Kelsey Grammer has no qualms revisiting the past.
The actor is currently starring in the indie dramedy “Charming the Hearts of Men,” which takes place in the politically charged ‘60s.
It follows a woman named Grace Gordon (Anna Friel) who returns from the big city to her Southern home after the sudden death of her father. While Gordon attempts to settle his affairs, the grieving daughter soon realizes that she, along with the marginalized women she encounters, have nearly no power without a male provider. With the help of a congressman (Grammer) Gordon aims to make a lasting mark on our nation.
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“I loved the world that it was in, and I loved that we were going back in time to have a pretty serious conversation about what was going on when they were writing legislation for the 1964 Civil Rights Act,” the 66-year-old told Fox News. “I didn’t know a lot about what this character did. We just call him congressman in the movie, so he’s sort of fictionalized, but he was a real guy and he was a pretty powerful guy in congress.”
“He was a little bit of a stick in the mud,” Grammer shared. “And he was a pain in the a—… for Lyndon Johnson and for the Kennedy brothers before that. They saw him as an obstacle in many ways because he was the kind of guy who said, ‘Let’s go slow when we’re doing big legislation. Let’s take our time as we figure out what this all means.’”
Grammer’s character is loosely based on Congressman Howard Smith, a Democrat from Virginia who passed away in 1976 at age 93, Forbes reported.
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“I knew that the bill included women, I didn’t know that it didn’t include them always,” Grammer explained. “… As men do, they just forget the girls sometimes… But this guy was traditionally a women’s rights advocate and this love that he has for this young woman maybe opened his eyes – that’s the fictionalized part of it. But there was something in him that said, ‘I’m going to bat for the women in this.’”
“And I love the speech [he gives],” he continued. “Apparently, it’s a quotation where he says, ‘If this bill passes as it’s written, there will be only one group of second class citizens remaining in America – your wives, your daughters, your mothers and your sisters. Women.’ And so, it’s because of him that the word ‘sex’ was inserted into the language of this bill, and that’s the one that was passed.”
Grammer described making this film as an eye-opening experience for him as an actor. He also believed the story has plenty of relevance for 2021.
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“… People of all sorts have done all kinds of good things throughout history, without our knowing it,” he reflected. “We may have assumptions about who they are. We might make assumptions about how they think, but we really don’t know them, and they’re still capable of trying to do the right thing. And that’s what you have to remember about the efforts that we make in America, the sort of halting progress we make, one step forward, two steps back, two steps forward, one back. It’s not a perfect process, we’re not
perfect, but we’ve got a damn good shot at it and we keep going forward… I love this country because of that.”
Grammer is also revisiting a completely different era these days. He is currently working on the Paramount Plus revival of his sitcom “Frasier,” which originally aired from 1993 until 2004. The star famously played radio psychiatrist Dr. Frasier Crane who moved back from Boston to his hometown of Seattle where he lives with his father (John Mahoney).
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The “Cheers” spinoff won the Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series in each of its first five seasons and finished its run with 37 Emmy Awards overall, including four for Grammer’s role, Deadline.com reported.
“He’s going to move,” Grammer teased about what fans can expect from his character in the new incarnation. “He’s going to end up in a different place in the end… and he’s going to start what he thinks is one life and it turns into another. I think of him as George Bailey now from ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.’ He’s about to go travel the world.
“He wants to go see the world and something happens… that pulls him back and he has to live a completely different life than the way he planned,” he continued. “But as a result, he ends up with love and emotional riches, and just a life that is so extraordinary. And I think that’s Frasier’s story.”
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In July, the outlet reported that Grammer has reached out to the show’s original co-stars, including David Hyde Pierce, Jane Leeves and Peri Gilpin, among others. But at the time, no one had officially signed on – yet.
But the actor said he’s feeling optimistic.
“I think they’re a little bit nervous about it, but I think they’re also really willing,” said Grammer. “I think they’re really interested in seeing where we’re going to go. We’ll see, you know what I mean? You never know. One of them or two might say, ‘Oh my God no, we can’t. We just can’t.’ But I don’t think so. I think they’ll see the wisdom of giving it a try.”
But there’s one figure who will be missed. John Mahoney, who played Dr. Crane’s father, passed away in 2018 at age 77.
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“John was a remarkably fun guy,” Grammer reflected. “He was always kind and sweet and lovely. But the ironic thing about him – when I was directing him once in the show, I said, ‘John, let’s put the dog [Eddie] in your lap.’ And he says, ‘No, no.’ I said, ‘What’s going on?’ ‘He always bites me. He always growls at me. He scares me and I don’t like it.’ So I thought, ‘Oh, this is weird, I had no idea.’ So they had to put a little sardine oil on his hands so the dog would lick something instead of trying to growl at him or bite him. This love for Eddie that existed [in the show] really wasn’t real. It was just an on-camera love. They fought each other, and he was really funny about his relationship with the dog.”
“… Every time I spoke to him, we just had a great time,” Grammer shared. “We spent time in New York together off-screen, and I saw him in Chicago and I saw him in Ireland once. He was just a wonderful guy.”
Today, Grammer is eager for what the future holds, both personally and professionally.
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“You know what? Life always inspired me,” he said. “Life and the variety of experience is what inspires me. People inspire me, I love people. I mean, it’s odd that I ended up at a show that was based in a bar. My favorite places on earth are bars. I’ve had the best experiences, met the most interesting people in bars around the world. And so, what keeps me going personally, is that there is always another experience I haven’t known.”
“… I’ll go right up to the edge before it starts to get dangerous,” he joked. “But I love it. I love riding horses, I love shooting guns, I love just exploring all the things that people can do and all the things that a character can do and show you, and by virtue of the fact that you’ve played it, you’ve actually kind of lived it.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.