We’ve Already Lost Too Many Frasier Actors

With 37 wins from an incredible 107 total nominations, NBC’s “Frasier” still has more Emmys than any other sitcom in historyStar Kelsey Grammer first appeared as psychiatrist Frasier Crane in the third season of “Cheers,” introduced as a snooty new love interest for Shelley Long’s Diane during the opening episode. He was only supposed to be around for three weeks, but “he was retained because he was terrific and once everyone saw the dynamics between his character and the others in the bar it was clear that Frasier Crane was a keeper,” Ken Levine, a regular writer on both “Cheers” and “Frasier,” revealed on his blog.

According to Vanity Fair’s oral history of the show, the development of “Frasier” commenced in 1992, just as “Cheers” was beginning to wind down. Grammer brought in David Angell, Peter Casey, and David Lee (writer-producers who were instrumental in developing his character during the “Cheers” years) after signing up for his own spin-off, and they moved Frasier to Seattle, where we got to meet his family and a host of weird and wonderful locals. The show premiered in September 1993 and would last for as long as its predecessor, entertaining audiences for over a decade.

In 2021, Grammer announced that he was reprising his most famous role in a Paramount+ revival of “Frasier” — though, sadly, some original cast members are now unable to join him. From memorable guest stars to beloved family members, the following “Frasier” actors all left us way too soon.

Rene Auberjonois was Frasier's Harvard mentor

Veteran TV actor Rene Auberjonois, who played Frasier’s mentor from his time at Harvard, died of metastatic lung cancer in 2019, his son revealed to the AP. He was 79. Named after his grandfather, a post-impressionist artist from Switzerland, Auberjonois spent his childhood between Paris, London, and New York City. He later studied at Carnegie Mellon University and then spent time traveling, but the winds ultimately carried him back to New York, where he quickly made a name for himself — he scooped a Tony Award for his turn in the Broadway musical, “Coco,” which starred Katharine Hepburn as Coco Chanel.

Auberjonois’ onscreen breakthrough came in 1970, when he played Father John Mulcahy in “M.A.S.H.,” first of the many Robert Altman films he worked on. In the ’80s, he became known for playing Clayton Endicott III, the stuffy chief-of-staff on “Benson,” and in the ’90s, he joined the “Star Trek” family, taking on the role of Odo in “Deep Space Nine.” To “Frasier” fans, however, he’ll be remembered as Dr. William Tewksbury.

We first meet Tewksbury in the Season 8 episode, “Frasier’s Edge,” in which he congratulates Frasier on his Lifetime Achievement Award for broadcasting. Sensing an undertone to his words (which, it turns out, were written by his secretary), the radio psychiatrist confronts his old mentor. Tewksbury pops up again later in the season and hooks up with Roz (Peri Gilpin), mentally scarring Frasier by appearing before him in one of her silk robes.

Bob Hoskins was Frasier's gym teacher

British actor Bob Hoskins, who played Frasier’s cigar-smoking gym teacher, died of pneumonia in 2014, two years after he retired following a Parkinson’s disease diagnosis. “We are devastated by the loss of our beloved Bob,” his wife told BBC News, revealing that he “died peacefully at hospital.” He was 71.

Known primarily for his hardman roles, the London-raised actor made his big screen breakthrough playing Cockney gangster-turned-businessman Harold Shand in 1980’s “The Long Good Friday.” He secured parts in a string of big films over the next decade or so, starring in the likes of Terry Gilliam’s “Brazil,” critically acclaimed crime drama “Mona Lisa,” live-action/animation hybrid “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” Cher-led family film “Mermaids,” and Steven Spielberg’s “Hook,” playing Smee to Dustin Hoffman’s Captain Hook. He would, of course, go on to play Nintendo’s mustachioed plumber Mario in 1993’s “Super Mario Bros.,” which he admitted was “the worst thing [he] ever did” during an interview with The Guardian. “The whole experience was a nightmare.”

In “Frasier,” Hoskins was very much played to type. The gruff actor appears in the Season 10 episode, “Trophy Girlfriend,” in which Frasier hooks up with a gym teacher he meets at the squash club. The pair begin dating after they win the mixed doubles tournament together, but when Frasier sees Chelsea (Jeanne Tripplehorn) berating an underperforming student in her class, he can’t help but see her as Bob Hoskins’ Coach Fuller, who tormented him during his time at school.

