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Black Lightning's Cress Williams Played Original Fifth Lead Character Cut From Will & Grace Pilot

When it comes to iconic sitcoms, "Will & Grace" always enters the conversation. For over 10 seasons, the series has entertained audiences with its sharp, progressive writing, and inviting cast of characters. There's the uptight Will (Eric McCormack), the carefree Grace (Debra Messing), and their friends Karen (Megan Mullally), and Jake (Sean Hayes). But if things had gone differently, Cress Williams would have been a part of the iconic roster.

During the debut episode of the "Just Jack & Will" podcast, Hayes and McCormack revealed that an early version of "Will & Grace" featured five lead characters. "There were five characters as regulars," McCormack revealed. This fifth character, played by Williams, would have been Will's partner at this law firm. McCormack continued by revealing that Will's friendship with this fifth character would be strong, with Hayes interjecting by describing his relationship with Williams' character "as the opposite of Jack." Details are slim on Cress' character, though the duo described the fifth friend as "a straight guy" who was "probably written as Jewish."

The decision to scrap Cress' character was made by James Burrows, who believed that the fifth friend wasn't adding enough to the show. "It was just one of those things, where two days in ... [James] went to [writers David Kohan and Max Mutchnick] and said, 'It's too many. One finger is too many. These four are the show.'" McCormick continued by discussing how he felt "terrible" that Cress wasn't a part of the show. "It was nothing he did or didn't do... It just didn't fit what the show is supposed to be."

The Black Lightning star would have changed Will & Grace

While it certainly would have been interesting for Cress Williams to have joined the "Will & Grace" family, the actor has made a name for himself without the help of the NBC series. He's most known for headlining The CW's "Black Lightning," a series he spearheaded for four seasons. Following his dismissal from "Will & Grace," the actor ended up on "ER," and a flurry of other shows, including "Hart of Dixie" and "Grey's Anatomy."

Williams definitely landed on his feet and continues to enjoy a healthy career on the big and small screen. And for "Will & Grace" fans, this news helps shed light on the creative process behind the series, revealing that things could have been drastically different. For Sean Hayes, the "Black Lightning" actor's dismissal is a reminder of how things can always pivot, especially in a show's early days. "It's not like I forget about Cress," Hayes admitted. "I just forgot about that process because I was so young and I couldn't believe I was on a show ... There was five regular characters and then there were four during the week."

As for McCormick, Williams being dropped from the show is a reminder that not even the most sure-acting jobs aren't exactly a sure thing. "The pilot process can be... just so nervewracking because you have the job, but you may lose it at any moment," the Will actor said.