‘Cheers’ Star Woody Harrelson Passed on His ‘Dream’ to Take on Role in Show

by Joe Rutland

Stage lights, not television set lights, were where “Cheers” star Woody Harrelson wanted to be. It was his dream, yet he passed on it.

Harrelson, who played Woody Boyd, talks about going through the audition in a 2012 interview on “The Howard Stern Show.”

“I was an understudy on a Neil Simon play called ‘Biloxi Blues,'” Harrelson said. “And then I got a little furlough from that to go do this movie ‘Wildcats’ and I was in L.A. finishing that movie.

“As I was finishing it, I was supposed to go back and do the play,” he said. “And the opportunity that came up to do this, to audition for this show where there was a character called Woody. He’s from Indiana, where I’d just gone to college.”

‘Cheers’ Actor Said Friend Of His Urged Him To Go Audition For Part

“How did they hear about you for that audition for ‘Cheers’?” Stern asks. “Is it like your agent calls you and says …”

“No, my agent wasn’t the one pushing me,” Harrelson said. “It was another actor, a guy I knew. Leo Geter actually, from Hanover where I worked in college, was in L.A. and told me he had auditioned for it and that I should audition for it.

“I went, ‘Dude, I’m going back to do Broadway because the guy I was understudying had been fired’ so I was gonna go do my dream which was Broadway,” Harrelson said.

Obviously, Harrelson ended up getting the part on “Cheers” and let his dream of being in a lead role of a Broadway play go by the wayside.

Harrelson Feared He Would Get Stuck As Woody Boyd Forever

Those early days in Hollywood weren’t always fun for Harrelson. He spoke with Interview Magazine in 2009 about them, especially his inability to find work.

“I was on ‘Cheers’ for eight years, and I couldn’t get another job,” he said. “And I thought, I’m going to be Woody Boyd forever. Which is not bad, but I really thought I was capable of more.”

In 1992, though, his fortune changed after getting cast in “White Men Can’t Jump” with Keanu Reeves.

“I guess I probably would’ve just been Woody Boyd but for the fact that Keanu Reeves didn’t play great basketball,” Harrelson said. “That was the only thing that saved me.”

That movie, though, kick-started an entire shift for Harrelson’s career. He starred in “Natural Born Killers” and managed to secure three Oscar nominations. “Cheers” was only the start, not the end, for Woody Harrelson.