Max Mutchnick: “I mean if Will & Grace made me proud of anything, I mean now because it’s over I guess, I could say I am proud that we kept a dignified gay man who lives with a great deal of integrity at the center of a of a television series for 8 years. I always got a lot of heat that we didn’t take the character far enough, that we didn’t see the character sexualize himself enough. & my thinking was always let’s just keep the guy on television. Let’s just show people that this man can exist & that he can be your neighbor, he can be your doctor or he can be your son & we can learn to live with that. & I was I think I was most pleased that the show just stayed on the air. That’s what I’m really proud of.”
Did Will & Grace make your Thursday nights a gay old time for 8 years back in another century? The Husband & I faithfully watched the “Must See TV” line-up including Frasier & Friends. It was a golden time for the sitcom. I was proud & pleased to have a well written & funny show with a gay male lead character & fascinated that America would embrace a show where the male & female leads were not involved romantically.
The show took place in NYC & told the tale of Will Truman, a gay lawyer, & his best friend Grace Adler, a Jewish woman who runs her own interior design firm, plus their friends Karen Walker, a rich socialite, & Jack McFarland, a struggling actor/singer/dancer who also had brief careers as an acting teacher, back-up dancer, cater/waiter, talk show host & student nurse. During its 8 year run, Will & Grace earned 16 Emmy Awards & a 83 nominations.
For his work on Will & Grace, the show’s creator, writer & producer- Max Mutchnick has been honored with an Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series, 2 People’s Choice Awards, 6 Golden Globe nominations, 7 G LAAD Media Award, a Founders Award from the Viewers for Quality Television, & the National Award for Excellence from the Human Rights Campaign.
Mutchnick started his writing career over 30 years ago with his high school best friend- David Kohan. They began writing professionally for The Dennis Miller Show. Producers Linda Bloodworth & Harry Thomason gave the future Emmy Award winners their big break into the world of sitcoms when they hired them to work on Hearts Afire with the late, great John Ritter. Other TV writing credits: The Wonder Years, Evening Shade, & Dream On. In addition to Will & Grace, they also created & executive produced the comedy series Boston Common, Good Morning, Miami, 4 Kings.
Born in Chicago & raised in L.A., Mutchnick comes from a creative background. His father was a graphic designer who launched the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, & his mother is an entertainment executive & writer children’s books. Mutchnick’s older brother is the Creative Director of AOL RED, AOL's online service for Teens.
Mutchnick left L.A. after high school to attend Emerson College in Boston. Starting as a theatre major, he switched to mass communications. At Emerson, he became involved in the school’s television program, ultimately running the campus station. In 2005, Mutchnick was appointed to Emerson’s Board of Trustees. In 2006, The Max Mutchnick Campus Center was erected. Known as “The Max,” the Campus Center has become a hub of student life on campus in Boston’s Back Bay, where I lived in 1972-73.
Additionally, Mutchnick has been an active member of the Big Brother Program of Los Angeles, having mentored his “little brother” for the last 19 years. He has also been a long time supporter of the Human Rights Campaign & the Lambda Legal Defense Fund.
Mutchnick lives in L.A. with his husband, Erik Hyman. They were legally married in their backyard on October 25, 2008. They are the parents of twin daughters- Rose Austin and Evan Heart Hyman-Mutchnick, born in September of 2008.
Mutchnick: “I’m a big personality!” So it was unusual for him to be intimidated by Erik Hyman, an entertainment law associate at the Los Angeles firm Loeb & Loeb. Mutchnick: “I’m Mel Brooks & he is Anne Bancroft. He’s this sophisticated, elegant guy, & I’m the kind of guy who would have a piece of toilet paper stuck to my heel.”
Hyman: “He was super cute but not very friendly.” Hyman was dubious when a female friend suggested fixing them up. Sometimes, straight girls try to set up the only 2 gay guys they know.”
At the time, Mr. Hyman was recovering after a period of sadness & loss following the death of his longtime partner- photographer Herb Ritts.
Mutchnick: “My career has been the centerpiece of my life. Then in 2006, the final episode of “Will & Grace” was broadcast, & I found myself envying Will Truman, who had committed to a life partner & started a family. Will had gotten ahead of me, & I was watching the character have an experience I knew nothing about.”
Before a date could be arranged, the couple found themselves attending the same Hollywood AIDS benefit. Hyman nervously extended his hand to say hello, he toppled a table of water bottles. He was crawling on his hands & knees gathering up the mess as an oblivious Mutchnick rushed away.
Hyman: “Max didn’t say hello, & he didn’t help me pick up the plastic bottles, I resolved they would never date. When Max finally recognized me, he shot out of his seat & offered a profuse apology. The first words out of my mouth were, ‘Would you like to have dinner?”
They moved in together a week later. Mutchnick: “We have not spent a night apart since; I had never met a man as intelligent & confident, or one who could withstand my insecurities & histrionics. I fell immediately for his passion, charm & humor.”
Hyman: “People say ‘What’s the rush?’ But why the delay? I have learned firsthand that time can be fleeting. When you want to be with someone & you can be, I don’t see why you would be apart.”
Within a few months they were talking about having children, & 20 months later, a surrogate gave birth to their daughters.
Hyman: “Marriage was a tougher issue. I always thought it was silly to get married if it didn’t matter legally, but that changed after a California court legalized same-sex marriages. As new fathers in the process of moving into a new residence, we wanted to wait before planning a wedding. But Proposition 8, changed that time frame".
During the Jewish ceremony in their garden, Mutchnick, always the producer, abruptly halted the proceedings to turn off a fountain that was burbling off-cue. Hyman: “He’s a show runner, & he likes to run a show.”
Mutchnick & Kohan have a sitcom for CBS called Partners with openly gay actor Michael Urie. I tried hard to like it. Mutchnick turns 47 years old on this day, November 11th.