Kelsey Grammer is a TV legend and five-time Emmy winner from “Cheers” to “Frasier.” Now, he stars in the new film “Charming the Hearts of Men” in theaters and on demand.
Written and directed by S.E. DeRose, the film, based on real events, follows Grace Gordon (Anna Friel), a sophisticated woman who returns to her Southern hometown in the 1960s. She teams with a congressman (Grammer) to inspire historic legislation for equal opportunities for women.
“It’s in the period of time when the Civil Rights legislation was being written,” Grammer told WTOP about his new film. “There was one glaring omission in the bill: It has been written only by men. This congressman … introduces the word ‘sex’ into the bill. He says, ‘If this legislation goes forward as written, your mothers, sisters, wives and daughters will be the only second-class citizens left in America.'”
Grammer said of the real-life congressman, Virginia’s Howard W. Smith, “Oddly enough, he’s been relegated to a distant page in history.” He called Smith “a lovely guy — a Dixiecrat. A man of his time, he served in World War I and World War II — an extraordinary guy, a bit of a patriot, but he was from the South and he thought things were working just fine. … He had the foresight and courage to say, ‘Let’s take a big step forward.'”
The cast includes Sean Astin and Diane Ladd, who says, “It’s not our business to tell them what they should do with their freedom, but it’s our business to make sure they have the right to try.”
“The woman that wrote the film is a restaurant owner in Atlanta,” Grammer said. “She’s an extraordinary gal and fell on this story and wanted to write a movie. I think she did a hell of a job. The script came across my desk a few months before we started shooting and I said, ‘Boy, this is really interesting. Historically it’s interesting and the texture of the relationships is interesting.”
It’s the latest entry in an illustrious career, most notably with NBC’s “Cheers” (1982-1993). Grammer said the writing was key to the success of the show.
“The guys that started the show, the Charles Brothers along with Jimmy Burrows, were arguably the best in the biz,” Grammer said. “They wanted to write a show that you could listen to, and it would be just as good … if it was on the radio; it was that good of a script. It celebrated camaraderie and you have your local [bar], that was a very cool thing.”
Grammer arrived in Season 3 as Dr. Frasier Crane and stayed until the end.
“My guy was written as a device to break up Sam and Diane, then they realized they had more comedy mileage in him,” Grammer said.
From there came one of the most successful spinoffs in TV history: “Frasier” (1993-2004), which won 37 Emmys, including four Best Actor wins for Grammer and five in a row for Outstanding Comedy Series against tough competition in “Seinfeld” and “Friends.”
“It was just nice to see that people recognized the quality of the show and we were good at what we did,” Grammer said. “We weren’t ever the favorite; we were sort of the underdog for a little bit, then the narrative changed and they changed all of the voting rules to make sure we couldn’t win another one for a while, so we never won another Best Show after the first five.”
Which other “Cheers” character would have made a good spinoff?
“Certainly, Sam could have done something or maybe Rebecca; Rebecca was funny as hell,” Grammer said. “There was ‘The Tortellis,’ but that was her husband, Nick Toretlli.”
He also voiced Krusty the Clown’s sidekick Sideshow Bob in “The Simpsons.”
“I saw something funny in the character that reminded me of someone I knew years before … and that was Ellis Rabb. I did an impression of Ellis basically: ‘Oh, Bart. There you are.’ … He was a one-off. He was an extraordinary guy.”
In 2016, Grammer won a Tony producing the “The Color Purple” on Broadway, paving the way for similar Civil Rights themes addressed in “Charming the Hearst of Men.”
“It’s a timely piece and I think it shows you that good people have been trying to fight this fight for a lot longer than people know,” Grammer said. “It’s a historical piece that is fairly accurate; it describes things without beating you over the head; it’s romantic, and I’m in it!”
You can watch it on demand while eating tossed salad and scrambled eggs.