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TV Times

March 4-10, 2000

"Daphne, You drive me quackers"

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By Joyce Randolph

It looks like loves Jung dream will finally come true. Daphne discovers this week that Niles Crane is head over designer shod heels in love with her - and it's all down to a Freudian Slip. Frasier's new painkillers have had such a catastrophic effect that he blurts out Niles's long-held secrets. Jane Leeves who plays Daphne reckons that that Niles may at last storm the citadel of her womanhood. "The teasing has gone on long enough" she says. Actor David Hyde Pierce is ecstatic too - for as he tells TV Times in this exclusive interview, the part of Niles might have been written for him. In fact it was...

It's said that you look a little like Frasier's Kelsey Grammer, but there had to be more to it than that to get the part of Niles. Was it a had audition?

No, the woman who was casting the show brought in tapes of me and my picture and she really pushed them to consider me. She said "If you ever have a brother for Frasier...." You see they weren't planning on having on! So, I went in. there was no audition. I sat and chatted with them for 20 minutes and they said that they were maybe considering a brother and that Frasier would be Freudian and Niles would be Jungian and that's about all the information that I got. I went home and called my agent and said "Well that seemed to go ok" and she said "It must have they've offered you the part!"

You've appeared in some big films, from Nixon to Sleepless in Seattle. Could you see yourself staying on Frasier forever or do you want to be a movie star?

That's a tricky one. Frasier, I think, will last several more years and I'm happy to stick with it until the end. But I'm doing movies because I don't want people to always think of me as Niles. I'm very mindful that life doing a television show, when that show is very good, is extraordinary. For a start, you don't have to sit in a trailer for eight hours a day while they sort out the lighting and then go on and say Hello. On Frasier you get a live audience and very reasonable hours. It's a killer when you are doing something like ER. With each picture I do, I get closer to finding out why actors do movies - and it's largely because they have ambitions to direct. Ultimately, film is not an actors medium. Yes, the big stars are like the royalty of our country, but the real control lies in the hands of directors and the editors. Your performance is handled and shaped by them, and I don't like that. I like making those decisions.

Do you have any ambitions to writer or produce or direct in the future?

Boy, a lot of people say to me that I should direct - maybe they don't like my acting. But I like getting a response. It's possible - it's all possible in the future - but I'm totally artistically fulfilled as an actor right now.

Do you prefer doing TV, movies or theatre?

I prefer theatre but TV, the way I'm doing now with Frasier, is great. The audience comes into the studio and watches a show that's structured like a play - there's virtually no difference. Oh, except that the actors got paid! Movies are weird, and I enjoy the atmosphere, but to be honest, I'd rather have an audience.

How do you manage doing movies and Frasier at the same time?

We have from April to July off, so that's when I do a movie. Theoretically, you can something during the show if it's shot in the city, but that's tough.

You said Frasier episodes are like plays - do you think that theatrical flavour comes over well on TV?

Well, that's certainly what the editor and directors are after. They want to capture for a home audience what the live audience is experiencing. It's not like suddenly they're going to cut your lines because they thought it might be fun to look at flowers instead. As an actor, you know pretty much what the script is going to be about. By the time we shoot it on Tuesday night, we've gone through any changes and we know what it's all about. Movies can change a huge amount in the editing room, long after you picked up your cheque and went home.

What makes you an actor?

Wow! Some genetic flaw, I think. Actually you know what, there is something genetic about, because my dad set out to be an actor. He ended up as an insurance man.

So what did you folks say when you said you wanted to be an actor?

Well first off I said I wanted to be a concert pianist. So they sat me down in my living room with the encyclopaedia opened at Albert Schweitzer ad pointed out to me that he was a musician, but he was also a world renown scientist and he did all these other things and "We don't want to narrow our focus too soon do we?" Then, half way through college I went home and said "Well, good news. I'm not going to be a concert pianist." Then I said "I'm going to New York to be an actor," and I don't know where they opened the encyclopaedia to at that point but it was too late.

When you were little were you funny?

Yes. My dad had a wacky sense of humour and my mum had a very dry wit. I think that I'm a combination of those two. I have a brother and two sisters who are all very funny.

Did you ever get in trouble because you were funny?

No, being funny was usually a way out of trouble. I remember once that I had a gym class where they had set up an obstacle course. Oh, there were parallel bars and things you ran up and things that you swung on and I did the whole thing sort of inverted. If there were parallel bars I ran under them instead of jumping on them. I got a great laugh from my classmates and an F from my gym teacher. The laughs were more important at the time.

Do you have an interests that most people wouldn't expect from you ?

Well, I kick box. Most people don't expect that. We have an episode coming where Niles Kick boxes.

Do you secretly long to play Hamlet?

Oh my God, no. Hamlet would be fun to do, but my idea role is the one I get to do every week...

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Posted 3/1/00