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Woody Harrelson on Landing the Role of Woody Boyd on 'Cheers'

Woody Harrelson on Landing the Role of Woody Boyd on 'Cheers'

By Billy Ingram

In this interview with Howard Stern, Woody Harrelson remembers how he got the career changing role of Woody on the hit sitcom Cheers (1982-1993) that had been running for three years on NBC before he joined the cast.

The actor who played the beloved but befuddled Coach, Nicholas Colasanto, had passed away in 1985 so the show needed another dimwitted character, for which Harrelson's Woody fit perfectly.

Debuting on September 30, 1982, although critically acclaimed, Cheers was very nearly canceled during its first season when it ranked almost dead last in the ratings (74 out 0f 77 shows). Cheers writer Ken Levine has surmised that, with the network floundering in 1983, "[NBC] had nothing else better to replace it with."

NBC gambled and gave the series what became a prime timeslot, leading to top ten ratings when Harrelson came on board. The actor hadn't even considered television, he was slated to return to New York to star in Neil Simon's Broadway hit Biloxi Blues. A chance audition changed his plans.

"I was in LA finishing that movie [Wildcats]", Harrelson explains. "The opportunity came up to audition for this television show where there's a character called Woody who is from Indiana where I had just gone to college."

An actor friend had auditioned for the part and suggested Harrelson do the same. "I was like, dude, I'm going back to do Broadway because the guys I had been understudying had been fired so I was gonna go do my dream which was Broadway... I wasn't thinking to do television."

Harrelson had never seen Cheers, "I watched one or two episodes and I was like, 'Yes, this is a great show.'" He describes the experience as, "The best. All those guys are so fun."

Cheers earned 28 Primetime Emmy Awards from a record of 117 nominations, ranked No. 18 on TV Guide's 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time, while GQ magazine's 2013 reader poll ranked Cheers as the best TV comedy show of all time.

Esquire magazine said in 2018, "For all its highs and lows, Cheers represents a pinnacle of American pop culture, culminating in a record-breaking finale that caught the attention of millions of viewers. Twenty-five years after its final episode, Cheers remains one of the great American sitcoms."


Cast of the 1980s sitcom Cheers

Woody Harrelson Reflects on 'Cheers' 35 Years After Its Debut:

 

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