Frasier is not only one of the best-loved sitcoms of all time, it is arguably the most successful spin-off show in television history. It’s kind of unthinkable that a spin-off sitcom about a former character would go on to perform better than its original show (‘Joey’ is proof that this doesn’t always work out), but creating a sequel to Cheers definitely turned out to be a risk worth taking. Frasier picked up a whopping 33 Emmy awards during its 11-year run, and it’s not hard to see why.
The immensely popular show followed the ups and downs of its titular psychiatrist Dr. Frasier Crane (played brilliantly by Kelsey Grammer). Seattle’s favorite radio host had reams of good advice for his listeners but was utterly helpless when it came to making sense of his own life (especially where the ladies were concerned). It was this ironic premise that kept viewers hooked over the years, coupled with an amazingly well-cast group of lovable yet flawed characters.
It may have been almost 13 years since Frasier left our screens, but the show has well and truly left its mark on popular culture and continues to delight new generations thanks to regular re-runs on TV. Ardent fans of Frasier may think they know everything there is to know about the hapless radio shrink and his dysfunctional family, but we may have unearthed a few surprising secrets for you. Here are some facts you may not have known about the key players in your favorite sitcom…
15. Jane Leeves Starred Alongside Monty Python
Long before she played the eccentric physical therapist Daphne Moon on the hit TV show, Jane Leeves had her first big break with the iconic comedy troupe, Monty Python. After working as a model in London in her late teens, Leeves began auditioning for TV and film work, until she finally secured her first film role in 1983 – and what a role it was!
At the age of 22, Leeves made her film debut as one of the dancers in the ‘Christmas in Heaven’ musical number at the end of The Meaning of Life. Jane can be seen playing one of the ‘topless’ dancers wearing angel wings that accompany Graham Chapman in the film’s closing sequence. This might have seemed like a relatively small role at the time, but the film has gone on to become a cult comedy classic – not bad to be a part of the Python legacy in your first ever acting role!
14. Kelsey Grammer’s Incredibly Tragic Past
When you realize just how tragic Kelsey Grammer’s backstory is, it’s almost inconceivable to think this is the same jovial comedy actor we’ve grown up watching on our TV screens. Behind his lovably pompous character on Frasier, Grammer had a very dark past. At the tender age of 13, Kelsey’s father Frank Grammer was shot dead by a man chillingly named Arthur B. Niles. 7 years later at the age of 20, Grammer’s beloved younger sister Karen was brutally raped and murdered. On top of all this, Kelsey also lost his half-brothers to a gruesome shark attack during his mid-20’s.
To endure so much heartbreak early on in life could have so easily destroyed a person, especially those in the public eye, but commendably, Grammer has remained strong through it all. He even managed to forgive his sister’s killer at his parole hearing in 2014. It’s really admirable and poignant to know this is the same guy who has given the world so much laughter over the years.
13. Bulldog Is Gay In Real Life
The character of Bob ‘Bulldog’ Briscoe in the show (played hilariously by Dan Butler) is a famous womanizer – regularly flirting or ‘barking’ at every woman he sees and making vain attempts to woo Roz (Peri Gilpin) into bed. It may come as a surprise to know then that the actor who plays Bulldog is openly gay. This is hard to correlate with the brash, over-confident alpha male we’re used to in Bulldog’s sport-loving, chick-chasing character!
At the same time as playing the chauvinist radio DJ in Frasier, Dan Butler was simultaneously starring in a one-man show he had written entitled ‘The Only Thing Worse You Could Have Told Me’. The play featured ten characters that were attempting to process what it meant to be gay and this was Butler’s way of publicly coming out in the mid-1990’s. Butler’s co-star David Hyde Pierce is also openly gay despite playing it straight as Niles.
12. Frasier Wasn’t Too Crazy About Eddie in Reality
One of the great running jokes throughout the show was that Frasier Crane couldn’t stand Martin’s pet pooch Eddie (the adorable Jack Russell Terrier called ‘Moose’ in real life). This was mainly because Eddie would consistently stare vacantly at Frasier during most episodes which drove him nuts. Unfortunately, Frasier’s annoyance with everyone’s favorite TV dog may not have been limited to his character.
Kelsey Grammer admitted that on occasions, he would find scenes that he had to shoot with Eddie pretty grueling because it meant lots of mistakes and retakes. He also didn’t seem to care for the praise Eddie would receive from some fans. “It’s just so silly” Grammer admitted, “He gets so much attention. I draw the line when somebody says ‘Oh, he’s such a good little actor.’ That’s it! He’s not an actor, he’s a dog!” Sounds like sour grapes to us, Kelsey. How could you not love Eddie?
