TORONTO - The legacy of "Will & Grace" hangs heavily over the new buddy comedy "Partners," and its stars Michael Urie and Brandon Routh say they're just fine with that.
Like "Will & Grace," this new odd couple sitcom comes from industry veterans David Kohan and Max Mutchnick — who loosely based the premise on their lifelong friendship — and is directed by TV godfather James Burrows, who helmed every episode of "Will & Grace."
"I think when you see the show you'll feel that sort of warmth that you got when you watched 'Will & Grace,' that sort of familiarity," says Urie, best known for playing the catty personal assistant Marc St. James on "Ugly Betty."
"There's definitely similarities and certainly when I watched it I was relieved to see, 'OK, we're not like them, but we're familiar like them,' and we all went to the same school, let's say, or we all come from the same mould so that if you liked those characters you'll like these characters."
While "Will & Grace" focused on an uptight gay lawyer (Eric McCormack) and his flighty female best friend (Debra Messing), "Partners" centres on the bromance between two architects who've been pals since childhood — one gay, one straight.
Urie is the impulsive, flamboyant Louis while David Krumholtz ("Numb3rs") is the straight-laced Joe. As best friends and colleagues, they share everything with each other but their relationship starts to strain when each of their significant others start to take over their lives.
"A lot of gay people are friends with straight people but you don't see that on television very often, that is new," Urie said during a promotional stop in Toronto this summer.
"There are lots of gay people on television now, tons, they're everywhere, you can't get away from them, which is wonderful, but this relationship feels very new to me."
Brandon Routh ("Superman Returns," "Chuck") co-stars as Louis' more grounded boyfriend, Wyatt, while Sophia Bush ("One Tree Hill") is Joe's sophisticated fiancee.
While the stories aren't necessarily directly drawn from Mutchnick and Kohan's lives, the rapport between Joe and Louis is certainly inspired by Mutchnick and Kohan's unique give-and-take, says Urie.
He recalls shooting a scene involving an argument between Louis and Joe over whether a model they had just built was any good.
"Joe was saying: "I really think it's good, I really think it's really good" and Louis is like, 'Ah, um....' and then just crushes it," he says.
"And Max didn't like that. He thought that was the wrong choice. And we all liked it, we were like, 'Let's try and convince Max.'"
It didn't work.
"Max was like, 'No! I hate it, I hate it, I hate it. It's the worst thing I've ever written, I hate it!' " says Urie, who recently wrapped a Broadway stint in "How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying."
"So they went away and about three hours later we got the new pages and now Joe is like, 'I think it's really good, I think it's really good, it's a good model. What do you think?' And (Louis says): 'I hate it, I hate it! It's the worst thing we've ever designed, I hate it!' "
Urie says he hopes that kind of true-to-life writing happens a lot.
"Max and David are adorable, hilarious people themselves," says Urie.
"They could be a show and the more that they put themselves into our show the better we'll be."
"Partners" debuts Sept. 24 on Citytv.