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Kelsey Grammer at 69: What I Know Now

‘Frasier’ actor explains why “If this stage was a chapter in a novel, I’d call it ‘rejuvenation’ ”

Video run time is 3 minutes.
Maarten de Boer

Five-time Emmy–winning actor Kelsey Grammer, 69, stars in the reboot of the hit comedy Frasier, now streaming on Paramount+. AARP spoke to the actor for the April/May issue of AARP The Magazine.

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Catching the acting bug

I was in 10th grade in the show The Little Foxes, playing a 50-year-old guy at age 16, when the thrill first hit me. After my performance, I got a standing ovation. It wasn’t just “I love this.” You learn to love the kiss of their eyes, and it was a window onto my future.

Everybody knows his name

After 35 years embodying Frasier Crane, he’s as alive to me as life itself. Day to day, week to week, year to year, we’ve walked the same streets together, although we’re very different. Frasier’s the fastidious, neurotic Felix Unger to my Oscar Madison. But I adore how he’s in it with his whole heart. It’s like what Ralph Waldo Emerson once said of Shakespeare: He regards all of creation “like a bauble” in his hands. High or low, life is forever a wonder.

Waking up at 69

If this stage was a chapter in a novel, I’d call it “Rejuvenation.” There are more opportunities for me to be delighted than ever before. My seven children range from age 40 down to 7. With my oldest daughters especially, I missed occasions and wasn’t as present as I should have been. Now we’re reconnecting, healing. The new batch is a total do-over. We’re like a pack. The three youngest still sleep in our room, and around 3 a.m. this morning, James, the 7-year-old, rolled over with a little kick and I thought, This is the best thing that ever happened to me.

Listening to loss

Next year will be 50 years since my sister was murdered when she was almost 19. I had stowed away some of that pain, but two years ago I got a sort of message from her. It was connected to me starting to write a book about the loss, which bubbled up emotions and a sense of faith I had locked away. This voice came that said, “I’ve always been there.” Since then, all the good things I had with my sister are now more in focus than the bad.

Inner harmony

I have a bunch of old rock ’n’ roller friends, including Jon Anderson, the former lead singer for Yes. He and I are about to go into production on a musical. He wrote some amazing songs about the life of the artist Marc Chagall, whom Jon met in France through Bill Wyman of the Rolling Stones near the end of Chagall’s life. It’s really a story of never giving up. Chagall always felt dismissed by critics as a “popular” painter. It wasn’t until late in life that he created the monumental works, like the murals at the Metropolitan Opera and the Paris Opera House ceiling, that made Chagall Chagall. That resonated.

Wealth is relative

I’m OK with money, but I did get divorced a few times. I pay those debts because, honestly, even if it was twice as much, it would still be cheap. I’m alive and happy, right? But it does have consequences. A lot of people depend on me. I’m still working. I sometimes shop at Costco. Had I never been divorced, it would be “the sky’s the limit.” It’d be a ridiculous number.

Cancel cancel culture

Cancel culture is ridiculous. It’s about giving a platform for hatred — singling people out to take them down. I think we can all do better toward one another. We focus so much on differences in this country — red state, blue state; conservative, liberal — but I think we should celebrate how much we all share. Maybe that could move us toward community again, rather than silos. We can have different opinions, but we all want to be happy, we all want health, we care about our children. The world my granddad introduced me to — a world of service, a world of kindness — that still holds value.

The urgency of time

I’m not sad about getting older. I feel better now than ever, honestly. Sometimes, though, that line comes to me from the poem “To His Coy Mistress”: “At my back I always hear / Time’s wingèd chariot hurrying near.” There are things I haven’t quite done yet. I do face that ticking clock. Of course, time is not really God’s issue; it’s our issue.

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