But somewhere in the middle of our conversation while I was on set this August, I start hearing the tinkle of piano keys. Unbeknownst to me, my reporting day on the Will & Grace set coincided with one of the most emotional episodes Megan Mulally has filmed as Karen Walker.
In the episode that aired Thursday night, “Family Trip,” Mulally’s Karen comes to terms with the fact that she is about to be divorced from her husband and delivers what’s ruled her “last performance” as Mrs. Stanley Walker. In a riff on Will and Jack’s parallel hallucinatory storyline, Karen daydreams herself at a cabaret bar, saying goodbye to Stanley and her past identity attached to him by crooning the ballad at the piano.
NBC is keenly aware of what a big moment having Mulally as Karen sing “The Man That Got Away,” a song made famous by Judy Garland in her version of A Star Is Born, will be for Will & Grace fans. Mulally has a Broadway background, having starred in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Grease, and Young Frankenstein, and she is a member of the band Nancy and Beth.
She sang on Will & Grace once before, a duet of Nat King Cole’s “Unforgettable” with Sean Hayes that makes me cry every time I pull it up on YouTube. Every crew member on set gathered around to listen to her sing, including the entire cast and guest stars Chelsea Handler and Mary McCormack.
Speaking with everyone involved in Will & Grace, there’s a sense of enjoyment in the fact that the show has earned the right, after creating so much history with these characters and their relationship with the audience, to delve deeper in the revival. The nuance with which the series has portrayed Jack and Will’s evolving friendship as gay men and best friends getting older has also earned praise.
It makes me glad that this is a returning show, that you don’t have to build up all that equity with the audience to deliver something.” In honor of the return of NBC’s Will & Grace, Megan Mulally is opening up about how her character, Karen Walker, came to be.
Mulally recently sat down for an interview with Entertainment Weekly, where she discussed the iconic role and revealed that she initially auditioned for Grace (gasp! So, naturally, the actress started alibiing “honeys” during the table reads, and although she was “a little scared” of getting fired at first, her quirky additions eventually caught on.
As for Karen’s high-pitched voice, Mulally says she “started doing it without thinking” and nailed it down over time: “The pace of the show is quite theatrical, and my natural speaking voice is very laconic, so I thought, ‘Well, I need to bring some energy to this character.’ And I thought that was a good way to do it.” In the wise words of Karen Walker, “You say potato, I say vodka.” Will & Grace airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. on NBC.
Karen Walker Will & Grace characterFirst appearance” Pilot (episode 1.01)Last appearance It's Recreated by Max Matchlock Portrayed by Megan Mulally In-universe informationAliasShu-Shu FontanaAnastasia BeaverhausenSister Frances BeaverhausenNicknameCruella (by Will) Are, Miss Karen, Are Bear, Kiki, Zany DelaneyGenderFemaleTitleChairman, CEO, and Board Member (Walker, Inc.) Occupation Current Family Mr. She was a multi-millionairess thanks to her marriage to Stan Walker (an unseen character) until it was discovered that all of his money was loaned after their divorce in the series finale.
The 2017 revival of the series reconned that revelation as one of Karen's daydreams; she is still rich and still married to Stan. However, in the tenth season, Karen and Stan go through another divorce after she cheats on him with his friend, government agent Malcolm Tidemark (Alec Baldwin), and struggles with her loneliness and erratic emotions.
Karen had a difficult childhood, thanks in part to her unstable relationship with her mother, Lois Whitley (played by Suzanne Fléchette), a con artist who incorporated her young daughter into her schemes. Karen has made many references in the show to her education and her maiden name, Delaney, which suggest she is of Irish-American background.
Although she tries to keep her age a secret, Jack revealed that she was 42 in 2001, meaning she was born in January 1959. As of the end of the series, she is still married to Stanley (see below), who has two children of his own, Olivia and Mason.
Other alias was Lupita, used when she had an affair with a hotel janitor while trying to pass as a maid using Rosario's uniform. On one occasion she explains that she loves family and then recites the story of Heidi, claiming it as her own.
Jack asks her why she's afraid of elevators, and she recounts the opening scene of the movie Speed. She has also described the events of Norma Rae and To Sir, with Love as her own life experiences.
In one episode, when Stan cuts down on her extravagant spending habits, she cashes all her paychecks at once, nearly bankrupting Grace. At some point before this, she also agreed to appear in the fetishistic porn film Next to Godliness, a dominatrix flick.
Stan is an obese man who was credited with keeping Taco Bell and Pizza Hut in business, and who has worn a toupee since his teens. In the fourth season, Stan is jailed for tax evasion and tells Karen to date other men.
She cannot bring herself to do so until she meets rich bachelor Lionel Banks (Rip Torn), but just as their affair begins, Stan is released from jail. After beginning divorce proceedings at the end of the fifth season, Stan dies suddenly.
During season six, Karen pursues romantic liaisons and eventually marries Lyle Minster (John Cheese), Lorraine's father. However, after 20 minutes of marriage, she asks for a divorce upon realizing that Lyle puts his own needs ahead of hers.
However, at the end of season seven, it is revealed that Stan faked his death and had actually been in hiding. Karen begins dating Malcolm (Alec Baldwin), a government agent who had helped Stan go underground.
However, she ultimately reconciles with Stan, and Malcolm leaves on a government mission to Sri Lanka. Though he is not attracted to Beverley, Jack goes ahead with the scheme because Karen had financially supported him for the whole of their relationship.
