‘Cheers’: Woody Harrelson Said Rise to Fame on Show Was Hard to Handle, Was ‘Quite a Negative Impact’

by Joe Rutland
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For Woody Harrelson, going from struggling actor to cast member of “Cheers” was quite the fast-track to fame. It wasn’t always pretty.

Harrelson, who joined the NBC series as bartender Woody Boyd after Nick Colasanto died, talked about the pitfalls of fame in a 2018 interview with The Guardian.

It isn’t so much that Harrelson did not want to be successful.

He moved to New York from Indiana. Harrelson studied English and Theatre at Hanover College. But with the fame thing, well, it just felt like a tidal wave washing over him again and again.

Woody Harrelson Says Pressure Built During ‘Cheers’

“Before, I’d been gregarious – someone who enjoyed the company of others,” Harrelson said. “But during ‘Cheers,’ the pressure of people that I didn’t know constantly wanting to talk to me made me recoil and become less outgoing.

“It had quite a negative impact,” he said. “I went through a period of arrogance and having my head up my a**. But, luckily, this life and my family – my wife (Laura Louie) and my daughters (Deni, 24, Zoe, 21 and Makani, 11) they kind of loved me into a better human being.”

Harrelson was born in Texas and raised by his mother after they moved to Ohio. His father was Charles Harrelson, a convicted murderer who ended up dying in a Colorado prison in 2007.

As for Woody Harrelson, he remains active with his acting and directing careers.

Harrelson Joined NBC Series After Show Star’s Death

Harrelson probably would never have gotten a spot on “Cheers” except for the sad circumstances surrounding the situation.

Colasanto, who played Ernie “Coach” Pantusso, died from a heart attack in 1985. He was one of the original cast members of the show. His death affected the entire production. Yet those in charge of overseeing “Cheers” knew they needed a replacement for Colasanto and his role.

Now Harrelson was in Los Angeles, but he was headed back to New York as he had a role in Niel Simon’s play “Biloxi Blues.”

Producers asked him to come in for an audition. Harrelson figured he had nothing to lose, so he went in there and was blowing his nose. His carefree attitude about the audition caught the show’s producers’ attention.

“This guy walks in wearing basketball shorts, a T-shirt, and unlaced high-tops,” “Cheers” producer Peter Casey said. “He looked like he could be trouble if you crossed him. And then he read and caught everyone’s attention in that room by doing one thing that nobody else did.”

What was it? Sam tells Woody that Coach died. Woody tears up and starts to cry. “You’re sitting there going, ‘This is a comedy audition,’ but then he does that and it’s like, ‘Whoa, he can really act,'” Casey said.

Yes, Woody Harrelson can really act and he’s been proving it over and over again for many years.

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