‘Frasier’ Reboot: David Hyde Pierce Declining to Return Was a ‘Tough Setback,’ Showrunners Admit

Chris Harris and Joe Cristalli tell TheWrap they are open to a future appearance from Niles, but don’t want to lean too heavily on older characters

L-R: Jack Cutmore-Scott as Freddy Crane and Kelsey Grammer as Frasier Crane and in Frasier, episode 1, season 1 streaming on Paramount+, 2023. Photo credit: Chris Haston/Paramount+

In Paramount+’s “Frasier” reboot, Kelsey Grammer’s iconic character has returned to Boston for his next chapter, as he looks to reconnect with his son Freddy (Jack Cutmore-Scott).

The move finds the psychiatrist and former radio show host leave behind many beloved characters from the original NBC sitcom, including his brother Niles (David Hyde Pierce). Earlier this year, Pierce revealed that he would not be reprising the role, which showrunners Chris Harris (“How I Met Your Mother”) and Joe Cristalli (“Life in Pieces”) admitted was “a tough setback in the moment, but ultimately very freeing.”

“It let us build the show more organically from the ground up, focusing more on Frasier and Freddie’s relationship,” Harris told TheWrap. “The flip side of that is we don’t have several of the beloved characters that the original series had.”

David Hyde PIerce and Kelsey Grammer in Frasier
(NBC)

Cristalli noted that they had “a bunch of conversations” with Pierce about returning, but he ultimately “felt like he didn’t have anything left to bring to the show that was new.”

“Of course, Chris and I would have come up with something to evolve the character, make him fun and we’d love to still do that. But from his point of view, he felt like he wouldn’t add to this new version of Frasier and his son,” he added. “He very understandably felt like he didn’t want to do that again, and he was in a tough place because everybody wants him to do it again. Writing Niles and Frasier banter is very, very fun. But the fact that he did step aside and allowed us to open up with a blank slate, and give room for all these new characters to grow.”

While Pierce won’t appear, the reboot will notably bring back Peri Gilpin and Bebe Neuwirth for guest appearances, reprising their roles as Roz Doyle and Lilith Crane, respectively.

But if Pierce ever changes his mind — or if any of the cast of “Cheers” are interested in appearing — Cristelli and Harris said that they’d be open to bringing them back should the reboot be renewed for future seasons. However, they emphasized that it’s been a “constant balancing act” deciding what elements to bring in from the original shows, and that they don’t want to lean too heavily on older characters as they establish the new series.

“We don’t think it would be fair to the old shows. We don’t think it would be fair to our show. We have to stand on our own two feet,” Harris added. “Some people are going to wish that we leaned more into the old characters and brought back a guest every time, some people are going to roll their eyes every time we do, thinking that it’s too much of a crutch. We’re doing what feels right for the characters in the world to us. So hopefully over time, we’ll get to see a lot of familiar faces.” 

Cristalli said that while he understands fans’ reservations about the reboot, every choice the production team made was done “carefully and considerately.”

“Nothing was just haphazardly thrown together,” he stressed. “A lot of care went into his apartment, what he’s wearing or who he is now, and how he’s a little bit more comfortable in his skin and his body. I feel like that will reflect if you give it a chance. But the people who are skeptical, totally get it. I would also be skeptical. The original show was fantastic.”  

“I think once folks get over what the show isn’t, we hope that they’ll be very pleasantly surprised by what the show is,” Harris added.

In addition to Grammer and Cutmore-Scott, the reboot stars Nicholas Lyndhurst as Frasier’s old college buddy turned university professor Alan, Toks Olagundoye as Olivia, Alan’s colleague and head of the university’s psychology department, Jess Salgueiro as Freddy’s roommate Eve and Anders Keith as Frasier’s nephew David.

Cristalli urged audiences to not try and draw comparisons between the original cast and the reboot’s new characters.

“Let these characters speak for themselves because it does all these new actors a disservice to try and compare them to David Hyde Pierce or John Mahoney. Nobody’s David Hyde Pierce, nobody’s John Mahoney, no one is Jane Leeves,” he said. “These are new people doing their own thing. I think if they get a chance to really grow and evolve, people will hopefully love them just as much as they did love the old characters.”

In addition to Cristalli, Harris and Grammer, the “Frasier” reboot is executive produced by Tom Russo and Jordan McMahon. The series is produced by CBS Studios, in association with Grammer’s Grammnet NH Productions.

The first two episodes are directed by James Burrows, a legendary TV director known for his work as co-creator, executive producer and director of “Cheers”, the original “Frasier,” “Will & Grace” and “Friends.” 

The first two episodes of the “Frasier” reboot are available to stream now on Paramount+. New episodes stream every Thursday.

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