Marsha Kramer was Tooty the Story Lady on Frasier

Chicago native Marsha Kramer, who played one of Frasier’s colleagues at KACL radio, died in 2020. Her death was announced by “Modern Family” and “Frasier” casting director Jeff Greenberg, who said that she was “so delightful” to work with in a tribute tweet. She was 74.

Kramer played Ed O’Neill’s assistant, Margaret, on “Modern Family,” appearing in 14 episodes of the ABC sitcom over a seven-year period. Greenberg praised her work on the show when he shared the news of her death, but he added that he would “always remember her soaring aloft as Wendy to Sandy Duncan’s Peter Pan.” That 1979 Broadway revival of “Peter Pan” was a highlight in a theater career that included appearances in everything from “Stepping Out” and “The Cocktail Hour” to “The Secret Garden” and “Showboat.” The RADA-trained Kramer picked up four Los Angeles Drama-Logue Awards during a long career on the stage, though she always made time for TV, with other notable credits including “Cheers,” “Malcolm in the Middle,” “Days of Our Lives,” and “Dr. Ken.”

Among “Frasier” fans, Kramer will be remembered as Tooty the Story Lady, who hosts the “Storytime Theater” show at Frasier’s radio station. She’s mentioned multiple times, but doesn’t show up until the Season 5 finale, when (after being accidentally inspired by Frasier) the boss decides to move away from talk radio and fires all the KACL hosts. Kramer reprised the role in the Season 6 opener, during which she gets her job back.

John LaMotta owned Marty's favorite bar

Brooklyn born actor John LaMotta, who played the owner of Frasier’s dad’s favorite bar, died in Los Angeles in 2014 at the age of 75, per his IMDb page.

LaMotta officially made his onscreen debut as a construction worker in the 1972 movie, “A Place Called Today,” though he actually got his start three years earlier when he appeared in an uncredited role in Gothic soap opera “Dark Shadows.” He acted in low budget martial arts movies like “Revenge of the Ninja,” “Ninja III: The Domination,” and “American Ninja” during the early 1980s, but took a completely different direction in the second half of the decade, playing grouchy neighbor Trevor Ochmonek on NBC sitcom “ALF.” It would become his best known role, but, according to LaMotta, everything about the experience was terrible. “I thought the show ‘ALF’ was a piece of s**t,” he once told TMZ. “Worst work I ever did.”

With other notable credits including Eddie Murphy’s “Vampire in Brooklyn” and the TV adaptation of “Weird Science,” he had a four-episode stint on “ER” in 1994, which was also the year of his first “Frasier” appearance. LaMotta debuted as Duke (owner of the bar of the same name) in Season 2 episode “Duke’s, We Hardly Knew Ye” — in which his establishment is threatened with closure thanks to Frasier’s new investment group. Duke returns for a game of poker in the Season 5 episode, “Where Every Bloke Knows Your Name,” the only time LaMotta reprised the role.

Robert Loggia ran the restaurant with all the portraits

Oscar-nominated actor Robert Loggia, who played the owner of the Seattle restaurant that honors Frasier with a questionable caricature, died at his Los Angeles home in 2015. “He struggled with Alzheimer’s disease for five years,” his wife told The New York Times. He was 85.

Born to Sicilian parents on Staten Island, Loggia learned his craft at New York’s famous Actors Studio and got his start in the theater world. He would go on to become a prolific character actor in the years that followed, racking up an incredible 233 screen credits during a career that spanned six decades. He’s popularly known for playing the gangster, Frank Lopez, in “Scarface,” the toy maker, Mr. MacMillan, in “Big,” General William Grey in “Independence Day,” and Mr. Eddy/Dick Lauren in David Lynch’s “Lost Highway.” Critically speaking, his most celebrated performance was in 1985’s “Jagged Edge” — Loggia was nominated in the best supporting actor category at the Academy Awards for his turn as private detective Sam Ransom in the neo-noir thriller.

When it comes to television, most people know Loggia for his Emmy-nominated performance as the eponymous agent in NBC’s mini-series, “Mancuso, FBI,” and for his four-episode stint as Michele “Feech” La Manna on “The Sopranos” — but “Frasier” fans will remember him as the proprietor of Stefano’s. An initially flattered Frasier has words with the restaurant owner when his portrait is revealed to have an unusually large forehead in the Season 7 episode, “The Three Faces of Frasier.”

