Kelsey Grammer Says ‘Frasier’ Reboot Had to Go Back to Boston: He ‘Left With His Tail Between His Legs’

In conversation with TheWrap, the actor also reflects on landing the iconic role on “Cheers” and talks changing the iconic theme music

Nicholas Lyndhurst (left) and Kelsey Grammer in "Frasier." (Chris Haston/Paramount+)

Kelsey Grammer’s Dr. Frasier Crane has returned to television in a revival for Paramount+ roughly 30 years after the original NBC sitcom first premiered. But before getting his own spinoff, the character was first introduced on the hit comedy “Cheers.”

“I was an actor working in New York City. I was doing Sunday in the Park with George with Mandy Patinkin at the time who had lunch with Gretchen Minelle, who was a casting director for Paramount at the Gulf and Western building,” Grammer recalled in an interview with TheWrap. “And she asked, ‘Do you know any funny leading men?’ and he said, ‘Yeah, Kelsey Grammer is a funny guy. He’s kind of a leading man.’ So she called me in and I spoke with her and she said, ‘Oh, we’ve got a couple of things that might be interesting for you’.”

Grammer initially auditioned for the sitcom “Brothers,” though that production team ultimately went in a different direction. A few weeks later, there was an opening for a new role on “Cheers” for the character of Frasier Nye.

“She said, ‘You gotta come over and get sides so you can audition for it,’ because it was supposed to be top secret. This new guy was going to break up Sam and Diane,” Grammer said. “I didn’t really know the show. In fact, I had no real knowledge of it. But I went to her office and picked up the sides and read through them and I thought, ‘Well, I can play this guy. I know who he is.’ And sure enough, they put me on camera at that point for what they call the personality test. And I got a phone call and they said, ‘Will you fly out to California and meet the producers and meet [Ted Danson] and [Shelley Long] … and the rest is history.”

For Grammer, playing Frasier has always been about love.

“[Frasier] loves Diane with all his heart. He makes mistakes based upon how much he cares about people,” he said. “It’s a situational comedy but his heart always leads him in a direction that ends up being what either spoils it or enhances the comedy, but it always comes down to the fact that he’s truthful. He’s incapable of living in a lie for more than about one episode. That’s been the key to him and it’s been hysterical.”

Going into the new iteration, Grammer said Frasier is older and wiser, a little more mellow and a bit more refined.

“That’s why we changed the theme song a little bit, lowered it just like a half a step and jazzed it up just a little bit more and reduced some of the horns in it because it just needed to be a little more at ease with itself like Frasier is now,” he added. “Hopefully it’s a natural growth curve for where he was previously and where he is today.”

“Frasier” is the latest sitcom to be revived, following “Will & Grace” and “Roseanne.” Grammer said it was the latter’s return to the airwaves that made him initially interested in bring Frasier Crane back to TV.

“I’d never really entertained it until that started to happen. And I realized also, in terms of programming for the last 20 or 30 years, the sitcom hasn’t really hit the audiences it once did and I think the audience is ripe for it,” he said. “We’re all looking for a good laugh, one that’s good natured and comes from a place of poking fun at ourselves … and I really think there’s a real appetite for it now.”

Over the course of almost three years, Grammer would develop the idea alongside writers and co-showrunners Joe Cristalli and Chris Harris with the initial intent to reunite the legacy cast. But after David Hyde Pierce and Jane Leeves ultimately decided not to return, it was “blindingly clear” to Grammer that Frasier should return to Boston where he “felt like he’d lost a bit.”

“His feeling is that he’s actually left there a failure, left with his tail between his legs a little bit, and going back was important to him,” Grammer said. “He never became what he thought he would become when he went there as a young man and so that became the foundational birth of why we went back to that city…there’s a real potential for a whole new life there.”

Another key element at the core of the new iteration is Frasier’s relationship with his son Freddy, portrayed by Jack Cutmore-Scott. The dynamic sees Frasier take on the mantle held by Martin Crane in the original series and pay homage to the late actor John Mahoney, who Grammer called a “terrific guy.”

Grammer said that the original idea for Mahoney as Martin Crane came out of one of the final episodes of “Cheers.”

“There was an actor who had played a role called Sy Flembeck, an old Tin Pan Alley songwriter, and on the night of the shoot, he just left,” Grammer said. “A couple of weeks later, we reshot the scene and they brought in John Mahoney and John and I just hit it off. We sat down, we talked, we hung around reading the paper while we were rehearsing. I thought, ‘This guy is wonderful.’ And when we were breaking the story for ‘Frasier’ with the guys across the street, the role of Martin came up and as I read through it, I said, ‘What about John Mahoney?’ And they all agreed that that was a great idea and I called him. He read the script in a day and said I’m in. It was great. So it’s just my love for him that I would carry into this project.” 

Grammer encourages die hard Frasier fans to reacquaint themselves with the character in the Paramount+ revival, calling it “delightful.”

“I had the experience for years where people would say to me, ‘I don’t really like that show’ and I’d say, ‘Oh, really? Have you watched it?’ And then almost without exception, they would say, ‘Well, no.’ I’d say, ‘Give it a try, watch a few episodes.’ and without fail, they’ve gotten back to me and said, ‘Yes, it’s a great show.’ So I suggest people do the same thing,” Grammer added. “It’s just as good a show as [the original] was but it’s a different show that’s even more pleasing as far as I’m concerned.”

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

New episodes of Frasier stream Thursdays on Paramount+.


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