After great success on “Cheers” and “Frasier,” Kelsey Grammer starred in two other sitcoms: “Back to You” and “Hank.” Both disappeared quickly.
It’s as if the comedy gods were trying to tell him something.
But now the multiple Emmy Award winner has found his footing with the new series “Boss” (9 p.m. Fridays on Starz), in a dramatic role that is about as far from Frasier (and comedy) as he could get.
“I always thought it was just a matter of time before I found another great role,” Grammer said. “I had been talking to my agent for years about finding a good villain to play. This sort of role has been gestating in my mind for years.”
In the critically acclaimed series, Grammer stars as ruthless Chicago mayor Tom Kane, afflicted with a degenerative brain disease, who will do anything to hold on to his kingdom.
Starz ordered a second season of “Boss” before the first episode even aired, which didn’t surprise Grammer; “Who wouldn’t want to hear more stories about this guy?
“What did surprise me is that they all agreed with me,” he said, laughing.
The show’s creative team is currently in the early stages of “wrestling with some big ideas” for next season and meeting some resistance from executives at Starz.
“I think we’re going to have a big day on the mat with a couple of executives,” Grammer said. “We have two pretty big ideas, one of them pretty startling.”
The actor developed the Kane role with the show’s executive producer and creator, Farhad Safinia.
“Farhad has a terrific, ripe mind and shares my admiration for Shakespeare and inclination to try and bring some of that kind of dramatic size to television drama,” said Grammer, a classically trained actor who’s performed in many of the Bard’s plays.
Filming in Chicago earlier this year was a great experience and included a tutorial on the city, Grammer said. He quickly learned about Chicago’s connection to Mies van der Rohe, the Chicago River reversal and the city’s neighborhoods (which at first he called “boroughs”).
“These all add to the shorthand you need for a factual representation of the city,” he said.
Grammer admits there is “a shelf life” on how long the ailing Kane can actually be vital, predicting the show could continue for five or six years. The cast and crew will return to Chicago in early March in order to film during “the bleak Chicago winter,” he said.
“We may as well get some mileage out of it even though it might be challenging,” the actor added, gamely. “Kane’s world is a sort of spiritual wilderness, and this stark background will add to that idea.”
Chicago actors will once again be cast in many roles, Grammer said. He also likes the idea of finding a meaty part for his old “Frasier” pal John Mahoney, who lives in Oak Park and is an ensemble member at Steppenwolf Theatre.
“We’ve said all along there would be character arcs each season that would be meaty enough to pull in really terrific actors,” Grammer said. “And he certainly fits that bill.”