It's hard to fathom, but Will & Grace (1998-2006; 2017-present) star Megan Mullally, 59, has been working on TV and in movies for 37 years — and she's popped up in some projects that are likely to surprise you.
(1) The Children Nobody Wanted (1981)
In 1981's The Children Nobody Wanted, a made-for-TV movie about Tom Butterfield, the youngest bachelor to become a legal foster parent in Missouri (he died of "pneumonia" the year after the movie came out), Mullally (going by "Mullalley") made her debut. Watch some of her unconvincing southern twang:
The flick is also noteworthy for a strong second-lead perf by Michelle Pfeiffer (b. 1958), who played Butterfield's made-up girlfriend. He was apparently gay, a fact the movie didn't want to touch on.
(2) Risky Business (1983)
Even juicier, Megan's next gig was as a hooker in Risky Business (1983), one of the most famous hooker movies of all time! Could not find her in the movie. Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? (No, she wasn't in that.)
(3) McDonald's ad (1983)
Incredibly, Mullally and future famous TV star John Goodman (b. 1952)) appeared in the same 1983 McDonald's ad. I think the writers of W&G should get the rights to this and have an episode revolve around Karen's secret history as a TV pitchwoman.
(4) Once Bitten (1985)
The schlocky but widely seen (as a rental) vampire comedy Once Bitten starred Lauren Hutton (b. 1943) as the titular sucker and Jim Carrey (b. 1962) as the cutie-pie lead. Megan was a blonde then, but definitely flashed some of her Karen character as a snarky high schooler checking Jim in for a costume-party dance.
(5) The Ellen Burstyn Show (1986-1987)
A potential big break for Megan came when she was cast as a regular on this series headed up by Oscar winner Ellen Burstyn (b. 1932). The series was characterized by Burstyn's college professor character, a widow, dating in her fifties, dealing with her bossy mom (Elaine Stritch, 1925-2014) and with her divorced daughter (Megan!) and 5-year-old grandson (Jesse Tendler, b. 1980).
See above: Megan really had that big '80s hair going. Probably to distract from the concept that Stritch was allegedly old enough to be Burstyn's mom. To be honest, there's nothing wrong with this show! It had a shitty time slot, so lasted all of 13 eps.
(6) Murder, She Wrote (1988)
This is the one that made me want to write this post — I caught a rerun of Murder, She Wrote called "Coal Miner's Slaughter" (1988) and was amazed that Mullally had a prominent role. It just seemed like another era from Will & Grace, even if it was only 10 years before. Spoiler alert: She was not the killer.
(7) Fish Police (1992)
One of Megan's oddest roles was a voice part on the Hanna-Barbera series Fish Police, an animated series that was hatched to compete with The Simpsons (1989-the end of time). It owed a lot to Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988).
As strange as it sounds, the show did have top talent — a terribly miscast John Ritter (1948-2003), Hector Elizondo (b. 1936), Buddy Hackett (1924-2004), Tim Curry (b. 1946), Jonathan Winters (1925-2013) and Ed Asner (b. 1929).
Megan was sensational as bad-news Pearl, affecting an outer-borough accent more than a little reminiscent of Breathless Mahoney from 1990's Dick Tracy.
(8) Seinfeld (1993)
Beginning with Seineld, Mullally began guesting on top NBC shows, working her way toward Karen Walker. Lucky enough to be cast on one of the most memorable Seinfeld eps ever — "The Implant" — she is seen in reruns every day as mousy Betsy.
Sure, she's not the focus of the episode, an honor that belongs to Teri Hatcher's (b. 1964) character and her "real and spectacular" bazooms, but Mullally is perfection as George Costanza's hard-of-hearing girlfriend whose aunt dies, leading to a classic situation that finds George double-dipping at the memorial while scheming to get a discounted flight on the basis of grief.
(9) Ned & Stacey (1997)
When Mullally appeared on this short-lived series, she was a year out from Karen Walker. it was a bland role, but kinda cool that she was on a series that starred future W&G castmate Debra Messing (b. 1968).
(10) G.B.F. (2014)
You may have missed this adorable gay coming-of-age flick. It's really funny, and Mullally slays as the most overly supportive mom of a gay son OF ALL TIME. It's a nice place to end, but there are still other surprising moments in Mullally's oeuvre if you look hard enough.