There was a time when Ted Danson swore off sitcoms. After the failure of Ink, a sitcom in which he starred with his wife, actress Mary Steenburgen, Danson recalls, "I was definitely through with CBS, and through with sitcoms. Really, I was telling all my friends, 'That's it'."
Apparently that wasn't it. Danson is the star of the new CBS sitcom Becker, in which he plays a dedicated doctor with a gruff exterior who speaks his mind about anything. The program is broadcast Mondays at 9:30 p.m. EST/PST.
"Well, you know, the little tramp that I amÂ…" quips Danson. "In came this great material. David Hackel wrote this amazing script. CBS loved the script before I was involved." (Hackel is a former writer and producer for Frasier.)
Through his experience on series television, Danson says, he has learned to appreciate the people who write the scripts.
"I believe that you don't develop material through yourself, unless you are Bill Cosby or somebody like that, who knows his own voice so well that they can write it and generate it," Danson explains. "If you're a run-of-the-mill actor, [the key is to] find a really good writer who has passionately written something for himself, and then you go, 'Please, may I be in it?'"
In a similar vein, Danson lobbied Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg for the opportunity to play a small role in the movie Private Ryan.
"I said, 'Let me do anythingÂ… Let me just be in it. Don't pay me'," he recalls. "I didn't know what I was doing until I showed up [on the set]."
For 12 years, he was one of television's big comedy stars as the womanizing bartender Sam Malone on Cheers. He was a nine-time Emmy nominee and twice a winner. He admits that he didn't watch Cheers while he was doing it or in syndication, until recently. "I started to watch Cheers late at night," he says. "It is a great show. I love having my friends make me laugh."
The actor gets the most recognition in public from Cheers fans. "I never go to bars, and I know [nothing] about sports," he says, "and I've had to develop pat phrases (like 'Hey hey!' and 'Yeah oh'). I walk by a bar, and a bunch of sports fans who have had too many [drinks] -- they immediately think I am absolutely one of them."
Danson recently hit the half-century mark, and McEwen asked him: What's the best part about being 50?
"More balance in my life," says Danson. "Things are a little more important than my career, which is nice. A little more of inward focusÂ… I used to pretend to be who I am now. Now I am him. Thats the plus of being 50. I'm more comfortable with myself. You're probably getting sick, but it's the truth."
Because of his success with Cheers, there is no financial need for Danson to keep working. But the actor says there are other needs to consider.
"I do need to work," he explains. "I could arrange my life so as not to have to work, but I love to act. I love to be creative, and for me, it's a joy to go to work every day. Really, I mean it."