‘Frasier’ Producers Say That Kelsey Grammer Was ‘Destined to Play’ the Lead Role — Even Though They Wanted John Lithgow

‘This is Dr. John Lithgow. I’m listening’
‘Frasier’ Producers Say That Kelsey Grammer Was ‘Destined to Play’ the Lead Role — Even Though They Wanted John Lithgow

In 1984, John Lithgow passed on the opportunity to play Frasier Crane in Cheers, leaving Kelsey Grammer to assume the role that would define his career for the next four decades. In some alternate timeline, Grammer got his big break in Harry and the Hendersons.

The Frasier reboot series is set to premiere on October 12 with Grammer reprising his iconic role as the psychiatrist-turned-radio-host as Dr. Crane returns to Boston in order to reconnect with his adult son. The sequel show will be without Frasier’s usual companions after the passing of John Mahoney and David Hyde Pierce’s decision to sit this one out, leaving Frasier with scant few familiar faces, save some scheduled guest appearances from Jane Leeves as Daphne and Peri Gilpin as Roz.

As casting director Jeff Greenberg and writer and executive producer Joe Keenan recalled in a conversation with Metro, Grammer himself was almost absent entirely from the Cheers extended universe – they wanted Lithgow to play the role and only offered Grammer an audition when the first choice passed. They said that Grammer “(got) the role he was destined to play,” insisting that they wouldn’t have done anything differently forty years ago. Still, just imagine Lithgow’s oaken bass voice singing “Tossed Salad and Scrambled Eggs” if you’re in need of a laugh between now and October 12.

Greenberg and Keenan also revealed other close casting calls — according to them, they auditioned Cynthia Nixon from Sex in the City for the role of Daphne, though Leeves was their first (and best) choice. The late and absent Mahoney and Pierce were the only actors considered for the parts of Niles and Martin, but the role of Roz nearly went to Friends star Lisa Kudrow before Gilpin sealed the deal.

“(Kudrow) was fantastic, she did exactly what she did to get the role,” Greenberg said. “But when we had a test audience come in a couple of days before we were going to shoot the show – sort of a dress rehearsal – it became apparent that the scenes with Frasier and Roz weren’t as strong as the other scenes. There was a lot of conflict in all the other scenes, and that’s what you always want.”

It’s a shame that Kudrow and Grammer didn’t have any chemistry – when the Friends producers decided to give Phoebe a psychiatrist boyfriend, Frasier Crane could have saved us from the headache that was Roger.

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