Kelsey Grammer became synonymous with the eccentric television character Frasier Crane in the 1990’s thanks to his own spinoff show. However, writers for the hit comedy Cheers conceived of the prickly psychiatrist a decade prior. Grammer the actor was still relatively unknown at the time.
According to Grammer, a reference from a friend and a short personality test was all it took to land the life-altering role in 1984.
“I was doing a play in New York City, a musical, and I went to lunch with a girl named Gretchen Rennell, who was casting director for Paramount Pictures,” Grammer said in an interview. “And she said, ‘Mandy Pantinkin told me that you’re a funny leading man type.’ And I said, ‘Yeah, I guess he’s right about that.'”
Mandy Pantinkin, who would go on to star in numerous films and television series, would not have been much older than 30 at the time. But the reference apparently made all the difference, and Grammer got an audition for a new character in the pipeline at Cheers.
“[I went in] and did a personality piece, which is basically where you go on video and talk about ten things that you like or whatever,” Grammer remembered. “And so they did this with me for this character called Frasier Nye. I thought Frasier Nye was the wrong name so they ended up making him ‘Crane’ after that.”
Grammer explained how he tried to dress the part of this new character that writers had not actually written, yet.
“So I went on camera and wore these yellow Christian Dior golf pants that my mother had bought me,” Grammer laughed. “For some reason, I thought he might wear something like that. Black blazer, a white shirt, ya know.”
Landing the Role and Diving into a Successful Show
As ridiculous as it sounds today, something about his presentation worked, because he landed the life-altering role weeks later.
“When they saw the tape, they said, ‘That guy’s pretty funny,'” he said. “So a few weeks later they hired me to do Cheers.”
According to Grammer, it didn’t take long to realize that his new character, and the storylines surrounding him at Cheers, could end up being special.
“I realized when we were doing Cheers that there was something great there. After Shelley Long exited in season 5 and Kirstie Alley was hired, I thought, ‘Wow, this has the potential to be one of the greatest shows ever, now,’ because mid-stream, you can’t tell where it’s going.
“It could go forever!”
The show didn’t go forever, but it did run for 11 seasons. Not too shabby for a show about a bar and its many colorful patrons, sitting around drinking beers in Boston.
Grammer’s spinoff show, Frasier, would begin its own decade-long run in 1993.