same with this show. I think it’s going to be funny. The cast is really fantastic and has great chemistry. I think there’s a real universality to it. The premise of Will & Grace on paper is gay man and straight woman who are best friends, but it really became about relationships and friendships and people and that’s what [In the Motherhood] is too. I think gay men and women can watch it.
One of the other things that’s unique about In The Motherhood is that you don’t see many comedy shows that have such a strong female cast. What’s it like being in a cast dominated by women?
I know! It’s really interesting. You know, I tend not to think about the male-female thing as much, but I have to say, early on, especially Cheryl and Jessica and I were like ‘Wow, this a show with three strong, really funny women fronting it.’ And Horatio [Sanz, who plays a ‘manny’], but I guess they’re really saddling it on the women, I think. It’s really unusual. It’s really fun because everybody has an improv and sketch comedy background, so that is really different from anything I’ve done, because all the other stuff I’ve done has been with people who may have had a theater background, but is was more like TV or film backgrounds instead of sketch comedy. It’s a little bit of a different thing. Not only is everybody really funny, but we’re all really good actors.
There are still rumors about a Karen & Jack show down the line. Is that something you’d still like to see happen?
You know, that was on IMDB that there was going to be a spin-off of Jack and Karen and it was after it had been announced on the front page of Variety that I was doing In the Motherhood. So, Sean Hayes and I are really good friends, so we had a hilarious, in our opinion, email chain, involving our surprise sitcom that we were both doing together — that we were starting shooting in two weeks or something. We had a lot of fun with that. Who knows? Never say never, but it’s not happening right now.
In the Motherhood premieres Thursday, March 26 on ABC at 8pm EST.