Frasier almost had a star from Friends in a big role. However, if she had starred on Fraiser, she would not have been on Friends!
“Frasier turned out to be the easiest pilot that Greenberg has ever cast. Except when it came to the role of Frasier’s producer, Roz, which, as many Friends fans know, was originally filled by Lisa Kudrow. “[The producers] said, ‘We’ll see any type, age, ethnicity,’ so I brought them all of these great comic actresses, and we whittled it down,” recalls Greenberg. “Kelsey [Grammer] came in and read with five or six of them, and our two favorites were Lisa Kudrow and Peri Gilpin. We tested them at NBC, and they chose Lisa. She was great.” But when a test audience was brought in for a pilot rehearsal, the producers detected an imbalance in the show. “There was so much good confrontation in the scenes at home and a palpable sort of tension,” she says. “At the radio station, not so much. And they figured out it was because of Lisa’s version of Roz. You could see Kelsey [as Frasier] was going to be able to railroad her and do what he wanted. She was sort of spacey, and she was funny. But there was not going to be the conflict there. Plus, her version of Roz interfered a little with Jane Leeves’ version of Daphne, which was a little daffy. There were two daffy women, and when you’re doing auditions, you don’t see it all together; you do them in little puzzle pieces, and then you fit them together.”
At this point in the process, Jim Burrows, the show’s director/producer, had an idea. “Not knowing who else tested for the part, [he] said, ‘You know who you need in this part? You need Peri Gilpin,’ remembers Greenberg. “He had worked with her a few times, and he said, ‘You don’t f— around with Peri. She holds her ground.’ They knew that she could go toe-to-toe with Kelsey, so we made the change, and it was horrible because I’m friends with Lisa. We loved Lisa. She didn’t do anything wrong, but I had to make that call to her agent. And then I spoke to her, and she was, of course, the classiest possible person in the world. She said she understood. … It was a dark day.” After conferring with Gilpin’s agent, Greenberg then broke the good news to her himself. “I found Peri was eating at Orso [a former Hollywood mainstay], and I had her brought to the phone in the bar, and said, ‘What are you doing tomorrow? ‘” he recalls. “She said, ‘Nothing.’ And I said, ‘You want to come be our Roz?’ When I showed up for rehearsal the next morning, she was wearing Lisa’s costume saying Roz’s lines. They didn’t even have time to dry clean the clothes. She was just Roz. That turned out to be a happy ending finally for everyone, because the next year, Lisa got Friends.”
Would you have wanted to see Lisa Kudrow on Fraiser? Tell us what you think.