Family & Companions
Although a classically trained actor with a number of impressive stage performances on his résumé, Kelsey Grammer was best known for playing the pompous, but ultimately likable psychiatrist Dr. Frasier Crane on two classic and award-winning sitcoms, "Cheers" (NBC, 1984-1993) and "Frasier" (NBC, 1993-2004). Prior to him landing the role that defined his career, Grammer was struggling on stage and in small roles to make a name for himself, while behind the scenes, suffering from numerous personal tragedies that befell both himself and his family. Perhaps as a means of coping with the seemingly unending string of deaths of loved ones, Grammer fell into a dependency on cocaine and alcohol, which he later attributed to his inability to cope after the rape and murder of his sister by a man released on the grounds of insanity. For years, Grammer struggled to cope with his addictions, while audiences saw little to nothing of his problems in their enjoyment of Frasier Crane. Entering rehab for the first time in 1990, Grammer eventually attained sobriety in 1996, well into his Emmy Award-winning run on "Frasier," largely considered to be one of the most successful television spin-offs of all time. After "Frasier" finally left the airwaves in 2004, Grammer was finally able to concentrate on other projects. Despite memorable performances in other sitcoms and in features, Grammer was indelibly linked to the beloved character he had played so convincingly for years.
Born on Feb. 21, 1955 in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, Grammer was raised in New Jersey and Florida after his parents divorced when he was two. Grammer lived with his mother and maternal grandparents, but suffered tragedy when his beloved grandfather died when he was 11. Adding to further heartbreak, the young Kelsey saw his father, Allen, only twice before he was murdered on his front lawn when Grammer was just 13. His father's killer was acquitted on the grounds he was insane at the time of the crime. His life was plagued by more personal tragedy when his younger sister, Karen, was raped and murdered outside a Red Lobster in Colorado Springs, CO. But through it all, Grammer tried to have some semblance of a normal life. After discovering acting while performing in plays at Pine Crest Preparatory High School in Fort Lauderdale, FL, Grammer attended The Juilliard School alongside Christopher Reeve, Robin Williams and Mandy Patinkin. But his sister's murder proved to be too much to bear, causing him to miss classes and eventually get expelled.
In an attempt to exercise his personal demons, Grammer flung himself into work, performing with the Old Globe Theater in San Diego, CA for three years in the late 1970s. After a short stint at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, MN, he made his Broadway debut as Lennox in a 1981 production of "Macbeth," eventually taking over the lead role. Then tragedy struck yet again the year before when his two twin half-brothers, Billy and Stephen, were killed by a shark while SCUBA diving. Meanwhile, Grammer had his first onscreen break playing shipping magnate and Kennedy insider Stephen Smith in the three-part miniseries, "Kennedy" (NBC, 1983). After playing Lieutenant Stewart in the sweeping eight-hour miniseries "George Washington" (CBS, 1984), Grammer landed the role that defined the rest of his career, playing psychiatrist Dr. Frasier Crane, fiancé of bar waitress Diane Chambers (Shelley Long), on the hit sitcom "Cheers." Originally, the show's creators wanted John Lithgow for a brief recurring role, but the actor was unavailable. Grammer's former Juilliard classmate Mandy Patinkin suggested him to the New York casting director and he got the job, parlaying a six-episode arc into a career that would span two decades.
