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Portrayed by: Eric McCormackA gay lawyer who shares an apartment with his straight best friend Grace.
- Butt-Monkey: Sometimes, especially in later seasons. He tends to suffer bad luck and gets made fun of a lot.
- Camp Gay: Due to flanderization. He isn't... well, Jack... but certainly camp enough to be noteworthy in Real Life.
- Cloudcuckoolander's Minder: Being the sanest character, he often acts like this to all his friends.
- Control Freak: He is especially controlling when it comes to Grace and her life, and often lampshaded.Will: I'm rigid, I'm passive-aggressive, I'm controlling.Grace: News flash— Will's controlling. Yeah, got that freshman year of college when you told me what electives to take. Funny, 13 years later, and I'm still here.
- Deadpan Snarker: Probably the biggest one in the group. He has a dry sense of humor and not afraid to show it.
- Flanderization: He became much whinier, and his Camp Gay tendencies increased.
- Gay Best Friend: To Grace.
- Hello, Attorney!: Many characters comment how good-looking he is (the only exception is Jack who always makes fun of Will’s appearance).
- Hollywood Dateless: It's hard to believe someone with Will's looks, intellect, kind heart and at worst Adorkable charms hasn't got a legion of men competing for him.
- Masculine Girl, Feminine Boy: Feminine Boy to Grace's Masculine Girl. Grace is a brash, lazy, slovenly, Big Eater who finds gay porn to be exciting the same way a lot of men feel about lesbians. Will's initially Straight Gay but later Flanderized into Camp Gay, is much more calm and rational (initially,) uptight and decorated their entire apartment and does all the cooking and cleaning.
- Nice Guy: As well as being the most mature, he's also the nicest in the main cast. While he can be snarky, he's a surprisingly loyal and caring friend.
- The Not-Love Interest: To Grace, it’s the premise of the show.
- Only Sane Man: Between Jack, Karen and Grace, Will is the Straight Man of the group.
- Platonic Life-Partners: This trope was formerly known as "The Straight Will & Grace."
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: The Blue Oni big time to any character he interacts with (mostly Grace or Jack).
- Savvy Guy, Energetic Girl: The levelheaded, uptight Savvy Guy to Grace's neurotic, overemotional Energetic Girl.
- Screams Like a Little Girl: When Grace's apartment got burgled.Will: Did I just scream like a woman?
Grace: Don't flatter yourself. You screamed like a girl.
- Straight Gay: At first Will was a mostly-sitcom-normal guy who had the occasional camp element pop up for laughs - during a time when the world heard ‘gay’ and thought of someone like Jack. Fast forward a decade, though, and he's a Camp Gay whose buddy just happens to be doubly so.
- Straight Man: He's most often the serious foil to the others' antics. Subverted at the same time.
- You Are Fat: Jack regularly calls Will fat, but is the only one to do so (mostly because it's very obvious Will is anything but).
Portrayed by: Debra MessingWill’s best friend and roommate, she’s a straight interior designer.
- A-Cup Angst: As often mocked by Karen.
- Afraid of Needles: Grace is so afraid of them that she can't even say "Ringo," because he was a Beatle and that sounds like "needle."
- All Jews Are Cheapskates: She is very cheap, often hoards on free stuff, and even steals.
- Big Eater: Grace loves to eat, to the point where her large appetite is a Running Gag.
- Butt-Monkey: Like Will, she is the butt of many jokes all the time, especially by Karen.
- Competition Freak: In a first-season episode, Grace is shown to be so competitive that her friends stop coming over to her and Will's game nights.
- Deadpan Snarker: In a show where everyone is fond of sarcasm and insulting comebacks, Grace has a few moments as well.
- Fag Hag: For Will.
- Fiery Redhead: Often when she gets upset. She generally tends to be very loud and emotional.
- Flanderization: She became much more neurotic and self-obsessed
- Freudian Excuse: Her self-centered nature is implied to be the result of her mother's own ego and desire for the spotlight.
- Hollywood Tone-Deaf: Subverted. In real life, Debra Messing has a perfectly serviceable, if not gorgeous, singing voice. Her character Grace kept to the tunes relatively well, but always started out way too high, and when the key of a song was supposed to change, she changed too far. A lot of poor singers actually do sing this way. Grace was also incredibly loud.
- Informed Judaism: She's Jewish but not observant. It very occasionally comes up, such as if she ever has to participate in anything related to Christianity and she makes a hash of things because she has no idea what's going on.
