After nearly 500 episodes on Cheers and Frasier as good doctor Frasier Crane, most people think of Kelsey Grammer as the pontificating psychiatrist.
But beyond the droll, effete therapist, Grammer has played dozens of roles on TV, in movies, and on stage. He’s been on Broadway five times, three of those in Shakespeare’s plays. Grammer, 63, has done plenty before and since the sitcoms that made him a star.
Now he’s back on TV in a serious role as a Cook County state’s attorney with a name — Gore Bellows — that just about screams “blowhard.”
Though Bellows comes across as a law-and-order man who has put away hundreds of criminals, when teenage siblings he convicted for murder are found innocent a decade later, his record comes under scrutiny, and he’s forced to rethink his methods. The woman he had locked up is now an attorney on a mission: proving innocent those who are unjustly incarcerated.
The justice system is not just a backdrop for the Friday night drama for Grammer. His father was fatally shot in 1968, and years later, in 1975, his sister was raped and murdered. Grammer regularly appears at her killers’ parole hearings. Having this horrendous personal tragedy informs his character, and he does not play Bellows as one-dimensional.
Just before taping was to begin on the series, Grammer, sporting a full gray beard, relaxes on a couch in the lobby of a Beverly Hills hotel. “I approach all scripts free of suppositions,” he says. “Mostly I figure out if I can play it. My object was that he has to have some depth.
“It could be really fun,” he says of the show, which had been retooled to replace a former lead. “I anticipate it’s broadened some. It is very sobering to think about anyone innocent in jail.”
Before he began shooting in Chicago, Grammer answered our “7 Questions.”
- What were a few of your first jobs before you got into acting?
I was a ditch digger. I was just thinking about it yesterday. I had a boss, and it was like walking on eggshells. He used to say, “The only thing I want to see out of you guys is @#$holes and elbows.” I was 14. I did it for three months. And I was very happy to have it.
- What movie can you watch repeatedly?
Any of The Thin Man movies. They [Myrna Loy and William Powell] were the screen’s greatest couple.
- What three foods do you have to have in your refrigerator or pantry?
Hot dogs, whole milk and caviar.
- Tell us about a time you were starstruck.
When I met Paul McCartney and Gregory Peck and Ann-Margret. As a boy — mmmm. I finally met her. Her performance in Bye Bye Birdie took my breath away.
- What was your biggest splurge?
I bought my first new car at 39. It was a Lincoln.
- If you could invite a handful of people, dead or alive, to a dinner party, who would it be?
George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson. I am a big Founding Fathers guy. Also, [singer] Leon Russell and [actor] Dale Robertson.
- What is your most prized possession?
I don’t know if I have a possession that I care about that much.
Proven Innocent airs at 9pm ET Fridays on FOX beginning Feb. 15