11. Originally, The Show Had Nothing To Do With Frasier
Knowing what an egomaniac Frasier’s character is, he would probably hate this revelation, but in the original plans for the show, Frasier was not integral to the story at all. At the time, the main creative team (David Angell, David Lee and Peter Casey) were concerned that putting the character of Dr. Frasier Crane in the spotlight so soon after Cheers would invite unfair comparisons between the two shows.
To fix this, their original idea was to have Kelsey Grammer play a paralyzed media tycoon who was cared for by a sassy, street-wise nurse in a Manhattan penthouse. Mercifully, they abandoned this awful idea after Paramount shared their disliking of it. The studio eventually managed to convince the team that they should use the existing Cheers audience to their advantage and allow the show’s popularity to help get Frasier off the ground. To say the move paid off is an understatement – Frasier has become more successful and well-loved than its predecessor. Frasier owes a big cheer to Cheers!
10. Creative Producer David Angell Died In The 9/11 Attacks
Although this doesn’t involve any of the cast members, we had to include the tragic death of one of Frasier’s key writers and executive producers, David Angell, since he had such a significant impact on the actors and the show. Shortly before Frasier’s 9th season was about to air, David Angell and his wife Lynn were killed on American Airlines Flight 11 when it flew into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Angell and his wife were headed home to LA from Boston (the setting of Cheers).
Since becoming a staff writer on Cheers, David Angell made an indelible mark on the style of comedy that was to result in Frasier and together with his co-writers David Lee and Peter Casey, Angell was part of an award-winning trio of exceptional writing talent. In a fitting and moving tribute to David Angell’s memory, the baby boy Niles and Daphne give birth to in the very final episode is christened David.
9. Roz Was Nearly Played By Lisa Kudrow
Two of the world’s best-loved sitcoms could have been very different if this casting decision was made. Phoebe Buffay was very nearly destined to become Roz Doyle instead. Kudrow initially wowed the Frasier producers but a few days into rehearsals, they realized she wasn’t what they needed to pull off Roz’s character – eventually opting for Peri Gilpin instead in time for the filming of the pilot episode.
Kudrow was undoubtedly a talented comedic actress, but the producers felt that she didn’t have the feisty zest that could match Frasier’s larger than life personality. Peri Gilpin won out as the woman to play Roz Doyle as she gave the show the strong ‘alpha female’ it needed to counteract Frasier’s pomposity. As much as we love you, Lisa, we couldn’t imagine anyone else other than Gilpin in the role – just as no-one else could fill Phoebe Buffay’s shoes quite like you!
8. Martin Taught Niles About Wine And Opera
Fans of the show might be dumbfounded to know that John Mahoney (who played Frasier’s curmudgeonly father, Martin) was more like his on-screen sons Frasier and Niles in real life than Martin, as he had a penchant for the finer things in life. In fact, Mahoney had to teach David Hyde Pierce (Niles) a thing or two about wine and opera. Mind blown!
We associate Martin’s character with beer and football games – but more than this, he represents the all-American average Joe compared with Frasier and Niles’ slight snobbery and pretentious tastes. In real life, however, Mahoney would be right at home with the Crane boys! It’s pretty surreal to think that Mahoney would play the cranky plaid shirt-wearing Marty by day and enjoy a night at the symphony or a trip to his wine club by night – the two things that had come to be synonymous with his TV sons!
7. Rosie Perez Was Considered For Daphne
Daphne Moon’s character is often forthright and speaks her mind on several occasions, but it’s still hard to imagine the fiery Puerto Rican actress, Rosie Perez, playing her instead. The idea of Perez for the part may have been down to Kelsey Grammer, who originally wanted the home healthcare worker to be a Latina character, but the producers had their heart set on a British actress for the role instead – Jane Leeves.
Grammer’s main issue with Daphne being played by a Brit was that the show may have shown similarities to a fluffy 70’s sitcom called Nanny and the Professor – a show involving a stuffy intellectual and a British Nanny who possessed psychic abilities (much like Daphne’s character does) Fortunately, Grammer’s fears were soon allayed after his first table read with Jane Leeves went so well. He was so impressed with her natural comic timing that the role of Daphne belonged to her.
6. Niles Never Existed Before Frasier
Fans of Cheers may remember that there was never any mention of Frasier having a brother. It was only after the Frasier creators spotted the brilliant David Hyde Pierce in a short-lived political sitcom called The Powers That Be that they decided Pierce was born to play Niles. As well as noticing his great comedy potential, the producers were struck by the strong resemblance he had to Kelsey Grammer. Now, of course, we couldn’t imagine Frasier without his little brother!
