September 17, 2004 06:00 AM

It isn’t easy being Janet – at least not when she has to play herself on television. With her guest-starring role on NBC’s Will & Grace on Sept. 23, Jackson, 38, returns to her childhood stamping ground, the sitcom. And she says things have changed since her Good Times days more than 20 years ago: She managed to flub a few lines. “They’re always rewriting the script,” Jackson says. “The dancing, though, I could do that.” The singer recently talked to PEOPLE about joining Jack, Karen, Will and Grace, and taking advantage of a new luxury: the craft services table.

Was it just like old times, being back on a set?
I hadn’t done television in 20 years, since I did Fame (as Cleo Hewitt) and Diff’rent Strokes (as Charlene DuPrey). And my, has it ever changed! Back in those days, if you were hungry, you went out and found yourself some food. Now, they have all this great food right there on the set. One day, I had Indian food, which I love, and the next day, I had Greek food.

So what kind of role did they give you?
I’m playing Janet Jackson and playing me is actually harder than playing somebody else. It’s myself saying things that are written for me to say. Some of these things are not things you would say if you were just speaking as yourself, know what I mean?

Like what?
Well, they wrote things for me to say that are poking fun at me. You’ll see on the show what it is – I don’t want to spoil it. But for some people who say I don’t have a sense of humor, they’ll see (I do). Being from such a huge family, how can I not have a sense of humor?

Are you a big Will & Grace fan?
I don’t watch very much television anymore, but I had seen the show and I am a fan of it. I think it’s very well-written and very clever. … It has really opened the door for gay characters.

Who was the biggest ham to work with?
It has to be Sean. He’s just naturally funny. He’s just a bundle of joy, very energetic. He seems to be a very happy person. I saw him off playing the piano between breaks. I would just admire him from afar.

Any trouble remembering lines?
Yes! I did flub my lines and I get so frustrated when I make mistakes. I haven’t done (scripted) TV since Diff’rent Strokes and it’s not like being on Saturday Night Live where you get to read cue cards.

Any trouble with wardrobe?
Oh, no. It’s very casual. I went every day, from the morning of the reading on and I just wore sweats. A stylist got something for me to wear on the last day, the day we taped, and it was fine, just fine.

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