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Karen Walker (Will & Grace)

Karen Walker (née Delaney; formerly St. Croix, Popeil, and Finster) was born January 12, 1959. She is a fictional character on the American television sitcom Will & Grace (1998-2006). She is portrayed by actress and singer Megan Mullally.

Although Karen was originally conceived as a supporting character role for Will & Grace, her escapades became a more prominent part of the show based on positive viewer reaction. She was a multi-millionairess thanks to her marriage to Stan Walker (an unseen character) until discovering he was broke.

Early years

Karen was born on January 12, 1959 (which is revealed in the show's season 8). Karen's childhood was a rocky road, thanks in part to her unstable relationship with her mother, Lois Whitley (played by Suzanne Pleshette), a con artist who incorporated her young daughter into her schemes. Although she tries to keep her age secret, her good friend Jack McFarland revealed that she was 42 in 2001, meaning she was born in January 1959. She has been married four times — her first husband's surname was St. Croix, her second was named Popeil (a reference to the American culinary businessman/entrepreneur Ron Popeil), her third was Stan Walker (married since 1995), and she was married for 20 minutes to Lyle Finster (John Cleese) in May 2004, although she is still married to Stanley (see below), who has two children of his own, Olivia and Mason. She has intimated an illicit relationship with Ronald Reagan (claiming no one said anything to her at his funeral because she was his mistress.) Karen also goes under the alias "Anastasia Beaverhausen," ("Anastasia as in Russian royalty, Beaverhausen as in...where the beaver live") and, by her own words, also used the alias Pilar Palabundo to "beat up businessmen for cash in Chinatown." Her real name may not, in fact, be Karen, as she changes her name from time to time to throw off the "Feds." Her mother refers to her as "Kiki", which was her childhood nickname. She has made more than one reference to attending Sarah Lawrence College, although she may have been joking, referring to her lesbian tendencies (see Sexuality). She is noted also for her shrill/squeaky voice and her addiction to drugs and alcohol.

Karen tends to have trouble separating stories she has read, seen or heard about with stories of her own. On one occasion she explains she loves family and then recits the story of Heidi claiming it as her own. When Jack confronts her with this she asks 'what's my story?' Another situation involves Karen's fear of elevators. She and Jack are walking up a high building (70 stories or so) because she refuses to get in the elevator. Jack asks her why she's afraid of elevators; she recounts the opening scene of Speed and then after this is pointed out to her she mentions how the movie 'was not at all what was advertised' as she thought it was about drugs.

Overview

Connection to Grace

To entertain herself, Karen took a job as personal assistant to interior designer Grace Adler. Though she never accomplishes any work (she cannot operate a computer or a fax machine), she doesn't quit because the job gets her "away from Stan and the kids," as she once told an intern. Karen actually quits Grace Adler Designs twice. First, when Grace found Karen in a dominatrix film and was horribly embarrassed and second, when Karen does a design job all on her own and Grace takes credit for it. In the first instance, Karen returned to the company at the end of the episode because Grace gave her 49 copies of the film (Grace keeps one; totaling 50) so "no one would have to see the tape again". In the second time, Karen returned in the next episode. She became Jack's assistant at "Out TV", but because Jack couldn't keep a professional relationship, she was fired and then returned to Grace like "nothing ever happened" even though she remarks, "I missed you." Grace does not fire her because Grace's business benefits from Karen's social contacts; Karen also pays for Grace's health insurance. Karen also appears to pay Grace's Christmas bonus, unlike the usual employer paying the employee the bonus. For a long time, Karen never cashed any of the paychecks she was given because, being rich, she didn't need to, also Karen and Grace had made a deal, in exchange for not cashing the checks Karen was not required to actually do any work. Instead she kept them in a shoebox on her desk because she thought they were "pretty little blue pieces of paper." Once when Stan cut down on her extravagant spending habits, she cashed all her paychecks at once, nearly bankrupting Grace. Karen "kindly" gave the money back to Grace in the end, even though it would have been Karen's money to keep. Karen and Grace were very close friends, (despite Karen's constant criticisms and insults regarding Grace's clothing choices and personal life), and Karen and Will's dislike of each other turned to friendship over the years as well. Through Grace, she also developed a strong friendship with Jack McFarland, a gay man who was also good friends with Will.

