Television: Frasier's always on Kelsey Grammer's mind

Can new show Boss help him escape his own creation's straightjacket?

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

Television roles can imprison you. Take the case of everyone's favourite perfectionist Frasier: as Kelsey Grammer, the 58-year-old actor who played the part for two decades until 2004, could tell you there is great joy to be had from creating an iconic character. The downside? No one wants to see you do anything else.

By 2011 and with three failed network comedies behind him, he chose to showcase his more serious side taking the lead role in the political thriller Boss, which starts on More4 this month, two years after it first aired in America.

Written by Farhad Safinia (best known for Apocalypto) and with a number of episodes directed by Gus Van Sant, Grammer plays corrupt Chicago Mayor Tom Kane (pictured), recently diagnosed with a degenerative neurological condition and struggling to retain power.

Yet while it was critically acclaimed, winning Grammer a Golden Globe for best actor last year, ratings remained low and US network Starz cancelled it in November, soon after the second season had finished.

In an interview with talk-show host Jay Leno, he implied that poor ratings were down to a lack of traction, something he blamed on the Emmy voters failure to acknowledge the show.

“I'm a declared out-of-the-closet Republican in Hollywood,” he said. “Do I believe it's possible that some young person… or even older voting member for the Emmys would sit there and go 'Yeah that's a great performance by him but oooooh, I just hate everything he stands for'?”

In 2000, he played Macbeth – but the poorly reviewed production lasted 10 days. In 2010, he returned to Broadway receiving rave reviews and a Tony nomination for his turn in La Cage aux Folles. He also has a steady film career, albeit most successfully in voice work – he will next be heard in the upcoming Monsters Inc sequel Monsters University – and a long-running role on The Simpsons as Sideshow Bob.

“The one real takeaway from Boss is how amazing he was. Tom Kane is a monster but Kelsey was able to find the humanity in the role,” says Safinia. But news broke last month that Grammer was developing a sitcom with Martin Lawrence. Despite all his talent, the chances of escaping from Dr Crane's straightjacket still appear slim.

'Boss' starts on 21 March at 11pm on More 4