While he carries himself with the grace and gravitas of a Shakespearean actor, Kelsey Grammer is best known for his comedy roles — everything from Dr. Frasier Crane to the animated “Simpsons” foil, Sideshow Bob.
After two failed post-“Frasier” sitcoms, Grammer, 56, is flexing his dramatic muscles for “Boss,” his new Starz drama, in which he plays Tom Kane, a stern, belligerent and brutally effective Chicago mayor who holds a deadly secret. And unlike his last two series, which never made it past their first season, Starz has already renewed “Boss” for a second season — even before the show makes its premiere Friday night.
amNY spoke with Grammer in a conference call.
Do you have a different approach for this drama than you did for your comedy work? You approach every role a little differently — you just want to find out what it is about you that helps that role come to life. And in this case, I decided that I needed to just strip myself bare and play the words as I saw them and be honest emotionally — and be pretty vicious, but tortured and challenged and emotional. Tom Kane is a very, very complex character to play, and he’s fun to play for that reason.
How applicable is “Boss” to city politics and what a mayor who ran a major city would be like? We’re not out to harpoon or lampoon anybody. We’re just … taking a modern-day scenario and lending classic, tragic elements to it to play out on that stage.
Have you talked to any real politicians? Politics is the sort of mainstay of theatrical behavior in our contemporary culture, so you don’t have to talk to a lot of people to figure out what’s going on. … I have met Rahm Emanuel, city mayor, and I have talked with Mayor [Richard] Daley and had a nice dinner with him. And I assured both of them that I was not portraying either one of them.
Do you think that the city becomes a character in the show? Yes. It is the City of the Big Shoulders, and of course that typifies who this guy is as well. Tom Kane’s life energy, if you will, comes from Chicago.
How does it feel to get renewed for a second season before the series has even premiered? [I] take it at face value. I think they really liked the story, and I think the producers and the network itself are interested in figuring out what the next story is for us.
On TV: “Boss” premieres Friday night at 10 on Starz.
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