- It's All About Me: Especially in later seasons where she’s almost as bad as Jack. While Jack doesn’t even try to hide his self-absorbed nature, Grace comes off more as a Bitch in Sheep's Clothing. In "The Unsinkable Mommy Adler," Grace looks back on her old journals and discovers that she's demanded to the center of attention in every relationship she's ever been in, and becomes upset (though it doesn't stick).
- The Lad-ette: She's a brash, lazy, slovenly Big Eater who finds gay porn to be exciting the same way a lot of men feel about lesbians.
- Last Het Romance: To Will.
- Masculine Girl, Feminine Boy: Masculine Girl to Will's Feminine Boy. Grace is The Lad-ette. Will initially Straight Gay but later Flanderized into Camp Gay, is much more calm and rational (initially,) uptight and decorated their entire apartment and does all the cooking and cleaning.
- Middle Child Syndrome: Played with. Despite her insecurities about being The Un-Favourite, she considers herself the best one of the Adler sisters.Grace: You are the screw-up older sister. Joyce is the heavy younger sister. And I am the perfect one in the middle. I am the glue that holds you two losers together.
- Minor Flaw, Major Breakup: She tried really hard to avoid this when she found out her boyfriend had six toes (mostly because he was able to look past a funny mole on her lip, and she didn't want to appear more shallow than him,) but when he revealed he had six toes and was a Celtics fan, she threw him out.
- Will also called her out on this during one of their more serious fights, pointing out that she'll look for any excuse, such as a "weird chest hair pattern," to break up with a guy.
- My Friends... and Zoidberg: Jack would commonly address the other three as "Ladies... and Grace."
- The Not-Love Interest: To Will, it’s the premise of the show.
- Platonic Life-Partners: This trope was formerly known as "The Straight Will & Grace."
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: Red to Will's Blue.
- Savvy Guy, Energetic Girl: The neurotic, overemotional Energetic Girl to Will's levelheaded, uptight Savvy Guy.
- Small Name, Big Ego: She can be very vain.
- Tomboy and Girly Girl: Tomboy to Karen’s Girly Girl. Grace is brash, unladylike and gluttonous while Karen is a stylish Rich Bitch who always insults Grace’s clothing choices.
- Took a Level in Jerkass: She was originally neurotic but well meaning, but in later seasons she becomes much more shallow and selfish.
- The Un-Favourite: She develops a complex over this with both her father and her mother in different episodes.
- Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: Sometimes. Just barely has enough morals to not be a Jerkass, but still broke up with someone for having an extra toe, admitted that it was because she was shallow, then asked for sympathy.
Portrayed by: Megan MullallyA rich, perpetually drunk socialite who "works" as Grace's assistant.
- The Alcoholic: She's perpetually drunk, and can rarely be seen without a glass in her hand.
- Ambiguous Gender: She drops the occasional hint that she might have been born male or that she might be a hermaphrodite.
- Aww, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: While never fully seen, due to him being The Unseen, Karen may have married Stanley for his money, it's often shown that she does genuinely love him, and was completely devastated and betrayed when it was revealed he had faked his death!
- Bad Boss: To Rosario and all her employees, but it’s Played for Laughs.
- Bi the Way: Never used for any plotlines, and usually coming across more like "too drunk to tell the difference".
- Breakout Character: By far the most memorable and popular character on the show. Originally a supporting character, she becomes a more prominent part of the show based on viewer reaction.
- Brutal Honesty: A firm practitioner of this.
- Cloudcuckoolander: She's also perpetually stoned out of her mind, so she's got a somewhat unorthodox world-view.
- Cool and Unusual Punishment:
- Karen throws a wild party and trashes Will's apartment. Her punishment? Will denies Karen her afternoon martini (a.k.a. "lunch") — and makes her look at Grace's endless honeymoon photos.Karen: (to Will) I HATE YOU!
Grace: Roll one: my luggage!
- In another episode, Karen and Jack are coming up with some type of revenge against the English Lorraine Finster for stealing Karen's husband. Jack's idea? Make her watch the American version of anything British.
- Another time, Grace forces Karen (who just went on a several-thousand-dollar shopping spree) to cut back on her spending habits by threatening to cut up part of the sweater set she just bought.Karan: No! You kill one piece and the whole ensemble dies!
Grace: Maybe I'll just start with...the label.
Karen: No! Honey that's the BEST PART! (covers mouth in abject horror) No....
Grace: (moving scissors in a cutting motion) Dah dah! Dah dah! Dah nah dah nah dah nah...
