Warren Littlefield, NBC's former president of entertainment who's brought us small-screen gems like "Seinfeld," "Friends" and "Frasier," remembers taking a huge gamble on Jennifer Aniston and convincing Debra Messing to do “Will and Grace."
"[It's] 10:30 p.m. at night on Sunset Boulevard," Littlefield tells me on the set of "New York Live." "I’m at the Chevron station gassing up and Jennifer is over at the other island and she comes over and she says, ‘Is it ever going to happen?’ and I say, 'We believe in you, I love you, I so believe in your talent, I’m sure it will.' A few months later, we handed her the 'Friends' script."
But it wasn't quite so simple. Littlefield said that at the time, Aniston was under contract for a CBS series, "Muddling Through." But NBC went ahead with Aniston -- a move that could have "cost us millions of dollars to reshoot." Soon CBS yanked the flailing show, allowing Aniston to officially move forward with "Friends."
It’s not just Aniston’s career on which Warren had a direct impact. He recalls having to beg Debra Messing to take the role of Grace Adler on the hit "Will & Grace."
“We were on our knees," Littlefield remembers. "She was reluctant. She had just come off an hour-series called 'Pray.' She was tired. She was a little exhausted and we said, 'Debra read it.' And we wined her and dined her and begged her, and ultimately Debra said, 'How do I say no?'"
Warren believes that due to the prevalence of DVRs, one network dominating one night for one decade of must-see TV will never happen again, but thinks that if NBC can find its "Modern Family," the network could once again reign supreme.