Because of his erudite ramblings, haughty air and natty style of dress, Dr. Frasier Crane was an immediate outsider in an establishment populated by blue collar barflies (George Wendt and John Ratzenberger), a wisecracking waitress (Rhea Pearlman) and a former Red Sox pitcher-turned-bar owner (Ted Danson). From the start, Frasier was a source of derision and ridicule, thanks to his overbearing, snobbish behavior. But eventually, he managed to fit in with the rest of the gang, even after Diane - whom Frasier planned to marry, only to be left at the altar, a jilted groom - had long left the scene. For nine seasons, Grammer essayed Dr. Crane, who, after being left by Diane, married fellow uptight psychiatrist, Lilith Sternin (Bebe Neuwirth), only to be jilted anew when she had an affair with another colleague. When the show wound down in 1993 after having been atop of the ratings heap for numerous seasons, Frasier Crane was as much a fixture at the bar as Norm, Cliff and the drunk old man in the corner. Meanwhile, Grammer was twice nominated for Emmy Awards for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series (1988 and 1990). As "Cheers" wound down, however, Grammer was the subject of salacious rumors when his half-brother John sold a story to the media that the actor had underage sex with a 15-year-old girl. A grand jury later heard the case, but refused to file charges against Grammer. Nonetheless, the damage to his reputation had been done.
Right on the heels of "Cheers" leaving the airwaves after 11 seasons, Grammer portrayed the good doctor in his own series, "Frasier," one of the most successful television spin-offs of all time. After breaking it off for good with Lilith, Frasier returns to his native Seattle, WA, where he plans on living the good life as a bachelor. But his new life becomes complicated when he is forced to take in his ex-cop father (John Mahoney), who is unable to care for himself after being injured in the line of duty. Meanwhile, his father's live-in therapist (Jane Leeves) also moves in, while his overly-prissy brother (David Hyde Pierce) makes routine visits. Frasier also has a successful career as the host of a popular radio show dispensing psychological advice, though he is routinely hassled by his wisecracking producer (Peri Gilpin). For more than a decade, Dr. Crane searches for love, while battling his blue-collar father over differences in taste and trying to one-up his brother, Niles, in a quest to gain acceptance into Seattle's cultural elite. During its run, "Frasier" won a stunning 37 Emmy Awards, breaking the record set by "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" (CBS, 1970-77). Included in that total were Grammer's four Emmys for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series (1994, 1995, 1998 and 2004).
During his runs on both "Cheers" and "Frasier," Grammer became a frequent face on television, appearing in episodes of "Roc" (Fox, 1991-94) and reviving Frasier Crane for episodes of "Wings" (NBC, 1989-1997). Grammer was nominated for another Emmy for his "Wings" appearance, marking the first time an American actor was nominated on three different shows for the same character. He even landed a popular recurring role on "The Simpsons" (Fox, 1989- ), voicing Sideshow Bob, the underappreciated sidekick of Krusty the Clown with homicidal urges toward Bart Simpson. Meanwhile, Grammer made his feature debut in the forgettable road comedy "Galaxies Are Colliding" (1992). Thanks to his increasing success on television, he leapt to the big screen with the lead in the comedy "Down Periscope" (1996), about a misfit naval crew who must use a broken-down submarine for war exercises. Grammer has also voiced characters in the Mickey Mouse short "Runaway Brain" (1995), the feature length musical "Anastasia" (1997), the TNT animated version of "Animal Farm" (1999), his self-produced Spike TV! series "Gary the Rat" (2003), the big screen spin-off of the animated series "Teacher's Pet" (2004) and as the narrator of the 1998 holiday-themed "How the Finch Stole Christmas" episode of "Just Shoot Me" (NBC, 1996-2003).
In 1999, Grammer made a return to the stage to play the title character in "Sweeney Todd" opposite long-time friend Christine Baranski in L.A.'s Reprise! musical revival series. Earlier that year, Grammer had invited Baranski to appear on "Frasier" and both collaborations won kudos from critics and audiences alike. In 2000, Grammer was seen in a less-than-successful stage endeavor when attempting to fulfill a life-long dream to play "Macbeth" on Broadway. The new production, which co-starred Juilliard classmate Diane Venora, suffered from scathing reviews and closed after only a handful of performances. Grammer was not in the critical doghouse for long, however earning yet another Emmy for "Frasier." In addition to returning for the 2000-01 season, Grammer executive-produced the sitcom "Girlfriends" (UPN/CW, 2000-08), as well as the pilot for the NBC cop drama "County 187," which was written by famed crime writer James Ellroy. On the big screen, Grammer had a small role in the comedy thriller "15 Minutes" (2001), starring Robert De Niro. Thanks to a deal signed in the summer of 2001, Grammer became the highest paid actor on television, making $1.6 million per episode of "Frasier." But Ray Romano, of "Everyone Loves Raymond" (CBS, 1996-2005), eclipsed him the next year.
