A Masterclass with Kelsey Grammer – Roma Fiction Fest 2012

Kelsey Grammer Masterclass in Rome
American actor Kelsey Grammer is best know worldwide for his portrayal of psychiatrist Dr. Frasier Crane in the hugely successful sitcom Cheers and its equally popular spin-off Frasier. TV viewers in the US, however, have recently seen him in a very different dramatic role, portraying the utterly corrupt Mayor of Chicago Tom Kane in the new drama Boss, which earned him a Golden Globe earlier this year. Mr Grammer was at the Roma Fiction Fest yesterday to give a Masterclass and present the opening Gus Van Sant-directed episode on the big screen ahead of its Italian television premiere this evening on Rai 3.

The Masterclass with Kelsey Grammer in Sala Petrassi opened with a montage of classic moments from the actor's long career – not only the inevitable clips from Frasier, but also parts as diverse as a singing Ebenezer Scrooge in a musical TV movie version of A Christmas Carol, and the Simpsons cartoon character Sideshow Bob – before the charismatic actor appeared on stage to a small but enthusiastic audience of admirers. Mr Grammer gave long and thoughtful answers to host Marco Spagnoli's pertinent questions, sharing his consideration on the craft of acting with a combination of effortless erudition and genuine warmth.

The intimate tone was set right from the start of the talk when he was asked about how he first became an actor. He looked visibly moved as he remembered the loss of his grandfather, the only male figure in his life at that time, when he was only twelve years old, and explained how he took comfort from reading Shakespeare's plays and learning about stoicism through Julius Caesar. Shakespeare was a recurrent theme in the afternoon's conversation – the concept behind Boss, he explained, came from discussions with the show's writer Farhad Safinia about creating a modern take on King Lear (with a clear nod to Orson Welles' Citizen Kane in the name of the show's anti-hero).

Acknowledging that Hollywood can sometimes be guilty of political propaganda in its movies, he denied that Boss had a specific political agenda, and instead took a wider look at the machinations and corruption on both sides of the political divide. Indeed, the actor said he had met with two former Mayors of Chicago to reassure them that Tom Kane wasn't a respresentation of them personally, joking that they were first relieved...and then maybe a little disappointed!

In the spirit of a true Masterclass Marco Spagnoli then invited further questions to Kelsey Grammer from the public. Asked about voicing Bart Simpson's arch-nemisis in The Simpsons to the obvious delight of the audience we were treated to a brief “Die Bart die...!” in his Sideshow Bob voice. The biggest laugh of the afternoon, however, came when he was asked about which role he would most like to have played. Aside from starring in a western, he said, or playing the part of Hamlet, a role for which he was now regrettably too old, he confessed that the person he would most like to play would be Sean Connery!

At the close of the Masterclass Kelsey Grammer was honoured with a standing ovation and then graciously signed autographs for fans.

Watch Kelsey Grammer talk about the playing Frasier at Roma Fiction Fest 2012 below (or click here to watch on You Tube).