It does speak to a remarkable change in TV land that most people are responding to an openly gay male lead played by an openly gay man in "Sean Saves the World" (premieres Thurs. Oct. 3 at 9:00 p.m.) with a collective shrug. Well, unless they're critics at press tour.
Though star Sean Hayes was asked about the influence of his breakout show "Will & Grace" on the cultural zeigeist, he wasn't eager to beat a drum for the series' influence. "Of course it was impactful; I don't want it to sound egotistical… I would like to believe it had a big influence on gay America. To Joe Biden it did." But as to why he took the gig, it wasn't with an eye to the future. "I was 26 years old. It was a job... It's even sad that it's a question, really. But here we are. It's normal."
His co-star Thomas Lennon leaned forward with a joke. "Wait, Sean's gay?"
While a later question was asked about whether Hayes' character would be interacting with New York's "vibrant gay community" ("No, because it's Chicago," Todd Milliner quipped, though it was made clear he would be dating), the panel quickly moved on to lighter fare. Linda Lavin, who plays Sean's mom Lorna, explained that she flew cross country with her little dog, who is now "a service dog. I had to get a diagnosis, but it's probably accurate."
Though the show is one of the dying breed of multi-camera sitcoms, and executive producer Victor Fresco ("Andy Richter Controls the Universe") praised Hayes' ability to hold the center and work in a more difficult format, Hayes downplayed his ability. "I'm just enjoying acting and I totally enjoy producing. I don't care how many cameras there are."
Lennon was more voluble about his role as a mean boss, joking, "If I don't get a freaking Emmy for this, for crying out loud, you guys."
The addition of "Smash" star Megan Hilty was a hot topic, as she was a late addition to the show. Though Hayes appeared on "Smash," Hilty downplayed the connection. "I answered an add in Craigslist. I like working, I love Sean, I loved the script, so I just crossed my fingers and hoped they said yes." She also changed her schedule for the new gig. "I was talking about doing a couple things next season in New York, but not anymore." When asked if she'd be singing in her new job, she joked, "This is a musical, isn't it?"
Fresco explained that Hilty's character "now has become more central to the show. [She and Sean] met fifteen years ago because Megan was the caterer at Sean's wedding and knew he was gay, but he wasn't ready to come out yet, so they have a long history... so Sean hired her for this job and that history allows them to be good friends." He also mentioned that there will be "tension" between Hilty's character and Lavin's character as they jockey for position as a "surrogate mom" for Sean's daughter, Ellie.
When Lavin was asked to talk about her potentially cranky character, she went on at great length about her character wanting happiness on her own terms before lauding Hayes as a combination of "Jimmy Stewart and Charlie Chaplin."
"I want to thank all of you for writing down her entire answer," Hayes quipped before the panel wrapped.
Will you be watching "Sean Saves the World"?