Kelsey Grammer has a foolproof criteria when it comes to accepting a role. And it certainly seems to be working for the Frasier actor, whose esteemed repertoire — everything from comedian to singer, producer, director and writer — has spanned film, TV and theatre for an impressive four decades.
“‘Will they pay me?’ and ‘Is it really something I haven’t done before?’ —that’s what I like to do!” he states.
“Arguably, I’ve done one of the great comedic characters in the canon of television, so I don’t look to do him any more,” Grammer, 64, says in reference to his lengthy portrayal of psychiatrist Dr Frasier Crane across award-winning sitcoms Cheers and Frasier.
“I’m not going to play Frasier unless I’m going to play Frasier again,” he insists. “I like doing dramas, I like doing bad guys, I like doing protagonists and antagonists, within a longer form.”
But first, and staying true to his theory, Grammer can next be seen in American legal drama Proven Innocent.
The Fox series — written and produced by Empire’s Danny Strong and co-written by David Elliot — tells the emotional story of one woman’s fight for the innocence of others, as well as her own. It was a narrative that came to Strong after he watched a documentary on the twice convicted and now acquitted Amanda Knox in Italy.
“It’s based upon a real legal group called The Innocence Project, which started in Chicago,” says Grammer, who, himself, was born on the gateway isle of the US Virgin Islands, Saint Thomas.
“It deals with a law firm who goes into backlogged cases, previously convicted prisoners, basically, for whom they exonerate and reverse sentences or vacate sentences.” he elaborates. “My character [Gore Bellows] is a prosecutor who is responsible for putting some of those people in jail and he’s, of course, the villain in the piece.”
As for placing a compelling female at the helm, Grammer contends the appointment of Rachelle Lefevre was an “organic decision”.
“I’m an advocate for all sorts of equalities, but I just want people to show up and be good at what they do,” he says in response to the debated lack of empowered female roles in Hollywood.
“That’s the foundation by which I judge anybody — and I rarely even bother to take enough time to judge a person. I usually let them be.”
He adds: “I think there’s always been strong female characters. Maybe I’m wrong? [But] Joan of Arc? She’s pretty archetypal and pretty damn powerful.
“We were also working on developing a show that actually turned into a musical called War Paint, where Helena Rubinstein and Elizabeth Arden squared off in the early 1900s, and they were as powerful as any two people you’ve ever known,” Grammer illustrates.
“So I think a lot of the role playing that has gone on between men and women throughout history has been born of necessity, mostly.
“There are strong women, there are weak women, there are strong men, there are weak men,” he concludes.
Next month, Grammer is set to join a six-week run of the English National Opera’s rendering of Man Of La Mancha at the London Coliseum.
He also hasn’t ruled out a return for Frasier. “Should Frasier return, it won’t be for the critics,” he reiterates. “And honestly critical writing, since
“We hope that if Frasier does come back, the people like it and they’ll watch because they had a chance to fall in love with him and those other characters,” Grammer maintains.
“That’s the real trick for any show lasting. This particular show, Proven Innocent, if it has a life, it will be because it was given enough time for people to fall in love with it.
“But we’re not telling a new story; there are no new stories,” he finishes. “But it’s an interesting take on what we know anyway. And that’s where the entertainment is.”