×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Warren Littlefield on John Mahoney: ‘He Was a Sweet, Gentle Soul’

John Mahoney, the veteran actor who died Sunday at the age of 77, was NBC’s first and only choice to play “Frasier’s” cantankerous father Martin Crane.

Warren Littlefield, former NBC Entertainment president, recalled the experience of working with Mahoney on the sitcom that ran from 1993 to 2004.

“He was a sweet gentle soul, with a twinkle in his eye,” Littlefield told Variety. “You just wanted to be near him. There was something emanating from his body that was so warm and wonderful. That was John.”

“Frasier” creators Peter Casey, David Angell and David Lee envisioned Mahoney in the role of the retired policeman and down-to-earth complement to his high-strung sons, Frasier (Kelsey Grammer) and Niles (David Hyde Pierce), from the first pitch of “Frasier,” a spinoff of the long-running “Cheers.”

Littlefield and James Burrows, director of the “Frasier” pilot and co-creator of “Cheers,” had seen Mahoney in the 1980s in his Broadway run in John Guare’s “The House of Blue Leaves.” They knew he was a fit as the Crane patriarch. (Mahoney also did a guest shot on a 1992 episode of “Cheers” but as a different character.)

“From the moment he walked on the stage with (Grammer) it was a confirmation of their instincts. This was who was meant to play this role,” Littlefield said.

Mahoney helped ground “Frasier” as a consistent source of comic relief and also with emotion in the relationships with his sons. He played an important role off screen too, Littlefield recalled.

“John was a father figure on that show, and there were times when we needed that,” he said.

More TV

  • Humans

    'Humans' Canceled After Three Seasons at AMC, Channel 4

    ‘Humans’ is no more. Writer and executive producer Sam Vincent announced the news on Twitter that the show, which aired on AMC and the U.K.’s Channel 4, would not be returning for a fourth season. “In this age of unprecedented choice and competition, we can have no complaints,” he wrote, adding that he and fellow [...]

  • Marta Fernandez Starz

    Starz Executive VP of Programming Marta Fernandez to Step Down

    Marta Fernandez is exiting her role as executive vice president of original programming at Starz, Variety has learned. Fernandez was elevated to her current role in December. She first joined Starz in 2007 and has shepherded shows such as “Spartacus,” “Ash vs. Evil Dead,” “Black Sails” and “Da Vinci’s Demons.” Her current roster of shows includes [...]

  • Academy of Country Music CEO Pete

    Academy of Country Music CEO Pete Fisher Exits; RAC Clark Named Interim Chief

    The CEO of the Academy of Country Music, Pete Fisher, has exited after two and a half years at the helm of the organization behind the annual ACM Awards. RAC Clark, the executive producer of the CBS broadcast, has been named interim executive director, effective immediately. No reason was given for the change at the [...]

  • Sony Interactive Launches Film, TV Studio

    Sony Interactive Launches Film, TV Studio to Adapt Video Game Projects

    Sony Interactive recently launched PlayStation Productions, a studio tasked with adapting the company’s video game properties into films and television shows, according to The Hollywood Reporter. PlayStation Productions is headed by Asad Qizilbash and overseen by SIE chairman of Worldwide Studios Shawn Layden. It’s reportedly already working on its first slate of projects on the [...]

  • Game of Thrones Finale

    'Game of Thrones' Cast Thanks Fans in Emotional Farewell Video

    And now their watch (and ours) has ended. After eight years and eight seasons, “Game of Thrones” came to a close on Sunday night. The series finale certainly split diehard fans who have been invested in the journeys of their favorite characters, but it will be hard to replace HBO’s beloved fantasy series. In honor [...]

  • 'Game of Thrones' Series Finale Sets

    'Game of Thrones' Finale Sets New Series High With Staggering 19.3 Million Viewers

    The “Game of Thrones” series finale ratings are here and they are — as you’d expect — staggering. Across HBO, HBO Go, and HBO NOW, the conclusion of the megahit fantasy series drew 19.3 million viewers, overtaking the previous series high of 18.4 million viewers that was set just last week. In addition, 13.6 million [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content