Karen realizes that she is doing to Jack what her mother did to her, and tells him that she cares more about his happiness than the money. Beverley, who had been in the bathroom, then comes out to an empty bedroom, looks for Jack on the outside balcony and, being 4'11 and 100 lbs., is swept to his death by a gust of wind.
In this continuity, Karen is still married to Stan and still independently wealthy, and has become a member of First Lady Melania Trump's inner circle. However, in the final two episodes of season 9, it is revealed that Karen and Malcolm go on a rendezvous trip every year.
Though she is reluctant to change their situation and despite both of them being tempted to give in to each other, Karen decides to stay with Stan and she and Malcolm share an awkward goodbye. Karen is then served divorce papers from Stan, and in the next few episodes is seen struggling with her emotions and loneliness.
Grace manages to convince Karen to forgive Malcolm, and they decide to take things slow. However, when she feels that Malcolm is not putting as much effort into their relationship as she is, she confides her troubles to a lesbian named Nikki (Samira Wiley) who tells her she needs someone to take care of her.
Ultimately in the season 10 finale, she announces herself as straight and breaks things off with Nikki, after realizing how lost she has become since her divorce from Stan. In the series finale, Stan asks her to take him back, and she realizes that she still loves him.
Just as she is about to leave, however, Stan arrives at a helicopter and sends down a note asking her to marry him again. Karen is very close to her maid Rosario Salazar (Shelley Morrison), whom she met and hired in 1985.
In the beginning of the series, it seems that Rosario didn't speak much English, and Karen has a hard time communicating with her. Karen's way of giving Rosario orders is to add the letter “o” to the end of every word she says (e.g., “Enough with the April Fresh.
In another example of miscommunication, Karen ends phone calls with Rosario by saying “hola”, which means “hello” in Spanish and not “goodbye”. When Rosario is first seen on-camera at the end of the first season, it is revealed that she speaks English fluently and that Karen is merely being patronizing.
In a later season, we see Karen forced to live in an apartment block she owns in Spanish Harlem as punishment for failing to bring the building to code. In the final episode of the first season, Karen arranges for Rosario to marry Jack, so she can get a Green Card.
Karen and Rosario have a love-hate relationship: They have frequent, volatile arguments that end with them embracing each other and emotionally declaring their affection for each other. Karen keeps up an uncaring facade for days afterward, even as she arranges a funeral for her, as well as the quinceañera she never had.
She loses her nerve and flees the funeral before it starts, drowning her sorrows at a nearby bar. However, she does bid Rosario a quietly emotional goodbye when she is alone with the casket, and tells her she was her best friend, and that she loves her, tearfully declaring “the AMO Miami”.
According to Gin, Karen rigged a floorboard during a game of Twister, so she would fall through, hurt herself, and end her career in dance. Lois, played by Suzanne Fléchette, is Karen's mother who appears in the episode Someone Old, Someplace New “.
As a result of this unconventional upbringing, Karen decided to distance herself from her mother, presumably in an attempt to lead a more stable life. However, the fruit does not fall far from the tree, as Karen's long, colorful history of multiple marriages and desire to “throw the feds off” proves.
They forgive each other in the next episode, Something Borrowed, Someone's Due “, but Lois wants to do one last job: conning an elderly shut-in out of his fortune. Further enemies include Scott Woolly (Jeff Goldblum), whom she jilted in high school; Candace “Candy” Pruitt (Christine Eberle), who once said that Karen's voice sounded “like someone strangles an old macaw “; and Helena Barnes (Joan Collins), a famous interior designer.
Karen often openly insults or ridicules her enemies, while simultaneously thinking of them as her friends. The most notable occurrence of this physical reaction occurs during her encounters with Beverley Leslie.
With other staff and help, Karen is deliberately patronizing, referring to them solely by their title both in conversation and to their faces: “Driver”, “Butler”, “Private Detective”, “Pharmacist”, “Back-Up Pharmacist”, et cetera, and even refers to Will as “Lawyer” on occasion. This rude tone is not limited to her employees, as she looks down on or openly mocks most people she meets, even her friends.
Karen is often cruel to her staff at home, training them to run when she enters a room. On another occasion, she asks Ben Suzette's assistant Mrs. Freeman to pop a stamp on a letter and put it into the mail for her, only to receive a very icy look in return without touching the envelope or replying to her.
After an uncomfortable pause for Will and Ben, Karen takes back the envelope and genuinely tells her she likes her. Karen discovers that her friends have placed a bet to see who can get her to cry first, so she punishes each of them by leading them on to think she might break down in their presence.
Another episode sees Karen and Jack in her mansion with her refusing to let him enter 'the forbidden room'. When Jack finally gains access he discovers it is a nursery which Karen had prepared during a pregnancy scare in an earlier season.
Karen frequently implies that she's attracted to other women, and has hinted that she has slept with members of the same gender. She makes frequent references to Grace being secretly attracted to her, and once considered marrying Martina Navratilova during the 1980s.
During the original show she has made advances towards multiple women, including one woman Diane who seemed open to the idea. Walker's persona has appeared in advertisements for The Megan Mulally Show, which debuted in September 2006 and which was canceled in January 2007.
However, when the project was brought up during a 2013 interview, Mulally revealed that it had been abandoned after she lost the rights to the Karen Walker character.