Karen's home life

For the first few seasons of the show, Karen lived with husband Stan Walker. Karen met Stan Walker in 1985, brushing off three simultaneous relationships (with Martina Navratilova, Sultan Habibi Shoshani Padush Al-Kabir, and a man named Clayton) to be with him only to learn that he was married. After going through two other marriages, she finally got together with Stan 10 years later. At some point before this, she also agreed to appear non-naked (her costume was a rubber dress) as the star of the fetishistic porn film Next to Godliness, a dominatrix flick. Stan was an obese man who was credited with keeping Taco Bell and Pizza Hut afloat, and who has been wearing a toupee since his teens.

Stan was an unseen character during the show's run, despite being mentioned in many episodes. His two children, Mason (known to Karen as "the fat one") and Olivia ("the girl"), by Stan's previous wife were often in the incompetent care of Karen.

In the fourth season, Stan was jailed for tax evasion and told Karen to date other men. She could not bring herself to do so until she met rich bachelor Lionel (Rip Torn), but just as their affair began, Stan was released from jail. However, after Karen caught him with his mistress Lorraine Finster (Minnie Driver)--a cafeteria worker at the prison--the couple separated, and Karen moved into a ritzy hotel. After beginning divorce proceedings at the end of the fifth season, Stan died suddenly.

During season six, Karen pursued romantic liaisons and ended up marrying Lyle Finster (John Cleese), Lorraine's father. However, after twenty minutes of marriage--a sudden ceremony in Las Vegas--she asked for a divorce.

Karen has been the head of Walker, Inc., since her husband's death. However, at the end of season seven, it was revealed that Stan faked his death and had actually been in hiding. Karen began dating Malcolm (Alec Baldwin), a government agent who had helped Stan do this. However, she ultimately reconciled with Stan, and Malcolm left on a government mission to Sri Lanka. Later in the eighth season, however, Karen and Stan experienced significant marriage difficulties. They finally chose to divorce, only for Karen to learn--in season eight's finale--that his money was borrowed and that, as a result, she was now broke.

Karen then pressured Jack into a relationship with Beverley Leslie (played by Leslie Jordan), who was wealthy enough to support Jack--and in turn keep Karen in the extravagant lifestyle to which she was accustomed, as well as support her addictions to drugs and alcohol. Though unattracted to Beverley, Jack went ahead with the scheme because Karen had financially supported him for the whole of their relationship. Karen, probably realizing that she was doing to Jack what her mother did to her, told Jack that she cared more about Jack's happiness than the money. Beverley, who had been in the bathroom, then comes out to an empty bedroom, looks for Jack on the outside balcony and, being 4'11 and 100 lbs., is swept to his death by a gust of wind. Beverley had left his millions to Jack. Jack happily became the provider in his relationship with Karen, which has otherwise not changed. The series finale showed that--until at least 2028--Karen, Jack, and Rosario shared a home together and thanks to plastic surgery, Karen appeared to have not aged a day.

Other relationships

Rosario

Her relationship with her maid Rosario Salazar (played by Shelley Morrison), whom she met and hired in 1985 and for whom she even arranged a marriage with Jack to help her get a Green Card, is very close. Although the duo often bicker and fight, it is only part of the bond they share. In the beginning of the series, it seemed that Rosario didn't speak much English, and Karen had a hard time communicating with her. Karen's way of giving Rosario orders was to add the letter "o" to the end of every word she'd say (e.g., "Enougho with the April Fresho. *hangs up the phone* Right now she's calling me a bitcho"). In another example of miscommunication, Karen used to end phone calls with Rosario by saying "hola," which means "hello" in Spanish and not "goodbye." When Rosario was first seen on-camera at the end of the first season, it was revealed that she spoke English quite well and that Karen was being patronizing. In a later season, we see Karen forced to live in an apartment block she owns in Spanish Harlem as punishment for failing to bring the building to code. She is seen in this episode screeching at a child in the street in fluent Spanish, leading Will to comment "And yet when you talk to Rosario, it's 'Scrubbo the Tubbo.'"

