The new season of Will & Grace premieres Sept. 28 at 9 p.m. ET on NBC

By Patrick Gomez
September 13, 2017 09:00 AM

New episodes of Will & Grace are just around the corner!

In anticipation of the Sept. 28 premiere of the revival of the hit NBC sitcom — which ended its initial eight-season run in May 2006 — PEOPLE has an exclusive look at footage from the new season and casting secrets that could have changed everything about the beloved comedy.

Eric McCormack initially turned down his role on the show.
McCormack, 54, says he auditioned for Will & Grace in December 1997 and was offered the lead male role but didn’t think it was the right project for him.

“[Co-creator Max Mutchnick] called me, this is the best part you’re ever going to get in your life, you’re insane if you walk away,’ ” he says. “But I did. I walked away for about a month and then I said, ‘I think I’ve made a terrible mistake.’ ”

Heidi Gutman/NBCUniversal

Sean Hayes was originally asked to audition for the role of Will.
“I had a film at [the Sundance film festival,] the casting director asked if I would read for this new pilot called Will & Grace. I didn’t have the money to change my ticket to fly home, so soon so I was like, ‘Thank you, anyway,’ ” says Hayes, 47. “And I came home and they had cast Will and they said would I read for the ‘other guy.’ ”

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Megan Mullally auditioned for the role of Grace.
“I auditioned originally for the role of Grace. They were like, ‘Next!'” says Mullally, 58.

“They brought her in a few weeks later to read for Karen and we loved her,” Max Mutchnick says.

“We said to her in the room, ‘You’re so good! Why have we never seen you before?’ And she said something you can’t say on TV,” co-creator David Kohan adds.

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Debra Messing almost didn’t audition for the show.
“I had just wrapped a drama I said, ‘I just think I’m too tired,'” says Messing, 49. “And then they convinced me to read with Eric McCormack.”

Adds McCormack: “And she laughed that big Grace laugh everybody in the room went, [‘Hello, Grace!’]”

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Inside the new season:

“We shot our very first episode and the lights just bang on and we’re all standing there,” Mullally says of returning to the show in August after 11 years.

“The audience went insane and every one of us just started to cry,” Messing says.

And she doesn’t just mean the four stars.

“We got done shooting the scene and there were so many laughs from the audience,” Mullally says. “We looked over and Jim Burrows, our director, was crying and Eric said, ‘Jimmy, are you all right?’ And he goes, ‘Yeah. I just haven’t heard laughs like this in 11 years.'”

The new season of Will & Grace premieres Thursday, Sept. 28 at 9 p.m. ET on NBC.