John Mahoney became the heart of the show as Frasier's father

Two-time Golden Globe nominee John Mahoney, who appeared as Frasier’s retired cop dad Martin “Marty” Crane in all but one of the show’s 264 episodes, “died of complications from throat cancer” in 2018, The Guardian confirmed. Reacting to his death, Kelsey Grammer tweeted a photo of the pair hugging with the caption: “He was my father. I loved him.” He was 77.

Mahoney’s mother was from Manchester, England, but she relocated to the seaside town of Blackpool during World War II to avoid Nazi air raids, all while pregnant with the future “Frasier” star. Mahoney left Blackpool behind for the States after his sister, who found love with an American man amid the chaos of WWII, offered to sponsor him. After a stint in the U.S. Army (a way “to speed up his application for citizenship,” The Guardian said), he started taking acting classes at Chicago’s St. Nicholas theater. Success came late — Mahoney was in his 40s when John Malkovich and Gary Sinise asked him to join the Steppenwolf Theatre Company, the break he sorely needed.

He went on to appear in the Coen Brothers film, “Barton Fink,” and the Cher-led rom-com, “Moonstruck,” among others, but was best known for his 11 years as Frasier and Niles Crane’s brash father — a career-defining role for him. “Martin was a great character,” Mahoney once said (via The Guardian). “I loved him — and so did everybody else. People liked the fact he constantly punctured his two pompous, silly sons.”

Jack Sydow was one of Niles' annoying neighbors

The endlessly talented Jack Sydow, who played one of Frasier’s brother’s meddlesome neighbors, died in 2010 at the age of 88, The Hollywood Reporter confirmed. The Illinois native worked as a director, actor, playwright, and professor over the years. He began entertaining people in his military days, performing with a satire act called “Hump Happy” at bases across the Middle East during the height of World War II. According to Variety, he earned a master’s degree from the Yale School of Drama and would soon make the leap from community theater to Broadway, earning a Tony nomination for directing the 1966 revival of “Annie Get Your Gun.”

A few years later, Sydow relocated to Seattle and began a 16-year stint as a teacher at the University of Washington, where he would mentor the likes of three-time Emmy winner Jean Smart. As it happens, two of those Emmys were for guest spots on “Frasier,” which Sydow himself would later work on. He appeared in two episodes of the beloved sitcom in the late ’90s, playing Niles’ (David Hyde Pierce) irritable neighbor, Alfred Larkin.

Mr. Larkin first pops up in Season 4 episode “To Kill a Talking Bird,” in which Niles attempts to get to know the people in his highly exclusive apartment building with a little dinner party. He’s thoroughly unimpressed with Niles’ pet cockatoo, Baby, which latches onto its owner’s scalp at the beginning of the party and refuses to let go.

Rosemary Murphy lived at the Montana building

Emmy-winning actor Rosemary Murphy, who played Montana building resident Carol Larkin on “Frasier,” died in 2014 after being diagnosed with esophageal cancer, her agent told the Los Angeles Times. She was 89.

The daughter of a U.S. Foreign Serviceman, Murphy was born in Germany and spent her formative years in Europe. Her family returned to the States in the 1930s, and she made her onscreen bow the following decade when she appeared in 1949’s “Der Ruf,” a film about an exiled German professor returning home after a spell in Los Angeles. She received the first of her three Tony nominations for her turn as a military wife in 1960’s “Period of Adjustment,” then followed that up with 1962’s “To Kill a Mockingbird,” her most famous film. Murphy played Atticus Finch’s (Gregory Peck) kind-hearted neighbor, Miss Maudie Atkinson, in the best picture Oscar nominee, a very different prospect to Mrs. Larkin.

Murphy made her “Frasier” debut alongside Mr. Larkin (Jack Sydow) in the Season 4 episode, “To Kill a Talking Bird,” and the couple reappeared in Season 6’s “Taps at the Montana.” When Niles returns to his apartment and discovers that Frasier has sublet it to a noisy, tap-dancing doctor, he’s forced to win over his grouchy neighbors all over again. He organizes a party to placate them, but the catering doesn’t arrive.