Karen is known for her volatile arguments with her maid Rosario, where they screech over each other, ending simultaneously with a loud insult. A few seconds of silence follows before they embrace each other emotionally declaring their affection for each other, to the laughter of the audience. Their relationship is very much love-hate with each being brutally honest with the other, but at the end of the day still loving each other. Rosario affectionately calls Karen "mami" from time to time, when they're not trading insults. The only low points were when Karen lost Rosario in a bet to her arch nemesis Beverley Leslie and when Karen sacked Rosario after discovering she had hidden the truth about her husband Stanley Walker being alive. Rosario appeared in the last episode, with her final words to Karen being "Suck it, bitch!". In "Saving Grace, Again (2)" it is suggested that Karen uses Rosario as a horse or at least treats her like one because she asks Jack if "winter white is a good colour for Rosario's saddlebag.

Other rivals

Karen's arch rivals include, but are not limited to, Beverley Leslie (played by Leslie Jordan), Lorraine Finster (played by Minnie Driver), Anita Bryant, Candice Bergen (who is also Karen's best friend referring to her once in a restaurant as "horrible/delightful"). Karen may have also spent time with her in a sky cap (the actress, whom Karen refers to as "Candy"), Marlo Thomas (Karen hates her, but enjoys her husband, Phil Donahue. Marlo and Phil apparently live in Karen's apartment building but never actually appear in the series). We once see Karen greeting an off-set Marlo at a party by shouting "Marlo Thomas - look at you! Vintage 60's with a plunging neckline - oh and I love your dress too honey!". Further enemies include Scott Woolley (until he fell in love with her; played by Jeff Goldblum), Candace Pruitt (whom Karen refers to as "Candy" Pruitt; played by Christine Ebersole), who once expressed her thoughts that Karen's voice sounded "like someone strangling an old macaw", and Helena Barnes (played by Joan Collins) who is a famous interior designer. Karen has a love-hate relationship with most of her rivals. She often openly insults or ridicules her enemies like Beverley Leslie, Candice Bergen, and Candy Pruitt (and they do the same to her), while simultaneously thinking of them as her friends.

Personality

With other staff and help, Karen is deliberately patronizing, referring to them solely by their title both in conversation and to their face: "Driver," "Butler," "Private Detective," "Pharmacist," "Back-Up Pharmacist," et cetera, even when they are doing other jobs ("Cook sometimes cleans, Cleaner sometimes cooks, Driver sometimes provides an alibi..."). This rude tone is not limited to her employees, as she looks down on or openly mocks most people she meets, even her friends. Karen is often cruel to her staff at home, training them to run when she enters a room. Other times she chews them out, but somehow this comes across as an act of affection.

Sometimes Karen unintentionally reveals to her friends a softer side that is carefully hidden. In one such incident, Karen's husband has a heart attack and may die. Karen discovers that her friends have placed a bet to see who can get her to cry first, so she elaborately punishes each of them by leading them on to think she might break down in their presence. In the end, she has an actual breakdown over the incident, during which Grace stumbles in and subsequently consoles Karen. Another episode sees Karen and Jack in her mansion with her refusing to let him enter 'the forbidden room'. When Jack finally gains access he discovers it is a nursery which Karen had prepared during a pregnancy scare in an earlier season. Although she agrees to change the room into a liquor storage room, she quickly changes her mind and the audience sees her stony facade crumble.

Popularity

Karen's popularity on the show grew mostly from her one-liners, "zingers", and straight-forwardness. Karen's emotional complexity was wrapped in a façade of lack of interest in other people's problems, as well as a focus on her own selfishness and greed.

Although her friends are cavalier about it, Karen is clearly an alcoholic and drug addict, often indulging in prescription pills and booze. She often (albeit casually) mentions taking street drugs or being under the influence of them. In one episode, she complains to Will about the way he approached her by saying: "You came in here all high-and-mighty....acting all mighty, while I was high," and on another episode saying "Oh, honey, you say potato, I say vodka," and to a character played by the late Gregory Hines, Karen declares "Honey, I'd suck the alcohol out of a deodorant stick." In the series finale, Karen drinks an entire bottle of vodka in one gulp, which Jack, Grace, and Will watch without much surprise.

Karen makes observations on others with an emotionless and often cruel eye. She once said to Jack, "Honey, you know what's really sad? Poor people with big dreams. Well, that's not so much sad as it is incredibly funny!" A recurring victim for her cruelty is a bartender named Smitty, who tells her tragic events in his life, only to have her laugh in his face and thank him for cheering her up. She is also known for the excessive use of the word "honey" when conversing with people, for her "killer rack," and for being insanely rich.