- Karen throws a wild party and trashes Will's apartment. Her punishment? Will denies Karen her afternoon martini (a.k.a. "lunch") — and makes her look at Grace's endless honeymoon photos.
- Cute, but Cacophonic: Karen's voice is physically painful. Her voice was relatively normal in the first few episodes, before Flanderization turned Karen from a Deadpan Snarker into the most outlandish character on the show.
- Deadpan Snarker: "Honey, tact is for people who aren’t witty enough to be sarcastic."
- Depraved Bisexual: This is played for laughs rather than used for any serious plots, though. She seems to be more along the lines of Anything That Moves.
- Did You Think I Can't Feel?: Since Karen snarks all the time, the other characters almost never take her seriously, even when she's genuinely trying to help them. She becomes furious and upset whenever this occurs, and on one occasion even quit working for Grace after the latter refused to give her credit for an interior design she had done after Grace bailed on it.
- The Ditz: Justified, as she’s usually drunk and at least some of it is Obfuscating Stupidity.
- Even the Girls Want Her: Karen has a great rack. No, like, a really great rack. Gay, straight, whatever, no one is immune to Karen's boobs and the show takes full advantage of this fact.
- Everyone Has Standards: She is a Gold Digger, but not a hooker. Sex for luxuries, but not money.
- Fag Hag: For Jack.
- The Fashionista: Often insults Grace's fashion style.
- Flanderization: Her shrillness and addictions.
- Freudian Excuse: She had a bad childhood due to a difficult relationship with her mother, a con artist who involved her in her schemes.
- Functional Addict: Karen is by far the most heavily addicted drunk on television.
- Gold Digger: She married Stan for his money.
- Hidden Depths: In a few episodes, Karen demonstrates that she's not completely self-centered. In one instance, Grace blew off her marital advice without even acknowledging that she might have a point, which upset her deeply. She also values Grace, Jack, and even Will as her closest friends, and does love Stan.
- Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: With her husband, the morbidly obese Stan.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: In a rather twisted way.
- Lady Drunk: Depending on if she's drunk or on pills, she can be this or happy-go-lucky.
- Masculine Girl, Feminine Boy: Masculine Girl to Jack's Feminine Boy. They are Will and Grace Up to Eleven (Jack is obsessed with fashion and jewelry, Karen is a violent drunk.)
- Narcissist: Very much so, and one of the reasons she gets along with the equally narcissistic Jack.
- Old Shame: In-Universe, her dominatrix pornstar turn.
- Parental Neglect: Towards her step-children Mason and Olivia. She doesn’t even remember their names and what they look like.
- Pet the Dog: A few episodes show that there's more to her than snark and sex:
- In a Season One episode, Karen misses her period and fears she might be pregnant. She's not, but is clearly upset about the fact (though she tries to hide it), prompting Jack to give her a comforting hug. After he leaves, she calls Stan and genuinely asks to speak to her stepchildren.
- One episode had Grace struggling with Leo's decision to stay in Africa to continue his work. Karen is the one who ends up giving her the best advice possible, and even tells Grace that while she makes fun of her, she does love her.
- A late episode has Karen design a nursery for a pair of clients, proving that she's picked up some knowledge of interior decorating with her work over the years. When Grace steals the credit for the nursery, Karen is genuinely upset.
- A Christmas Episode reveals that at Grace Adler Designs, Karen gives the holiday bonuses to Grace!
- The episode which focused on Karen's birthday reveals that she's never invited Will, Grace, or Jack to any of the lavish parties that mark the occasion. When they finally press her as to why, she confesses that if she invited them, they might not take her to a cheap, lousy restaurant to celebrate in their own way—and that's the thing she looks most forward to on her birthdays every year.
- Platonic Life-Partners: With Jack.
- Pretty in Mink: Loved to wear furs. Her very first scene was her showing up in a mink coat.
- Rich Bitch: She's filthy rich and usually not very nice, though more because she's totally tactless than outright malicious.
- Sassy Secretary: She's this to Grace, though Grace rarely requires her to do any actual work because her business contacts are the only thing keeping Grace's business afloat.
- Sexy Secretary: She's attractive, charismatic, stylish, and no one is immune to Karen's boobs.
- Serial Spouse: She has been married four times.
- Sitcom Arch-Nemesis: Candice Bergen, Lorraine Finster, Beverley Leslie, etc.
- Tomboy and Girly Girl: Girly Girl to Grace’s Tomboy. Grace is brash, unladylike and gluttonous while Karen is a stylish Rich Bitch who always insults Grace’s clothing choices.
