It’s hard not to like Kelsey Grammer, or at least Dr. Frasier Crane, the character he played on two separate sitcoms spanning two decades – “Cheers,” and its spinoff, “Frasier.”
Originally hired on to serve as a “plot device” for “Cheers” in its third season – a sitcom based in a Boston bar “where everybody knows your name” – Grammer has become synonymous with the character of the fussy, finicky and egotistical blowhard psychologist. The Dr. Crane reputation lives on in reruns, of course, but Kelsey Grammer’s latest role stands in stark contrast to the sarcastic shrink who held court and made cracks over drinks, as well as on his Seattle-based radio show.
“Veteran actor Kelsey Grammer’s depiction of Chuck Smith is as resonant and profound as anything he’s done in his career,” writes Focus on the Family’s Adam Holz. The Plugged In critic is referring to Grammer’s role in “Jesus Revolution” – the new film out today telling the inspirational and complicated story of a national revival in the 1970s.
Most readers will remember Chuck Smith, a Christian pastor whose 25-member California-based church grew into a modern megachurch, spawning more than 1000 congregations around the United States and hundreds more worldwide.
Speaking about his new role earlier this week, Grammer reflected, “It strikes me, you know, I probably have been preparing for [this role] all my life, honestly. It was a pretty seamless transition into playing Chuck.”
On “Cheers,” Kelsey Grammer’s character was supposed to be an aggrieved Episcopalian married to a Jewish woman.
In one episode, Frasier laments the unevenness of the mixed faith household. “Frederick goes to synagogue every Friday night,” he tells the gang. “He delights in hiding matzos at Passover. The family celebrates Hanukkah. Meanwhile, Christmas comes and goes without so much as a tree. Odd, really, because a Christmas tree isn’t even symbolic of Christianity. But apparently it threatens Lilith’s Jewish faith. Look out, everybody! A fir tree! 5,000-year-old religion and Frasier Crane’s going to bring it down with a four-foot tree and some tinsel!”
In real life, Grammer was raised in a Christian Science church. In various interviews over the years, he’s alluded to challenges there, but also said this past week:
“I’m kind of a Bible guy. I’ve been reading the Bible all my life. I turn it over to prayer, for reflection, for information, and I just always have. It’s just always been sort of at my fingertips throughout my life, ever since I was a boy. So, I have a relationship with the Word of God.”
Growing up, Kelsey Grammer faced devastating tragedy. His parents divorced when he was young. When he was just thirteen, his father was shot and killed. Only seven years later, his sister was kidnapped and murdered right here in Colorado Springs. Five years later, two teenage half-brothers died in a scuba diving accident.
Unable to process and handle the cumulative effect of these events, the actor sought solace and escape via drugs and alcohol.
“Well, honestly, there were times when I lost it,” he told an interviewer. “I mean, there were times when I didn’t hold up so well.”
Based on a sampling of interviews and public statements Grammer has expressed politically, it’s impossible to know where the popular actor is on his faith journey, but one thing is certain: The real-life Pastor Chuck Smith would have happily welcomed the eccentric Dr. Frasier Crane – or the real life Kelsey Grammer – into his church.