Look who’s boss now
HE’S best known as the fusspot radio psychologist Dr Crane on long- running sitcom Frasier as well as the voice of the psychotic Sideshow Bob in The Simpsons so his latest role, as the power- driven mayor of Chicago in new political drama Boss, is something of a change of direction for Kelsey Grammer ( pictured).
Certainly, there’s no trace of the affable Frasier in Mayor Tom Kane, a ruthless, demanding, unforgiving and generally unpleasant man determined to stamp his authority on the city and cement his place as one of Chicago’s most successful mayors.
But any doubts Kane is a stretch for the Emmy award- winning comedian disappear in the very first scene.
Watching Kane sit impassively as he is informed he has a degenerative brain disorder that will eventually claim his life is a powerful kick start to a performance that justifies the networks commissioning of a second season weeks before season one even premiered in the US.
The strength of the show comes not only from Grammer’s apparent delight in portraying such an unlikeable character but also in his ability to balance Kane’s unattractive traits with a more human side.
For, despite being the most powerful man in Chicago, Kane’s life is in crisis: as well as his terminal illness, his marriage is a shambles and he is estranged from his daughter, Emma ( Hannah Ware).
It’s a situation Grammer relishes. Kane has now reached a point in his life where he must confront himself, Grammer says.
To me it’s always more interesting when a character flirts with the idea of redemption rather than seeking it out.
Kane’s relationship with his wife is frozen and, while he wants to reach out to his daughter, he almost can’t remember the steps of how healthy relationships function.
But perhaps Kane’s most important relationship in Boss is to the city of Chicago itself. ‘‘ We chose Chicago because it is the city of the big shoulders,’’ Grammer says.
‘‘ And that typifies who this guy is. Tom Kane’s life energy, if you will, comes from Chicago. It’s got a swagger about it, an interesting dynamic that really is unique to Chicago.
‘‘ What he does understand is that his identity is the city of Chicago.
‘‘ It’s his love of the city; its place in history as well as his place in history.
‘‘ That’s what connects him to his own life and that’s what I like about him.’’
Of course, being a political drama, Kane isn’t the only ambition- driven player in Boss.
His wife, Meredith ( played by Gladiator and The Devil’s Advocate actor Connie Nielsen) is a formidable Chicago power player in her own right, while his chief of staff, Kitty O’Neill ( Hollywoodland ’ s Kathleen Robertson) has her eyes on the prize in her affair with ambitious young politician Ben Zajac ( Jeff Hephner, The OC), whom Kane is grooming to follow in his footsteps.
Grammer’s own turbulent life over recent years has possibly provided rich experience to draw from: the failure of two post- Frasier comedy series, Hank and Back to You, his heart attack in 2008 which almost ended his life, followed by an acrimonious divorce from Camille Grammer that played out in the public eye thanks to the latter’s participation in The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.
‘‘ We all have our own history of damage and tragedy and upset and betrayals, but mine has been rich . . . and well documented.’’
A lot of that is bound to surface in viewers’ minds as they watch the show.