Murphy previously won her Emmy for ABC TV movie “Eleanor and Franklin” (1976), in which she played President Roosevelt’s mother, Sara Delano Roosevelt.

Bill Gratton was one of Marty's drinking buddies

Portland native Bill Gratton, who played one of Frasier’s dad’s drinking buddies, died in 2011, six weeks after the death of his daughter. “Bill will be remembered especially for his sense of humor, both whimsical and pointed, his love of military history, and his life-long dedication to the art and craft of acting,” his obituary read. He was 71.

A University of Portland graduate, Gratton mastered in theater and would later return to UP as the University Theater’s associate director. He ran his own English antiques store in Portland for a spell, but left it behind when he relocated to Los Angeles for more acting jobs. He landed a part in a 1984 episode of “Hardcastle and McCormick” and never stopped working, popping up in “Dynasty,” “Hill Street Blues,” “General Hospital,” “The Golden Girls,” “L.A. Law,” “Seinfeld,” “Days of Our Lives,” “ER,” and “The West Wing” — to name but a few.

Gratton actually played a Justice of the Peace in a 1991 episode of “Cheers,” before he debuted as Marty’s pal, Leo, on “Frasier” three years later. Leo appears in a couple of Season 2 episodes: “Duke’s, We Hardly Knew Ye” and “Retirement Is Murder.” In the latter episode, he and the rest of ex-cop Marty’s buddies help him celebrate the cracking of a cold case. Leo pops up again in Season 5’s “Where Every Bloke Knows Your Name,” joining Marty and the gang for a game of cards.

Alice Playten was Marty's Season 6 love interest

Diminutive New Yorker Alice Playten, who played Marty’s love interest in Season 6 of “Frasier,” died in Manhattan in 2011. “The cause was heart failure following a lifelong battle with juvenile diabetes, complicated by pancreatic cancer,” The New York Times said. She was 63.

A Tony nominee and two-time Obie winner, Playten did much of her best work on the stage. She got her first taste of a live audience aged 11, securing a part in the original production of Alban Berg’s first opera, “Wozzeck.” Her size (she was “barely five feet tall,” the Times noted) made her ideal for the part of Marie’s son, and it would later make her a great fit for the role of Blix, leader of the Goblins in Ridley Scott’s “Legend.” Scott’s fantasy epic is her best known film work (despite the fact that she’s buried under prosthetic makeup throughout), though Playten did show up in a number of other movies during her 50-plus year career, including Meg Ryan-Tim Robbins’ romantic comedy “IQ” and “The Rebound,” another rom-com starring Catherine Zeta-Jones and Justin Bartha. The latter, released in 2009, marked her final big screen appearance.

Playten appeared in three episodes of “Frasier” during the sixth season, bringing her particular brand of energetic charm to “Our Parents, Ourselves” and “Shutout in Seattle,” the two-part season ender, in which she plays the lovely Bonnie, a waitress from McGinty’s that scuppers Frasier’s plans to set his dad up with Roz’s mom.

Moose the Jack Russell Terrier was quite the handful on the set of Frasier

The role of Marty’s dog, Eddie, was originated by Jack Russell Terrier Moose, who appeared in 164 episodes of “Frasier.” He died in 2006 after a decade-long career in showbusiness, his owner and trainer told People magazine. “He was 16-and-a-half years old, and he just had an incredible charisma and was a such a free spirit,” Mathilde Halberg said.

“Frasier” fans were introduced to Eddie during the very first episode of the show. The titular psychiatrist takes in his dad and his dog after the former suffers a career-ending injury, and they end up becoming a part of the furniture. Moose was a very clever dog by all accounts, but he was also “a complicated little fellow,” actor Jane Leeves (who played Daphne Moon) told Vanity Fair: “There were many times when he just improvised or went completely nuts, rolling around on the couch with his legs in the air, making funny noises.”

Moose, who also appeared in “The 5 Mrs. Buchanans,” “High Society,” and the film “My Dog Skip,” was replaced by his son, Enzo, when he retired at the age of 10. The makeup team worked their magic to make sure Enzo’s brown patches matched up with Moose’s. According to “Frasier” co-creator Peter Casey, the transition period was far from smooth. “Moose and Enzo hated each other,” he revealed to Vanity Fair. “They couldn’t be on the set together. Apparently, it was one of those classic parent-child Hollywood rivalries.”

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