Old School Americana & Nostalgia


‘Cheers’: Frasier Crane Was Nearly Portrayed by Another Sitcom Star

‘Cheers’: Frasier Crane Was Nearly Portrayed by Another Sitcom Star

In 1984, Cheers introduced Dr. Frasier Crane to its already massively popular ensemble of characters. The snooty Boston-based therapist came in as Diane’s boyfriend following her breakup with Sam Malone, and fans loved him so much that he stuck around for the finale. Then he earned an 11-season spinoff that turned into a current reboot.

The main reason Frasier hit so well with audiences is because of his actor, Kelsey Grammer—we’re certain no one would argue with that. Grammer’s voice and mannerisms lend perfectly to the persona. It’s almost as though the character was made for him. But it wasn’t. When the writers first envisioned the good doctor, they saw John Lithgow.

During a 2020 interview with the Guardian, Lithgow confirmed that the Cheers writers created Frasier with him in mind. But when they asked him to consider the part in 1983, he was a big movie star, and he thought a sitcom was below him.

“I’d gotten two Oscar nominations in a row [for The World According to Garp in 1983, and Terms of Endearment in 1984],” he said. “A TV comedy series was so beneath my dignity that I barely even remember being told that it had been offered to me.”

After Turning Down Frasier on ‘Cheers’ John Lithgow Went into Television Afterall

Interestingly, Lithgow went on to star in 3rd Rock From the Sun 13 years later. The sitcom won eight Primetime Emmys, three of which went to him for Outstanding Lead Actor. So, working in a sitcom didn’t ruin his career, as he feared.

Cheers co-creator James Burrows directed two episodes of 3rd Rock From the Sun in 1996. And it was then that John Lithgow remembered he even had the opportunity to play the iconic character.

“I only found out years later when I worked with Jimmy Burrows on 3rd Rock from the Sun. And after that, I had no dignity left,” he laughed.

The decision didn’t turn out bad for either actor, of course. Kelsey Grammer may have landed a job for life with Frasier Crane. But John Lithgow has had no trouble getting work. Not only did 3rd Rock From the Sun turn into a classic hit, but he’s still filming major movies and series today at 78.