Grammer continued to deliver fine performances in a variety of fare, including the holiday telepic "Mr. St. Nick" (2002), as George Washington in the television movie "Benedict Arnold: A Question of Honor" (2003), and in the ensemble indie comedy "The Big Empty" (2003). But it was still "Frasier" for which he was most beloved. Though it began to flounder a bit in its later years, the series experienced a long-needed creative resurgence when it entered its final season. In fact, both cast and crew were having so much fun that Grammer briefly tried to convince the network to keep the show running for one more season. Although the passing of its NBC brethren "Friends" (1994-2004) that same year dominated the headlines, "Frasier's" departure in 2004 stirred similar emotion among viewers. Just as the show aired its final episode, news broke that Grammer - who had played Frasier Crane for a whopping 20 years; just one year shy of the record set by James Arness in "Gunsmoke" (CBS, 1955-1975) - and NBC were in discussions about launching another series chronicling the next phase in the life of the fussy psychiatrist.
Immediately post-"Frasier," the actor received good notices for his crotchety turn as Ebeneezer Scrooge in the NBC musical telepic, "A Christmas Carol" (2004), while behind the scenes, his production shingle Grammnet scored a major hit with the psychic detective series "Medium" (NBC, 2005-2011) starring Patricia Arquette. Back in the feature world, Grammer appeared in the third installment to the X-Men series, "X-Men: The Last Stand" (2006), playing the hairy, blue, acrobatic mutant, Dr. Hank McCoy, a.k.a. The Beast. While serving as executive producer on the "Girlfriends" spin-off, "The Game" (UPN/CW/BET, 2006-15), Grammer returned to regular sitcom work with "Back To You" (Fox, 2007-08), playing Chuck Darling, a local news anchor who has great onscreen chemistry with co-anchor Kelly Carr (Patricia Heaton), even though the two despise each other behind the scenes. Despite fine performances from the two leads, both the critical reception and ratings for the show was mixed. After a few schedule changes, the network decided not to renew the show for another season, though there was an outside shot the show could still return.
Then on May 31, 2008, just weeks after learning "Back To You" was effectively canceled, Grammer had what was originally announced as a mild heart attack, which he suffered while paddle boating in Hawaii with his third wife, former Playboy model, Camille Donatacci. He was released on June 4th and spent the ensuing weeks recovering in his Hawaiian home. On July 24, 2008, while on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" (NBC, 1992-2014), Grammer claimed that it took paramedics an hour and a half to respond to the emergency call. He also revealed on "Entertainment Tonight" (Syndicated, 1981- ) that his heart attack was more severe than his publicist revealed; his heart had stopped beating, forcing doctors to use a defibrillator to revive him. Then in July, Grammer suffered more health problems while at the premiere of his next film, "Swing Vote" (2008). After feeling faint, he was admitted to an undisclosed hospital in New York as a precaution.
Through it all, Grammer kept working, playing a Wall Street exec on the short-lived sitcom "Hank" (ABC, 2009) and an orchestra conductor in the feature remake of "Fame" (2009). Grammer made his Broadway musical debut in a revival of "La Cage aux Folles" (2010), which earned him a Tony Award nomination for Leading Actor, and had a supporting role as a district attorney in the comedic drama "Middle Men" (2010), starring Luke Wilson, Giovanni Ribisi and James Caan. Grammer returned to the small screen, only this time as the lead in a drama, with "Boss" (Starz, 2011-12), in which he played the mayor of Chicago who is diagnosed with a degenerative neurological disease, but conceals the problem from everyone in order to maintain his grip on power. Grammer's performance as the ruthless mayor earned him rave reviews, as well as a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Drama Series. Prior to his revelatory role on "Boss," Grammer was back in the tabloids with fresh drama, this time created by his divorce from Donatacci following their separation in 2010 after 13 years of marriage. Before the ink was dry on the reports of his announcement, Grammer declared that he was going to be a father with his much-younger girlfriend, Kayte Walsh, whom he married in early 2011 allegedly before his divorce was even finalized.