Karen is very popular with Japanese people because she played in a Japanese commercial for Atushi-kan-ki, the energy drink that is chock full of vitamins, minerals, and baby laxatives.

Things Karen has implied

In conversation and offhand remarks, Karen has either directly stated or implied some unusual things about herself and her past:

Bisexuality

Several lines of dialogue have implied that Karen has bisexual tendencies.

  • She occasionally has semi-sexual encounters with Grace (mostly kissing and touching) at work. In one episode, Karen said, in reference to Grace, "I woke up with red hair on my pillow and lesbian porn in the VCR." (In Series 5, Episode 12, Grace says "I've kissed Karen more times than I can count, ...")
  • She also had the above-mentioned relationship with the openly lesbian Martina Navratilova (who was apparently straight before they met).
  • Karen was once mocked by a roommate (played by Madonna) for her "weird bisexual vibe."
  • In a sixth-season episode, Karen said to a lesbian Realtor (played by Edie Falco), "Stay back, bulldozer, I'm engaged." To this, the realtor replied, "You were last time, too."
  • Karen also makes many passes at Diane (played by Mira Sorvino), the only woman Will ever slept with. She even went so far as to walk up to Diane and say "I like you...want to make-out?".
  • In an episode, when Karen and Grace are on their way back to New York from Vermont, they are holding hands after an emotional moment, and then Karen starts to caress her breasts with Grace's hand. When Grace pulls her hand away, Karen responds with "Sorry, something about Vermont." (Vermont was the first state to recognize civil unions.)
  • A further episode hints that she has a lesbian experience with Candice Bergen once after the pair of them got drunk on sake.
  • She repeatedly alludes to lesbian experiences while a student at Sarah Lawrence College.
  • She has also been seen flirting with Rosario and suggesting they get together, to which Rosario responded, "Lady, quit trying to unhook my bra."
  • In the final episode, Grace has a fantasy dream in which Karen and Rosario are married.
  • In one episode, Karen says to Grace: "Okay, now let's put on some music and get those tops off." Grace replies: "Karen, you do know it's not that kind of girls' night," and Karen says suggestively: "We'll see."

Karen's staff

This list is not complete; it has been stated by Grace in Season 7 Episode 19 "Sour Balls" that she has a staff of more than 30 people.

Karen is particularly adamant about creating a distinction between herself and her staff. In one episode when she comes to answer the front door, she announces "I'm approaching!" or "I can see you", as she enters, and several maids evacuate the room. When Will signs on to work as Karen's lawyer, he asks her if she'd like to go to lunch, and she responds "Honey, I don't eat with the help." When Jack comes to live with Rosario in Karen's penthouse, he is disappointed by the view out of his window--Karen tells him "This is where the help stays." Jack is confused and explains, "But I'm not help." Karen firmly replies "You married help, you're help."

Featured staff

Maids

  • Rosario - Karen's primary maid who does a great deal for Karen including hosing her out of bed in the morning. In episodes where Rosario is not seen, Karen often mentions, in an offhand way, making Rosario do more demeaning things, such as decorate a birthday cake with her teeth marks or kidnapping the dogs of Jack's nursing school teacher. In Season 3 Episode 9 "Lows In The Mid-Eighties," we see a flashback to how Karen met Rosario.
  • Back-Up Maid - who was Lorraine Finster's maid in Season 5 Episode 23, entitled "23."
  • Karumi - In Season 8 Episode 2 "I Second That Emotion," Karumi plays the violin to Karen and is then told to clean up her vomit with her bow.
  • Leni - In Season 8 Episode 6 Love is in the Airplane, Karen hires Leni (played by Millicent Martin), a British Maid to replace Rosario. She eventually fires her and brings Rosario back.
  • Karen 2 - In Season 7, Episode 18, "Sour Balls," Grace mentions a maid that looks exactly like Karen in case the "kids wants a hug from mom in the middle of the night."
  • Several other unnamed maids who vanish when Karen approaches; she often yells "Approaching!" or "I can see you!" (or once "I hear chewing!").