Niles wasn’t the only character that very nearly wasn’t in the show. Weirdly, Martin may not have had a role in Frasier either. Back in the days of Cheers, Frasier had initially mentioned that his father was dead – awkward! Thankfully, the writers cleverly remedied this little mishap when the spin-off show was created by making out that Frasier meant that Martin was ‘dead to him’ – owing to their fractured relationship.
5. Peri Gilpin Adopted Eddie’s Puppy
It’s obvious that Eddie the dog was adored by the cast and crew, but one cast member took such a shine to him, she decided to adopt one of his adorable offspring. When it was becoming clear that Frasier was a success, Moose (Eddie) was bred in the event that the show would need a replacement Eddie somewhere down the line. Moose’s son Enzo eventually became a replacement Eddie when Moose retired, but his other puppy Moosie was adopted by Peri Gilpin.
When it was decided that Moosie didn’t look enough like his father to play Eddie in the later seasons, Gilpin – who played Frasier’s feisty, self-assured producer Roz on the show – decided to adopt the cute Jack Russell Terrier pup for herself. Moose also had a daughter named Miko, but since she never grew large enough to play the next Eddie, she was given to a technician on the show.
4. John Mahoney Grew Up In England
It might be hard to believe, but John Mahoney – who played Martin – was actually born and raised across the pond in England. Mahoney grew up in Manchester where Daphne is from (so he probably gave Jane Leeves a few pointers on how to perfect her Mancunian accent!). He moved to the U.S. when he was 19 and was determined to lose his accent in order to fit in and settle into his new home of Illinois in Chicago.
John Mahoney was the seventh of eight children growing up in Manchester and got the acting bug while he was still in England, studying his craft at the Stretford Youth Theatre. He later moved to the states to live with his sister Vera who agreed to sponsor his citizenship. Mahoney spent the next few decades teaching English at the Western Illinois University, joining the U.S. Army and appearing in frequent stage plays before landing film and TV roles which would eventually lead to his best-known role – the crusty, yet lovable Martin Crane.
3. Eddie The Dog Got The Most Fan Mail
Perhaps one of the reasons Frasier didn’t take too kindly to Eddie on and off screen is the fact that he was more popular than the entire cast when it came to fan mail. In fact, when Frasier first made the cover of Entertainment Weekly upon its launch in 1993, Eddie was the only member of the cast to feature in the magazine. A little diva since the very beginning!
Eddie (played by the adorable Jack Russell Terrier ‘Moose’) more than deserved his praise from fans – he was a really smart pooch and an incredibly fast learner, according to his trainer Mathilde de Cagny. Moose was originally a rescue dog when Mathilde found him and discovered he was bursting with energy and eager to learn tricks. When the producers first watched Moose stare at Kelsey Grammer for long periods of time, they knew they had the perfect mutt to play Eddie!
2. Jane Leeves Used An Accent Coach
A lot of Frasier’s American audience at the time may have assumed that Jane Leeves’ accent for Daphne was natural, but she was actually affecting a Mancunian accent for the role and even needed help fine-tuning it. Daphne Moon’s character hails from Manchester, but Jane Leeves was actually born and bred in North London. When Frasier first aired in the UK, British audiences weren’t so convinced by her Manchester twang and she later used a voice coach.
Leeves worked with an accent coach not only to perfect her Mancunian accent but to make sure that American audiences could still understand her – not an easy task! Fans of Frasier will notice that in initial episodes, Daphne’s accent is a lot stronger than in later seasons. Even at its strongest, however, Daphne’s Manchester dialect was never going to stand out like a sore thumb. Frasier wasn’t your average American sitcom in the sense that Frasier and Niles both speak with Mid-Atlantic accents, which is somewhere between American and British.
1. The Star-studded Callers To Frasier’s Show
Over the years, Frasier had some amazing cameos that read like an A to Z of TV and Hollywood’s finest stars. Don’t remember any? That’s because you never got to see them in the flesh. The many dozens of callers that phoned into the Dr. Frasier Crane show were actually played by famous stars of stage and screen. Most of the celebrity callers phoned in their lines instead of coming in to record personal voice-overs, which gave the phone calls an added touch of realism and spontaneity.
Some of the callers into Frasier’s radio show have included: Billy Crystal, Mel Brooks, Cindy Crawford, Matthew Broderick, Carrie Fisher, Ben Stiller and a young Elijah Wood (who played a cheeky schoolboy who calls Frasier out on his useless advice!). Some celebrity callers are more instantly recognizable than others, but in case you missed any, each season of Frasier always ended with photos of all the famous guest stars with a caption that read “Thanks for calling”.