Though he rose to fame slinging drinks as Sam Malone in “Cheers,” Ted Danson’s first mention in Variety was for playing another bartender in the stage production of “Status Quo Vadis,” reviewed in Wilmington, Del. on Feb. 14, 1973, before its ill-fated Broadway debut. The actor has fared better with subsequent projects, including “Becker” and “Bored to Death.” And he’s in season two of the FX hit “Fargo,” starting Oct. 12.
The review for “Status Quo Vadis” is very positive, yet apparently the Broadway run didn’t go as well?
Yes, we opened and closed in one night. I remember walking to the stage door to do the show after opening night. The stage door man said, “Whoa whoa, where you going?” I said, “I work here.” He said, “Not anymore you don’t, bud.” And pointed to the closed notice.
It was back in the day of Clive Barnes, who could open and close a show with his review, and we had a horrible review. Maybe we deserved it, I’m not sure. Nevertheless, the party was over.
The play’s lead was Bruce Boxleitner, who also ruled TV in the 1980s. Have you worked with him again?
I don’t think our paths ever even crossed, strangely enough. He went on to do lots of great stuff. It was a very talented cast.
You always seem to find yourself in great ensembles.
I do like ensemble, and I think that came from basketball. That’s what I really wanted to do in life, and that dream ended for me abruptly freshman year at Stanford. But I love team sports, which is what I find acting to be.
You have an amazing cast in “Fargo,” as well.
It’s a wonderful cast, wonderful writing, and a really interesting time in history. It takes place in 1979, so it’s a prequel in a way. The only connection to the first season is that my granddaughter is Molly, the Deputy Sheriff from Season One. Her father, my son-in-law, is played by Patrick Wilson.
With so many great roles, what are you most recognized for?
It depends. Younger audiences seem to love “Bored to Death” and “Damages.” People who are in public service love “Becker”; “Cheers” obviously crosses every age group to some degree. Then there’s the “CSI” crowd, which is all over the place and international. This job kind of sneaks up on you. You look back and go, “Good heavens, I’ve been doing this awhile.”