Patricia Sheridan's Breakfast With ... Kelsey Grammer
First in "Cheers" and then in the successful spinoff "Frasier," actor Kelsey Grammer has become synonymous with the role he played for two decades, Dr. Frasier Crane. The five-time Emmy award-winner's distinctive voice is also heard in commercials and on "The Simpsons" as Side Show Bob. Also on his resume is the comedy "Back to You," about a pair of Pittsburgh news anchors.
Married four times, he and his wife, Kayte Walsh, just welcomed a baby girl in July. He has five children and one grandchild.
The 57-year-old is now starring in the Starz series "Boss," a role that won him a Golden Globe for best actor in a drama series. It airs on Fridays at 9 p.m.
You play Tom Kane, the fictitious mayor of Chicago. Would you have any real desire to get into politics?
My desire to get into the game has always been a kind of wistful remembrance and homage, actually, to my youth. I always thought that someday it would be a good thing to be part of the community and try to help. I found a different way of living and making my living and hopefully providing some good to the world. The idea would be later in life if I want that last chapter, maybe it would be one of service. But it's not honed to a vision yet.
As far as backing a politician, are you going to back Mitt Romney?
Oh, I think he'd make a terrific president. I think he'd be very good at it. He's a clear thinker. He's a kind man, you know, and he makes a lot of sense.
So were you concerned at all about audience reaction to you taking on a dramatic role after playing Frasier for 20 years?
Actually, I thought it would be a wise move because the fans will always want to go with something else. They really have a problem with going with something similar [laughing]. I got mail, almost hate mail, about [the character] Chuck in "Back to You" because he didn't really want children. They would say, "Frasier would never do that." I'd say, "Well, yeah, I'm not playing Frasier, am I?" [laughing]. I thought it was an interesting quandary. I was a little surprised, but you know what? What the hell, I'm willing to be surprised.
Both politicians and celebrities operate under a lot of scrutiny. Do you ever think, is this worth it?
Yeah, sure. You think it all the time but then you realize your work is what you do and the rest is what you get paid for [laughing]. It's neat if you're willing to endure it. It's high-risk pay.
The job is, there's nothing like it because it's what we're good at, you know? You find what you do well, and hopefully you have a chance to do it. If your privacy is a casualty of success, well, you know, it's only sticks and stones.
Has your career been everything you thought it would be?
Ah yeah [laughing], it's gone OK. There's a few things I wish I had done still. I wish I had done Hamlet -- I'm too [expletive] old [laughing].
Trying to be as honest as I can about it, I wish I'd played a few more roles, tried a few more things, taken a couple more risks. But I've had the opportunity to play many, many things in varied roles. I mean, I still haven't played a race car diver or a gunslinger. You know, it may not be too late for that. I had a suspicion when I was a young man that if I had some luck and some talent I could go around the world being an actor. A lot of that has actually come true.
When did it occur to you that you could make a living and this would be the path you'd take?
When I was about 16. I did a play and there was good response to it, and I realized it was something that I really liked. I like exploring. I like putting the time into things, but I realized there were so many things that I cared about and knowledge that I wanted to acquire that being an expert on everything would be a lot of work [laughing]. So that Renaissance man idea really appealed to me when I was a kid.
As an actor, you do get to try a lot of different things. So if you make it, you have a sort of Renaissance experience. Those are the things that drove me. I thought this is the way I can do ALL that I want to try to do or understand or comprehend or embrace. You know, I got lucky. I did get lucky.
You've won so many awards. Are they still important to you?
Oh, yes [laughing]. Well, listen, it's a nod. It's hardware that says -- you can point to it and say to yourself, "Well, you know what? That wasn't half bad." It's nice to be reminded. You know we are all creatures of 'You are only as good as the last job.'
Because you spent so many years playing Frasier, do you ever find yourself slipping into that character?
No, I mean there are parts of me that are in Frasier, but Frasier really isn't a part of me [laughing]. I enjoy opera, but I'm not an expert.
You could become Frasier when necessary.
[Laughing] I do have a sort of withering look and a diffusing flair with words if I require them. But I use it differently than he did.
Do you get the same kind of thrill from doing voice work as you do acting?
Oh yeah, I really do. It's all about telling stories and finding a way to use it. What's fun about doing voice work is you actually have just the voice to tell the story. That's fun. You listen and try nuances. You approach it in a different way. You change rhythms, you change a certain timbre. You know, it's just a unique and very narrow avenue by which to tell a story. I love that. The human voice is fantastic.
What do you cherish most about your success?
Oh gosh, you know it's probably the many lives I've been able to have as a result and the wonderful people I've met along the way. That's what I cherish most. I've had fantastic exchanges with extraordinary people, and that's a quality human life.
First Published August 20, 2012 12:00 am