Kelsey Grammer Dives Into Drama with 'Boss'

PHOTO: Kelsey Grammer Dives Into Drama with © MMXI Lions Gate Television Inc.
WATCH Kelsey Grammer's the 'Boss'

Obtaining drugs in dark parks. Grabbing a councilman by the ear and dragging him across an office floor. Cursing emphatically, often.

This is not what anyone had in mind for Fraiser Crane.

Kelsey Grammer transcends expectations in his latest show, "Boss," premiering on Starz tonight. The hour long drama finds him in territory foreign to many of his fans. Grammer plays Tom Kane, the mayor of Chicago, newly diagnosed with a fatal neurological disorder, chronically corrupt, hungry for power and a graduate of the Tony Soprano school of leadership. (Note to the 2012 presidential candidates: a primer this is not.)

"There is no particular person that we've tried to emulate or imitate or indict," Grammer told "I think it says a lot more about human nature than politics. There's a kind of arrogance, a kind of demonic quality with someone who's able to stay in power for a long, long time."

Twenty-two years, to be precise, the same amount of time that legendary former Chicago mayor Richard J. Daley spent in office. Grammer insists "Boss" isn't a portrait of Daley or anyone else. Neither he nor the producers talked with any elected officials or political consultants in developing the show. Nevertheless, "Boss" has informed his feelings about getting into politics after acting.

"I've had a plan in my head for years that once I'm done with acting, I might try to seek public office," he said. "I'm a hopeless romantic about the political world. I still believe that good people do good things and they can effect change that is positive and well thought out. I'm still a bit of an innocent in that way."

But, and Alec Baldwin will like this, Grammer has no appetite for the Big Apple.

"I'm not running for the mayor of New York," he said. "Another office, who knows?"

Grammer called "Boss" his most challenging role to date. He's waded in these waters before -- trained in theater, he's starred in multiple Shakespeare plays (in fact, the idea for "Boss" came out of Grammer reading "King Lear" with his now boss, executive producer Farhad Safinia). His best known work has been lighter fare -- "Cheers," "Frasier," "La Cage aux Folles." And yet, when it was time to, say, latch on to a co-star's ear and drag him across the floor of a wood-paneled office while hurling four-letter words, Grammer snapped into character.

"He's joking and making fun of things and playing on his iPad," Safinia said. "He's actually addicted to Words With Friends, he'll hustle you into trying to play it and then he'll obliterate you, but as soon as the director calls action, he'll turn right on. He can carry it. He is phenomenal in this thing."

Grammer understands that an interest in his personal life -- thrice divorced, his latest relationship crumbled by the glow of reality TV -- may drive otherwise uninterested parties to tune in. He's fine with that. "Boss" was renewed for a second season weeks before its premiere. He'll be in the corner office for a while longer, regardless of the gossip.

"We all have our own history of damage and tragedy and upsets and betrayal that have come along for the ride," he said. "Mine have been rich, of course, and storied and well documented. A lot of that is bound to surface, at least in the viewer's mind, as they watch the show. I always try to keep them guessing."