Kelly Park, one of the directors of Paramount+‘s revival of Frasier, was a fan of the series first, years before she ever became a director.
“I am one of the biggest Frasier fans from day one,” she said to Shadow and Act. “I just loved his journey. And it’s interesting because here I am, this Black woman from Philly, like, how can you relate? How can you relate to this man? But the family dynamic and who he is as a human being I totally understood and related to. My mom was It’s kind of like his dad in a way and my sister’s kind of like Niles. So I had that thing that was in common.”
She talked more about what it’s like to be a Black fan of something that people might not typically assume Black people like. One example that came up in conversation was the podcast Black People Love Paramore, a podcast that hypes up the atypical (but not really atypical) loves Black people have for alternative culture. Park loved hearing about the podcast and related it to how her love for Frasier highlights how Black people can’t be put in just one box.
“I love Frasier because it’s smart. It’s funny. It’s genuine. I can relate to it. I can just relate to his, to his energy, his self-deprecation, to the dynamics of his son and his family, the uncomfortableness of his skin, just being a human being, his story is a human story to me,” she said. “I grew up in Philadelphia, went to Quaker schools, which [are] private school[s], very small classrooms. I was the only Black kid in the class. I’m surrounded by all white kids. But then I went home, I lived in the hood on Germantown Avenue, raised by a single mom. So I had this duality, which I always called my superpower.”
“So I had this super Black mom…Black Panther mother, [and] I went to this private school. So I learned both ways of living and learning how to navigate in the world,” she continued. “[W]e as people, as Black people, can love everything, we can love all of it because I am proof, I am living proof. I love Paramore, I love Frasier, I love sailing…It’s interesting because we are viewed a lot of times in just a box. So it was important for me when I got the gig to direct Frasier. I told everybody, I told them all because I was the only Black woman to direct this revival. And it was important for everyone that looks like me to see that it can be done, that I understand the sensibility. I understand the tone, [a show with] a majority white cast and I still understood it. So it’s proof in the pudding.”
What’s also important is how Kelsey Grammer, the star and executive producer of the series, has also given back to the culture by executive producing two of the biggest Black TV series, Girlfriends and The Game. Park called Grammer’s involvement in Black television history “a beautiful thing.”
“I’m very grateful and thankful and honored to know that Kelsey helped to champion a very funny show, Girlfriends, a Black show about Black love and the dynamic of sisterhood in our culture,” she said. “It’s pretty incredible that I had a conversation with Kelsey and he was like, ‘You know what, you are wonderful with what you’re doing and how you express yourself and how you want things. This is what I’m looking for in human beings when they come to lead a show.’ So he saw me and I think that was really special that he really, truly saw, and not just because I’m Black, but because I’m me and because I had everything that I had, all of the components.”
Park said that working with the writers and the cast led to the show having the same feeling the original show had back in the 1990s.
“I mean, the writers and the cast, they all nailed it to me because it just picked up like there was no missing time and Kelsey Grammer just was Frasier from day one to now. What a dream, what a blessing because, you know, Kelsey is also a director. So to have him on set with me and both of our minds working in this collaborative spirit was just wonderful,” she said. “And he really appreciated the fact that I knew the show so well, I understood the characters, the tone, the energy, the pacing. We got along really well and it was just a great, great moment in time for me. It was one of those things. I mean, it’s an iconic show and then there’s me and it’s like, what me and iconic show. It’s like, what? It was crazy. Amazing.”
Park said that getting the tone of the sitcom is important because, if you’re a longtime fan of sitcoms, you might recognize how sitcoms have changed over the years. While there are some sitcoms out there that have become part of our nightly routines, the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s were the heyday of having sitcoms in which all the characters felt like people you knew.
“We grew up on those sitcoms that really had the heart, the actors really knew [their characters], well, you actually thought the actors were these people. I mean, from The Jeffersons to The Facts of Life to…The Wonder Years, Family Ties, all those sitcoms…had a live studio audience, which really lends to the energy and it really gives to the actors and because they know the characters too, you know what I mean?” she said. “They know the flow and they understand it as well. So to see this come together like this, I mean, these writers of this of this new revival, they delved deep into what was and it’s almost like a dormant seed you put a seed in the ground and you’re just waiting for it to flower. That’s kind of what it felt like to me, that they watered it nourished it so well, and they really kind of allowed the actors to you know find the people that were within these characters and they nailed it to me. I mean, every single one of them really had their own take on who these people were. So it just reminds me of that old school sitcom feeling, you know? Even in their silence sometimes, their reactions were in character. It was, it was off the hook.”
Because of that mindset, the Frasier revival feels like no time has past.
“The stories all make sense. The jokes land. It’s smart,” Park said. “They know each other. They’re reacting. It’s incredible. It’s like if we were flies on the wall and that’s how we should feel. You should feel like a fly on the wall sitting in someone’s home, you know, getting all this information. So that’s how I feel all the time when I’m when I watched Frasier and when I directed it.”
“I am a huge sitcom fan and I’m a sitcom director and I love it,” Park continued, adding how she, like other sitcom fans, want the old-school sitcom to bring back some wholesome energy the world feels like it needs right now.
“I’m going to help champion that. I’m going to be on the good foot of helping to bring that energy back because we need it,” she said.
Frasier is now available for streaming on Paramount+.