Kelsey Grammer’s Tom Kane is the deeply ambitious, yet flawed mayor of Chicago in the new drama Boss. As the actor best known for his comedic chops — he played Dr. Frasier Crane for 20 years on Cheers, then Frasier — Grammer takes a turn into the dramatic. Here’s how he tapped into his dark side.
Stray from the norm
After three failed attempts to return to comedic television post-Frasier, Grammer decided to take a break.“After my heart attack, I spent the next several months looking at my own life,” says the 56-year-old.
“I cast my … imaginative net over the next 30 or 40 years, whatever they may be. And I just decided I didn’t want to have that story be my last story. And so I decided that it was time to make changes that involved my career as well as my personal life. And doing a drama started to make really good sense because it took me back to my roots ... to things I believed in.”
Be bad to be loved
Grammer likens Kane to the scheming Iago in Shakespeare’s Othello. “Iago is one of the most liked characters in Shakespeare’s canon, and he’s the most extraordinarily manipulative person in history,” Grammer says. “I think there’s at least a kind of a similarity with (Kane.)”
Kane, however, doesn’t necessarily view himself as the bad guy. “He’s completely convinced that there’s a working model and justification for doing anything you have to do to remain in power,” Grammer says. “It’s just for the better good. He believes he’s the one that’s most qualified to make the decision … to either eliminate an enemy or embrace an enemy and make something good happen.”
Never let them see you sweat
The most powerful man in Chicago receives a devastating blow in the opening scenes of the pilot.
He is diagnosed with Lewy body dementia, a rare disease associated with Alzheimer’s.
“It’s really a dramatic device … for the benefit of raising the stakes in this guy’s life,” Grammer says. “What this malady may do is force him into a position where he suddenly realizes that preserving his own place is the greatest good. He’s accustomed to power, and he will go kicking and screaming on his way down toward hell.”