Eric McCormack on How He Got 'Closer' with Sean Hayes Years After Losing Touch Post-'Will & Grace' (Exclusive)

The friends and Emmy winners are now hosting a rewatch podcast called 'Just Jack & Will'

Sean Hayes/Instagram Sean Hayes and Eric McCormack
Sean Hayes/Instagram Sean Hayes and Eric McCormack

Nearly two decades after the original show’s finale, Will & Grace actors Eric McCormack and Sean Hayes are still close friends — but that wasn't always the case.

McCormack, who played Will Truman on the acclaimed NBC sitcom, exclusively opened up to PEOPLE about how he and Hayes, who won an Emmy for portraying Jack McFarland, returned to their friendship.

“We finished the show so many years ago. We didn't keep in touch that much,” McCormack, 60, said at Monday's The Magic of Will & Grace event at The Paley Center for Media in New York City. “We found each other again just before COVID, and now we've been closer pals ever since then.”

Related: 'Will & Grace' Reunion! Eric McCormack Surprises Sean Hayes at His Play in Chicago

Sean Hayes/Instagram Sean Hayes and Eric McCormack
Sean Hayes/Instagram Sean Hayes and Eric McCormack

Hayes, 52, announced in an Instagram post last week that he and McCormack were starting a podcast together called Just Jack & Will. “It’s a Will & Grace rewatch podcast for SmartLess Media,” he wrote of the series, which is slated to premiere later this month.

McCormack told PEOPLE the podcast was cooked up “at a lunch that we were having."

"We started to talk about what would we do if we did a podcast," he recalled. "And I said, ‘We could rewatch the show?’”

The Emmy winner — who also trades Hollywood war stories pal Steven Weber for their Eating Out with Eric & Steve podcast — revealed that Hayes admitted he wasn't much of a viewer of Will & Grace during its runs (first from 1998 to 2006, then in a revival from 2017 to 2020).

According to McCormack, Hayes “said, ‘Yeah, I'd have to watch it [for] the first time. 'Cause I've never really watched it.’ He said, ‘That's the show.’”

Related: Debra Messing Would Revisit 'Will & Grace' in 30 Years 'If It Was Like 'Golden Girls' in Boca Raton'

<p>Chris Haston/NBCU Photo Bank</p> Megan Mullally, Eric McCormack, Debra Messing and Sean Hayes

Chris Haston/NBCU Photo Bank

Megan Mullally, Eric McCormack, Debra Messing and Sean Hayes

“It's basically, it's Sean and I watching the show, but really watching the minutiae … rediscovering who we were, the choices we made,” he explained. “You shoot 24 episodes, sometimes in a season, you're not stopping to think. You're not stopping to breathe.”

Now with the benefit of time and hindsight, McCormack is finding rewatching his younger self intriguing.

“You're kind of marveling at your young self, like in Back to the Future where he sees his mother as a young woman," he said, referencing Michael J. Fox’s character Marty McFly in the iconic 1985 movie. "We're watching ourselves going, ‘Huh, would I still make that choice? Did I become funnier? Did I become better?’”

Related: Will & Grace&#39;s Lost Episode: Eric McCormack Reveals the Envelope-Pushing Scene That Got 1 Rerun Yanked

Vivien Killilea/Getty Eric McCormack
Vivien Killilea/Getty Eric McCormack

When it first debuted, Will & Grace was considered groundbreaking for its portrayal of LGBTQIA+ characters. McCormack revealed to PEOPLE that one episode, in which Jack joins Will at the gym, was so controversial that it never reaired.

“[Jack] was being particularly gay,” McCormack said. “And [Will] called him the F-word. And they didn't repeat that episode. That's the one episode that's never ever been ever aired again.”

“But there was such truth to it,” he added. “And [it's] the only episode where we lost sponsors. So we did take that issue on. But that issue, particularly, was within the gay community. There are levels and there were feelings, and we dared to sort of show them.”

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