Frasier: Hyde Pierce & Neuwirth on "Abstract" Revival Question & More

Frasier fans remember David Hyde Pierce and Bebe Neuwirth's many years working alongside Kelsey Grammer, who played the title character Dr. Frasier Crane on two classic sitcoms. Pierce played his brother Dr. Niles Crane on the NBC sitcom spinoff. Neuwirth's Dr. Lilith Sternin goes even further back to their days on Cheers, in which their characters originated as the one-time married couple appearing in 80 of the 271 episodes making her series debut in the season four episode "Second Time Around" and subsequently appeared in 12 of the 264 episodes of the spinoff. While promoting their TV biopic series Julia about famous French chef Julia Child, the duo reflected on their time on Frasier, which ran from 1993 to 2004, and managed to become as successful as the series it spun off from.

Frasier: David Hyde Pierce, Bebe Neuwirth Reflect Sitcom, Talk Revival
David Hyde Pierce and Bebe Neuwirth in Frasier. Image courtesy of Paramount

When asked if their comedic inspiration on the HBO Max series stems from their Frasier days, "We had our sense of humor before we got to 'Frasier,' Neuwirth said. "I think it's really important to say that. David has been getting laughs for decades before he was on 'Frasier.' And I was getting laughs in ballets when I was a little kid, decades before I got to 'Frasier.' I was getting laughs in the Broadway shows that I was doing. So our senses of humor existed, and we were able to play the humor of 'Frasier' very, very well. I don't know what else to say about that, David?"

Frasier: David Hyde Pierce, Bebe Neuwirth Reflect Sitcom, Talk Revival
David Hyde Pierce and Bebe Neuwirth in Frasier. Image courtesy of Paramount.

"I appreciate the compliment," Pierce added comparing their Julia characters to Frasier. "I think we are funny, and we're funny together. And we're dear friends and we know each other well, both from working together and just from life. But there's something else that we have in common and I thought of it when I thought of what Bebe brings to the role of Avis, which is that she has an ability to see beyond the most obvious dimension of this scene. We have a scene in an art gallery where her dialogue with me could easily have been funny and sarcastic. And that would have been it and it would have been perfectly fine. And she surprised me with the compassion that she brought. And that meant a lot to me as an actor and as Paul, but it's also something that I think I instinctively do, too, which is to find what else is there, other than the obvious. I will also say, I think it's something that 'Frasier' used to do too. It's why it didn't subsist just as a 'haha' sitcom. I have two words: John Mahoney. The depth of that show is represented by them having that wonderful actor. So, I think that the three-dimensionality of our comedy and our acting is something that we share."

Frasier: David Hyde Pierce, Bebe Neuwirth Reflect Sitcom, Talk Revival
Bebe Neuwirth and Kelsey Grammer in Frasier. Image courtesy of Paramount

When asked how they first met, the two were a bit hazy on the details but knew each other from the theater world. "You know what, I think Frasier was the first time we met," Pierce recalled. "I feel like we've known each other all our lives, but I think that's true. I think we met on whatever that first episode was that you were on?" "I'll tell you what I remember about that though, I remember you did something and I laughed so hard," Neuwirth added. "I don't think it was in the read-through, I think we were actually blocking, and I remember [Director] Jimmy Burrows giving me a look like, 'Yeah, he's funny.'" Neuwirth remembered when she was asked to return for Frasier.

Neuwirth: It was interesting, because not only did the characters of Frasier and Lilith start on another show, but it was also on the same stage at Paramount Studios. Walking back into Stage 25 at Paramount, it was a little mind-bending to come in and see there's Kelsey, and then there's all these other people. I felt a little bit like I was home, but I was also a guest. And all of these weirdnesses were mitigated by the fact that that was one of the most kind, generous, hospitable, just incredibly lovely group of people. So any awkwardness that I felt, and I generally walk around just feeling awkward, was mitigated by that, it was just such a kind group. And I knew where I was. I knew that these were the greatest writers. I knew this was the greatest character, and that these new characters that they created were brilliant. So it was odd and wonderful.

Pierce: I gotta say, when I hear you describe that, Bebes, as I think about it, it's not surprising at all, but I never thought about it. I cannot imagine being in that situation. And I can also tell you, knowing our cast intimately, that the reason we were so nice to you is because you were so wonderful. Because we can turn on people on a dime. Part of it too was to get to see you, in person, do your thing. And feel how kind of seamlessly you fit in, it was wonderful. And it was a great dynamic. That great Niles and Lilith relationship, they found wonderful ways to exploit.

Neuwirth: The producers and the writers on that show, if you thought "Oh I know, they'll bring Lilith back and they'll do this," you're wrong. They'd do something much funnier, much more profound in a lot of ways. They went to places because they could with this group of actors, and they always made these really astonishingly brilliant choices of what to do. I remember when they first cast "Frasier," I was like, "Oh my god, with those people they can do anything. This is gonna be good."

As far as the question about returning for the Paramount+ revival, "That's an abstract question," Pierce said. "Kelsey's spearheading that, and I don't know where it is in its development and what form it will take. So it's an impossible question to ask, no matter how many people want to know the answer." Both are supportive of the project however it comes out. For more on Julia and their favorite memories on Frasier, you can go to Variety. For what Grammer told us about the Paramount+ revival, you can click here.

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Tom ChangAbout Tom Chang

I'm a follower of pop culture from gaming, comics, sci-fi, fantasy, film, and TV for over 30 years. I grew up reading magazines like Starlog, Mad, and Fangoria. As a writer for over 10 years, Star Wars was the first sci-fi franchise I fell in love with. I'm a nerd-of-all-trades.
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