- Too Kinky to Torture: In Season 9 she says that it takes so much to freak her out that she's never had to use her safe word during kinky sex games with Stan.Grace: How could you not remember your safe word?!
Karen: Well, honey, I've never used it! It takes a lot for this little lamb chop to feel unsafe!
- Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Hot Wife to Stan's Ugly Guy (or so we're told).
- Upper-Class Twit: She’s a multi-millionairess and appears to be completely clueless about how normal people live.
- Vague Age: As part of her Flanderization. In early episodes, Karen simply acknowledged that she frequently had plastic surgery. As time went by, though, the writers started dropping hints that she was somehow in her eighties at least (she commented about remembering waiting on breadlines during the Great Depression), and used booze and pills to somehow stop the aging process altogether.
- Vocal Evolution: Her voice becomes more shrill and high-pitched as time goes on.
Portrayed by: Sean HayesA close friend of Will’s, he’s an eccentric and flamboyantly gay wannabe actor.
- All Gays Are Promiscuous: He sleeps around a lot.
- All Gays Love Theater: Also a Performance Artist sometimes.
- Attention Whore: He certainly loves to be the center of attention.
- Brilliant, but Lazy: He's actually a talented musician when he bothers to be. He has many talents if just applied himself such as the time he became a male nurse. He can also write really good homo-erotic novels but only when he's depressed.
- Camp Gay: Shamelessly flamboyant and campy in every way possible. Will actually said once, "Is there any part of the stereotype you don't fit?"
- Cloudcuckoolander: Sometimes.Jack: Who needs brains when you can lick your own eyebrows.
- Deadpan Snarker: Tends to make sassy wisecracks quite regularly.
- The Ditz: A male example of a hyperactive airhead.
- Flanderization: His shrillness and idiocy and his Camp Gay tendencies increased.
- Gay Best Friend: To Karen.
- Giftedly Bad: Mostly due to the fact that he's so wrapped up in himself and has to be the center of attention.
- Hidden Depths: Jack proves to be more than a spoiled Manchild when helps Will come out and Barry become a real gay.
- If It's You, It's Okay: He's repulsed by heterosexuality, but he likes experimenting with Karen.
- In Touch with His Feminine Side: Many jokes on the show are about how effeminate he is.
- It's All About Me: Always tries to make everything about him. He doesn’t even try to hide it.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Always very self-absorbed and narcissistic, but occasionally shows that he cares about his friendship with Will and/or Karen.
- Keet: He's always cheerful and very very energetic.
- Large Ham: As part of his campy character.
- Luke, You Are My Father: In season 3 he finds out he has a son, Elliott, created from sperm he donated at the age of 17.
- Manchild: He's irresponsible, doesn't have a stable job, and acts like a spoiled bratty kid.
- Masculine Girl, Feminine Boy: Feminine Boy to Karen's Masculine Girl. They are Will and Grace Up to Eleven (Jack is obsessed with fashion and jewelry, Karen is a violent drunk.)
- Narcissist: Very much so, and one of the reasons he gets along with the equally narcissistic Karen.
- Platonic Life-Partners: With Karen.
- Really Gets Around: It's implied he has countless short-term lovers in every episode.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: The Red to Will's Blue.
- Small Name, Big Ego: About his acting career although everyone tells him he has no talent.
- Wacky Guy: The outrageous, over-the-top character of the show, along with Karen who is the resident Wacky Girl.
Portrayed by: Shelley MorrisonKaren’s cranky yet loyal maid.
- Amicably Divorced: With Jack, after the end of their Citizenship Marriage.
- Ascended Extra: After her first appearance, her popularity caused her to be promoted to semi-regular character.
- Butt-Monkey: She’s always being comically abused and mistreated by Karen. However Rosario often gives as good as she gets and it’s implied they both enjoy their Vitriolic Best Buds relationship.
- Deadpan Snarker: She serves as Karen's wisecracking maid.
- Ethnic Menial Labor: She is Hispanic.
- Overly Long Name: Rosario Inez Consuela Yolanda Salazar.
- Promotion to Opening Titles: She becomes a regular cast member in Season 3.
- Servile Snarker: Observed by Will the very first time he meets Rosario and sees her interactions with Karen.Will: Tonight on Springer, shallow socialites and the maids who abuse them.
- Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome: She's killed off early on in the revival, due to her actress not wanting to come out of retirement.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: With Karen.