Other

  • Driver - who drives Karen's limo, boat, and plane except when Lyle did; he is very old. It can be assumed that Karen has had several drivers, as during Season Three she mentions that driver was killed by policemen.
  • Pastry Chef - a pansexual who, as he put it, sexed Karen, Rosario and Will in Season 7 Episode 18 "The Fabulous Baker Boy". Played by real-life straight ally Stuart Townsend)
  • Gardener - In Season 2 Episode 23 "Ben? Her?" Jack found Rosario in bed with Gardener. In Season 7 Episode 9 "Saving Grace, Again (2)", Jack sets Karen up with Gardener who asks her not to tell Rosario because 'we have a casual thing going on'. This implies that Gardener and Rosario have had an ongoing relationship from Season 2 to Season 7.
  • Bodyguard - In Season 4 Episode 2 "Past & Presents", Karen brings Bodyguard to work to protect her from Grace who threatened to 'kick her ass' because Karen trumped Grace's present to Nathan. (It seems there are at least 5 bodygauards on the staff because when Grace tells Karen she won't hurt her Karen says 'Down number 5' to the bodygaurd who leaves)
  • Pedicurist - In one episode Grace stays at Karen's house and has her toenails cleaned to their natural color by Karen's Pedicurist.
  • Cook - In the episode "Secrets and Lays", Karen's Cook died and therefore cannot cook for them. Karen mentions his name was Paul.

Mentioned staff

She also includes Will as a member of her staff ("Lawyer") at times and has also had Picasso working for her. When Jack marries Rosario so she can get a greencard and stay in the country he moves into Rosarios room at the mansion but when he wants to stay with Karen she says no because he's 'the help' he protests but Karen replies: 'you marry help you are help' or something to that effect. Karen mentions that her staff are interchangeable, "Cook sometimes cleans, Cleaner sometimes cooks, Driver sometimes provides an alibi." When Karen tells her high society friends that Will is a "whore", he leaves the charity event stating, "You should ask someone else like Butcher, or Baker, or Pain-Killer Maker!"

After Will & Grace

Walker's persona has appeared in advertisements for The Megan Mullally Show, which debuted in September 2006 and which was canceled in January 2007. In one, Karen asks Megan to take her along. In another, Karen tries to pass for Megan at a meeting with studio executives until she is caught by Mullally and they begin to physically struggle with each other.

Mullally once again donned a Walker persona in an episode of The Megan Mullally Show which featured Andy Dick. Mullally in a "Karen Walker voice", "I hurt his feelings, that was fun!"

Other aspects of Karen

  • In the very first Will & Grace episode, Karen did not speak with her usual high and squeaky voice. Her voice did not change until subsequent episodes.
  • Karen's bra size is 34C.
  • Karen has a sister named Gin (Virginia), played by Bernadette Peters, whom she injured during a game of Twister in 1963
  • Karen’s "drag" name is Shu Shu Fontana
  • Karen and Jack once owned a horse named Lamar - who turned out to be gay.
  • Karen has had people fired for various reasons, such as "she had a grey tooth".
  • Karen once reported that there were pictures printed in Penthouse of herself and Vanessa L. Williams making out
  • Karen has an alias, "Anastasia Beaverhausen", which she uses when she wishes not to identify herself in suggestive areas, like bars and taco restaurants.
  • Karen calls every waiter who serves her in bars "Smitty"
  • Karen was cloned, but none of them survived. ("Prison Blues" S4)
  • She is often out of touch with reality and tells stories from her past that are actually plots of famous books or movies, including "Heidi," Speed, To Sir, With Love and Norma Rae.
  • Whenever she becomes worried, confused or panicked, she has a tendency to ask three questions at the same time. While Grace was with Nathan, he gives her a trampoline, while she is jumping on it Karen walks in looking confused (Wondering whether Grace is actually jumping, or if she's under-medicated) asking "Honey, what's this? What's going on? What's happening?".
  • Karen divorced her 4th husband Lyle Finster at their wedding reception when she was referred to as "Karen Finster". She quoted, "Honey, I want a divorce" as Lyle asked "Why, sweetums", she replies "I don't like my name". Karen later remarried her 3rd husband Stanley Walker who would later die and leave her broke.
  • As seen in the season 2 sixth episode Karen appeared in a low budget pornographic film in college. She is seen in the tape as whipping an old man with a spatula and is portraying a dominatrix maid ordering a man to lick the floor. Grace discovered the tape when a maintenance man told her of the tape's existence. The porno was filmed while Karen was in college and was removed from circulation.

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