Kelsey Grammer on Continuing the Legacy of ‘Frasier,’ Raising Kids in the Business and Why He Avoids Political Jokes on the Show

When we first reconnect with Frasier Crane in the “Frasier” revival, the character is thriving. Since his departure from Seattle at the end of the original “Frasier” series in 2004, he has become a household name, having hosted a popular TV talk show for years in Chicago. And although he remains unlucky in love, Frasier exudes more confidence than ever before when we see him in the Boston-set update.

“He’s certainly refined and more comfortable in his own skin,” Grammer says of his on-screen alter ego, first seen on “Cheers” in 1984. “He’s a fuller man than he used to be. He knows more. He’s wiser.”

More from Variety

The same might be said for Grammer. Of course, he isn’t really Frasier, but having played the character for four decades, their paths are inextricably linked. Ask Grammer about how he personally has evolved over that same time frame, and it’s hard to tell if he’s talking about Frasier, himself — or both simultaneously. But you get the sense that these days, he also feels more comfortable in his own skin.

“I’m excited about life today in a way that I never was before,” he says. “And the work I do is part of that.”

Revisiting “Frasier” for Paramount+ has given Grammer plenty of reason to reflect on his journey and its very public highs and lows. Grammer’s troubles in his younger days, including several family tragedies and substance abuse problems, have been well documented. But just like Frasier, Grammer seems pretty sanguine about this stage of life.

Kelsey Grammer Variety Emmy Extra Edition
Kelsey Grammer Variety Emmy Extra Edition

“I’d hate to speak out of turn and say nothing can go fuck us up again,” he says. “There’s always something that can come along and smack you at the side of the head. But I do know this: I’ll deal with it. And that’s a great thing.”

In interviews, the actor frequently chokes up when asked about the impact of the character, and in particular, the people with whom he has worked closely with over the years.

That includes several old colleagues, such as “Cheers” executive producer and co-creator James Burrows, who directed the original “Frasier” and the first two episodes of the revival. Burrows is also back to helm the first two episodes of Season 2. “He trusts me, I trust him,” Grammer says.

Season 1 brought back Bebe Neuwirth — whose role as Frasier’s now ex-wife, Lilith, stretches back to “Cheers” — and Peri Gilpin, who reprised her role as his former radio producer, Roz. In Season 2, Roz is contemplating leaving Seattle and we get to meet her daughter, played by Grammer’s own daughter, Greer.

Grammer is eager for more of his former co-stars including Shelley Long, Ted Danson and David Hyde Pierce as Frasier’s brother, Niles, to reprise their roles. “It’s just a matter of willingness to be on the show,” he says. “And if there’s a good story. I’d still love to have Shelley come back and play Diane, for one more sense of closure for Frasier. Because now that he’s back in Boston, there are things that will come up, and I think that she would be one of them. And Ted, we have a few ideas for that.”

But the new “Frasier” isn’t a retread of the original series, which ran for 11 seasons on NBC. Instead, it’s
very much its own thing, featuring a new cast and a new setting, as Frasier moves back to Beantown to repair his relationship with his and Lilith’s son, Freddy (Jack Cutmore-Scott).

That father-child bond was also a hallmark of the original series, but between Frasier and his dad, Martin (played by the late John Mahoney). The focus on Frasier as a dad, however, also hits home for Grammer — who talks a lot about his bonds with his seven children (from various relationships).

“My children — my young children, older children — the happiest I ever am is if they’re all in the same room together,” he says. “My work has allowed me to be able to do that. I’ve been given this great experience. It’s been painful and challenging and hard and tragic — all those things. But boy, it’s a great life. And I want to pass that on to them.”

Grammer stresses that he never steered his kids in the direction of Hollywood, and yet, most of them have ended up in the business. Spencer Grammer (“Rick and Morty”) recently starred in the Lifetime holiday film “The 12 Days of Christmas Eve” with her father. Greer Grammer (“Awkward”) has that upcoming “Frasier” gig. His younger children, with wife Kayte (whom he married in 2011) also are showing interest: Faith, 11, is interested in animation; Gabriel, 9, recently auditioned (but didn’t get a role) for “Stranger Things” and James, 7, is already storyboarding his favorite films, “Jaws” and “Ghostbusters.”