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Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Acted at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, MN
Made Broadway debut in "Macbeth"; played the role of Lennox when Philip Anglim abruptly withdrew from the show
Performed with Christine Baranski in the Stephen Sondheim-James Lapine production of "Sunday in the Park with George"; also starred Mandy Patinkin
Landed featured role of Cassio in a Broadway revival of "Othello" opposite James Earl Jones and Christopher Plummer
Portrayed Stephen Smith in the NBC miniseries "Kennedy"
Appeared as Dr. Canard on the NBC daytime series "Another World"
Joined the cast of the NBC sitcom "Cheers" as Dr. Frasier Crane in the third season; recommended by former Juilliard classmate Mandy Patinkin; became a regular cast member on the fourth season
Provided the voice of Sideshow Bob on "The Simpsons" (Fox)
Reprised the role of Dr. Frasier Crane for the NBC sitcom "Frasier"; also executive produced; performed the show's theme song "Tossed Salad and Scrambled Eggs"; produced and directed several episodes
Made TV producing debut with the NBC TV-movie "The Innocent"; also starred
Executive produced and starred in the NBC comedy special "Kelsey Grammer Salutes Jack Benny"
Produced the short-lived NBC comedy series "Fired Up" with Sharon Lawrence
Voiced the the scheming Vladimir in the animated film "Anastasia"
Featured in the HBO film "The Pentagon Wars"
Lent his voice to Stinky Pete the Prospector for the animated film "Toy Story 2"
Played the title character opposite Christine Baranski's Mrs. Lovett in the LA Reprise! production of Stephen Sondheim's "Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street"
Starred on Broadway in "Macbeth" opposite Diane Venora; show closed after only 13 regular performances
Executive produced the fall UPN sitcom "Girlfriends"
Played a TV newsman in the feature film "15 Minutes"
Starred as Agent Banks in the comedy "The Big Empty"
Created an American adaptation of the British series "The Sketch Show" (Fox)
Executive produced hit NBC drama "Medium"; also guest starred as the Angel of Death in 2006
Cast as Dr. Hank McCoy (a.k.a. Beast) in the third installment of the "X-Men" series "X-Men: The Last Stand"
Executive produced "Girlfriends" spinoff "The Game"
Returned to series TV as the central character on the short lived Fox comedy "Back to You"
Cast as the U.S. President in the comedy film "Swing Vote"
Cast in the title role of a Wall Street executive who loses his job on ABC's short-lived series "Hank"
Played an orchestra conductor in the feature remake of "Fame"
Cast opposite Luke Wilson in the crime film "Middle Men"
Made his Broadway musical debut in the revival of "La Cage aux Folles" at Broadway's Longacre Theatre; earned a Tony Award nomination for Leading Actor in a Musical
Acted opposite Sarah Jessica Parker in "I Don't Know How She Does It"
Played corrupt Chicago mayor Tom Kane on the STARZ series "Boss"
Reprised the role of Beast in "X-Men: Days of Future Past"
Played Allen Braddock on "Partners"; also produced
Played himself in the film version of "Entourage"
Appeared in the disappointing comedy sequel "Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising"
Was cast as Pat Brady on "The Last Tycoon"
Voiced Blinky on Guillermo del Toro's animated series "Trollhunters"
Co-starred with Kellan Lutz and Bingbing Li in action adventure flick "Guardians of the Tomb"