‘Cheers’: Ted Danson Was Reportedly ‘Very Uncomfortable’ Playing Sam Malone

by Jennifer Shea

In real life, actor Ted Danson, who played Sam Malone on “Cheers,” is very unlike the character he became famous for portraying. Malone was a womanizing former athlete-turned-bartender who had a drinking problem. Danson is a sensitive character actor who is now married to actress Mary Steenburgen.

“I thought he was sort of a slick breezy person,” Steenburgen said on “The Jess Cagle Show” of her impression of Danson before meeting him. “And, you know, Ted was raised in Arizona, his dad was an archeologist. His best friends were Hopi and Navajo. He got on a horse bareback and rode off into the desert every day. He was so not slick.”

Steenburgen added that people who have acted with Danson “adore him” because of what a deep thinking, soulful human being he is.

Danson Was ‘Very Uncomfortable’ With ‘Cheers’ Role At First

While he is a talented character actor, Danson struggled at first with the role of Sam Malone.

“Ted felt very uncomfortable at first playing Sam because he wasn’t a lothario in real life,” writer and producer Ken Levine told The Hollywood Reporter in 2018. “But he brought a quality to Sam that he himself possesses: kindness and humanity. That went a long way toward the audience embracing Sam.”

Danson’s thoughtfulness really contributed to a positive environment on the set of “Cheers.” He was kind to everyone, writer and producer Peter Casey recalled.

“The show’s star sets the tone on the stage,” Casey said. “Ted knew the crew’s names. He could talk with anybody and joke around with everyone on the set.”

But, fortunately for the show’s writers, Danson wasn’t just a one-dimensional leading man. His background as a character actor gave them more room for dramatic depth on the show.

“What we liked about him most was he looks like a leading man, but he’s a character actor,” “Cheers” co-creator Les Charles told THR. “He could play a lot of colors. Sam had a dark side with his drinking problem and womanizing. It made writing more challenging and fun.”

Danson Has Settled Down

Danson and Steenburgen have been married 25 years, and both say they would like another lifetime together.

“I want as long as possible in my life with Mary,” Danson told People last month. “I know it will have all of its hard parts but I want to experience love in all those moments.”

They both have children from previous marriages. But they say they weren’t ready for a stable relationship when they crossed paths earlier in life. It took the breakup of their earlier marriages and some maturing for them to settle down with each other. Now Danson, very much not the lothario, and Steenburgen are quarantining at home in Los Angeles together, and they told People they couldn’t be happier.

“Not to sound corny, but I would sign up for a 100 more lifetimes [with Danson],” Steenburgen said.