Kelsey Grammer as Frasier Crane
Kelsey Grammer as Frasier Crane

Grammer, who just finished writing a book about his sister (who was murdered in 1975), says the memoir will also include an element about his kids, and how they’ve mostly gravitated toward the family business.

“Kayte and I were talking about how it’s really something that a child would follow in their father’s footsteps,” he says. “To think that all my kids, at least the ones that have a hand in the air, are ready to take responsibility for their lives, are all drawn to this industry. And she said, ‘That’s something to be proud of.’ So, I wrote that in the book.”

He continues, “It’s something I’ve never told them. I’m hoping they’re going to read it and realize, ‘Oh, so Dad’s OK with this.’ Because I never wanted to push myself on them. I never wanted to force them into the industry or intrude too much into their process. Because it’s a bit of a mixed blessing to have my last name. People take it out on you. You get some attention maybe because of it. And there’s a split as to whether or not it’s good or bad.”

Besides bringing back “Frasier,” Grammer is also keen in ramping up production at his Grammnet NH shingle, now run by Tom Russo. Grammer had a successful run in the 2000s executive producing hit series like “Girlfriends,” “The Game” and “Medium.” The new company, which has a first-look deal at CBS Studios, is looking in particular at drama projects for Grammer to star in outside of “Frasier.”

The actor, after all, still looks fondly at the short-lived Starz series “Boss,” in which he played the mayor of Chicago, calling it “my favorite character that I played on television.” More recently, he was proud of several movies that were released during the pandemic that “nobody saw,” like “The Space Between.” And of course, he’s an ongoing part of two more franchises: As Sideshow Bob, who still pops up from time to time in “The Simpsons,” and in the Marvel universe as Hank McCoy — aka Beast — as seen in “The Marvels.”

“Who knows, there may be another window there, which would be really extraordinary,” he says of returning to the MCU.

But “Frasier” is still priority No. 1. Particularly in this polarized era, Grammer (who, yes, we know, has some controversial political viewpoints, which we won’t get into here) believes “Frasier” works because it’s not political.

“We avoid political jokes, because honestly, they are so locked in a time warp,” he notes. “Contemporary culture does not fuel any comedy that lasts. It’s only funny in that moment. And usually not so funny for half the people that are listening. I think it’s good advice to steer clear of that. ‘Frasier’ has always been able to last because it’s about the things that are important: Relationships, love, brothers, fathers, wives, sisters. Some things are universally funny, and it’s usually character-situation-relationship. They’re the tent poles of all of our storytelling.”

“Frasier” has always been about its characters, and besides the father/son dynamic of Frasier and Freddy in the new series, there’s also the buddy comedy between Frasier and his old pal Alan (Nicholas Lyndhurst), who convinces Frasier to take a teaching post alongside him at Harvard. Their boss is psychology department chair Olivia (Toks Olagundoye). Also in the mix is Frasier’s nephew (and Niles and Daphne’s son) David, played by Anders Keith, and Freddy’s friend Eve (Jess Salgueiro).

Returning to “Frasier” wasn’t part of Grammer’s thinking for a long time. But once the idea popped up again about six or seven years ago, and he realized he could balance a streaming-sized order with other projects, he was in. And being back in front of a studio audience, performing a weekly script like a stage play, has only energized him more.

“As they load the audience in to watch a taping when we start, I say, ‘I’d like to welcome you to church. This is where the things I believe in get flushed out — where we get to laugh and cry together and enhance our human experience together.’ That’s a pretty great thing to get to do.”

Great enough for Grammer that he’s now convinced that a 10-episode season isn’t nearly enough to explore this stage of Frasier’s life. “I’d like to bump it up to 14 or 16 shows for the next few seasons,” he says. “Because then the audience will get a sense that they can trust that they’re going see some more ‘Frasiers.’ I’m not quitting. I know a lot of people do. It’s just not my nature.”

Best of Variety

Sign up for Variety’s Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.