On October 3, Sean Hayes, Linda Lavin and Megan Hilty return to TV in Sean Saves the World. The now openly gay Hayes, best known for his role as Jack on Will and Grace, is cast in another gay role. This time around, the actor plays Sean!
In the new series, Sean is a gay single dad with a full plate: his teenaged daughter has just moved in with him. His boss is a monster. His mom (Lavin) is trying a little too hard to help. And he's looking for Mr. Right.
"I hope it runs for a million years!" said co-star Megan Hilty. "Or at least seven!" Hilty plays Liz, Sean's best friend.
"Liz is kind of a mess," Hilty said of her character. "She talks before she thinks, but she has the best intentions. They met at his wedding to a woman. Liz was the caterer, and she outed him!"
Sean Saves the World is a reunion for Hayes and Hilty, who appeared together last year in a five episode story arc on the second and final season of NBC's embattled musical drama Smash. On Smash, the pair played co-stars on Broadway in an ill-advised musical adaptation of Dangerous Liaisons. Though Smash's ratings were already in free-fall at that point, many viewers noted how well Hayes and Hilty worked together. Their onscreen storyline was played for broad comedy in an otherwise serious show, and was considered one of the high points of Smash's waning days.
"Sean Hayes is magical, incredibly funny, and a nice guy," Hilty said. She looks back upon Smash with fondness. "I'm grateful that we got two seasons onto TV," she observed. "It's a miracle to get anything onto TV. We got people to think about Broadway theater again."
Hilty is herself a seasoned Broadway veteran, having appeared in Wicked, among other shows. Homosexuality has never been an issue in the theater world, and Smash featured a number of openly gay characters. Hilty said that she was delighted that Sean Saves the World, which does not have a theatrical setting, would not be making an issue of it's lead character's gayness. "It's just another detail of who he is," she observed. "It's not OMG! He's gay! He just is. That says a lot about where we are now."
Linda Lavin echoed Hilty's feelings on the issue of Sean's sexuality, and feels that all viewers will relate to Sean Saves the World's themes, in spite of the failure of last season's The New Normal.
"The New Normal didn't have Sean Hayes," Lavin said. "He's an extraordinary talent. Sean Saves the World is an identifiable story about a gay single dad as he balances his home and his work life. I'm delighted to be a part of it. It's a terrific company filled with talented people and talented writers."
Lavin is, of course, a TV legend. The actress won an Emmy for her long running, starring role in the classic sitcom Alice. Herself a Broadway veteran, she was awarded a Tony Award in 1987 for her work in the Neil Simon play Broadway Bound. She fits quite easily into her new role as Sean's mom Lorna, having played moms in Broadway Bound and Alice.
"She's a force of nature," Lavin said of Lorna. "She's a very energetic, funny woman, with a strong affection for her son. They see life the same way, and she's very committed to his happiness."
In a hilarious preview clip now posted at NBC.com, Sean and Lorna trade fast paced zingers. "Fish have it right," says Lorna. "You just drop them and go!"
The preview also offers a glimpse of Sean's relationship with Ellie (Samantha Isler), his wise-for-her-years daughter.
"If you're gay, then how did you and mom have sex?" inquires Ellie, as Sean nervously drops a pile of dishes.
Yet the love they all feel for each other shines through the clever one-liners.
"She has the best dad," Lorna says, in another clip.
Sean Saves the World premieres on Thursday, October 3, at 9 p.m. on NBC.
Smash, season two, with Sean Hayes and Megan Hilty, is now out on DVD.David-Elijah Nahmod