Stanley "Stan" WalkerKaren’s obese, multi-millionaire, unseen (ex) husband.
- Big Eater: According to Karen, and the reason why he’s so obese.
- The Faceless: The only time we see anything of him (his hand and his feet are seen in one episode).
- Faking the Dead: Stan dies suddenly at the end of season 5, but at the end of season seven, he reveals to Will that he had faked his own death and is hiding out with the aid of the government.
- Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Huge Guy To Karen's Tiny Girl.
- Large and in Charge: Stan's company, Walker Inc. We never really find out what it does (aside from a subsidiary called Walker Property Management that owns several New York apartment buildings of various quality,) or what it's worth, aside from the fact that it has left Stan and Karen ungodly rich.
- Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Ugly Guy to Karen's Hot Wife.
- The Unseen: As with most off-screen sitcom characters, Stan is defined by a single attribute: in this case, his obesity.
- Your Cheating Heart: In season 4 he begins an affair with Lorraine Finster, ultimately separating from Karen because of it.
Portrayed by: Harry Connick, Jr.Grace's most important love interest from season 5 onwards.
- The Bus Came Back: In season 8.
- Married to the Job: Even though he’s married to Grace, he often spends time away from her due to his work.
- Nice Guy: At least, until he cheats on Grace.
- Somebody Doesn't Love Raymond: One episode has both Grace and Leo obsessing over why Karen doesn't like Leo (she doesn't think he's funny). Leo even digs up an old yearbook to show Karen all the signatures he got, proving everyone loved him and thought he was hilarious.
- Your Cheating Heart: He sleeps with another woman and this ends up destroying his marriage with Grace in season 6.
Portrayed by: Leslie JordanKaren's effeminate and very short nemesis.
- Catch-Phrase: “Well well well…”
- Deadpan Snarker: His dialogue with Karen is always Snark-to-Snark Combat.
- Dirty Old Man: In one episode Jack and Will meet him in a gay bar, always along with his younger “business associate” Benji.
- Friendly Enemy: To Karen, on his better days.
- Jerkass: He takes whatever opportunity he can to antagonize Karen.
- Sitcom Arch-Nemesis: To Karen.
- Transparent Closet: He’s effeminate and often seen with a younger man who appears to be his lover, but Beverley tries to pass him off as a "business associate". Everyone knows he’s gay though and in one episode Beverley threatens to sue Karen if she doesn't apologize for calling him a homosexual in public.
Portrayed by: Michael AngaranoJack's biological son.
- Demoted to Extra: He was a semi-regular in season 4, but in later episodes he only makes rare appearances.
- Luke, You Are My Father: To Jack, in the last episode of season 3.
- Morality Pet: To Jack. He may be insensitive and self-absorbed in most situations, but really cares about his son and tries to be a good father to him.
- Nice Guy: He is described by Will as "polite, sweet, and kind".
- Wacky Parent, Serious Child: Serious Child To Jack's Wacky Parent (and possibly with his mother as well).
Portrayed by: Bobby CannavaleWill’s love interest from season 6 onwards.
- The Bus Came Back: After his break up with Will, he later comes back in season 8.
- Friend Versus Lover: In one of the last episodes, he surprises Will with an announcement that will ultimately lead Will to choose between him and his friendship with Grace.
- Gay Best Friend: Much like Will, he has a female best friend named Nadine.
- Love Interest: Will’s longest relationship in the series.
Portrayed by: Gary GrubbsWill's wealthiest legal client in Season 1 and 2, a rich Texan.
- The Artifact: An interesting example—despite his name appearing in the opening credits of Season 1, he only appears in about half the episodes.
- Benevolent Boss: Despite being extremely wealthy, he treats Will with kindness, and is shown to be a loving father.
- Fiction 500: Harlin has a lot of money and isn't afraid to spend it; in his final episode, he casually buys his wife an outlet mall (that is, the entire complex) as a present.
- Good Ol' Boy: A downplayed example. He clearly takes pride in his Texas heritage, but he's much more accepting of Will being gay than this trope usually allows. Harlin gives Will a good deal of respect and is perfectly comfortable with his sexuality.
- Open Mouth, Insert Foot: Many of his attempts to talk about Will's sexuality end up this way. In one instance, Will mentions that he didn't think he was a dog person, and Harlin responds "That's right—you people like the cats, don't you?"
- Put on a Bus: Left the show early in Season Two; the explanation given is that Will starts focusing exclusively on his cases to the detriment of others, only to be fired when Harlin decides he needs a more experienced lawyer.