Celebrity Then And Now
Publication: Albany Daily News. Posted by Lexi Schwartz
Celebrity Then And Now
Posted by Lexi Schwartz
Currently Known For:
Actor, Director and Comedian
1993 - 2004
April 3, 1959
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“I was chased through a chateau in the Loire Valley by a bunch of American school girls.” David Hyde Pierce is an actor, comedian and director who first gained notoriety in the early 1990s as the opera-loving psychiatrist Dr. Niles Crane in NBC’s successful comedy series Frasier. Earning four Primetime Emmy Awards for his work on the series, many thought Pierce disappeared from the spotlight after the show ended in 2004 but that wasn’t the case at all as he rekindled his passion for the stage as a director and actor. Over the last decade, his talents have been rewarded with a 2007 Tony Award for Best Performance as a Leading Actor in the musical production of Curtains. Along the way, he starred in the psychological thriller The Perfect Host, directed the musical It Shoulda Been You, came out as gay in 2007 and, most recently, appeared in the docudrama miniseries When We Rise. But, how exactly did the New Yorker end up in one of television’s biggest sitcoms and what does the future have in store for the 58-year-old actor and director? We thought you’d never ask!
David Hyde Pierce was born on April 3, 1969 in Saratoga Springs, New York where his father was an aspiring actor and his mother was an insurance agent. Learning to play the organ as a child, Pierce frequently played at the Bethesda Episcopal Church and knew early on that he wanted to be a performer as he anxiously awaited his next chance to take the stage. Eventually graduating from high school, Pierce was accepted into Yale University where he tried his hand as an actor and director in student productions of Waiting for Godot, H.M.S. Pinafore, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Saint Joan. He even directed the production of Princess Ida for Yale’s Gilbert & Sullivan Society.
After graduation, Pierce knew his next step was to move to the heart of New York City and actively look for work on the stage, which proved harder than he imagined as he took on jobs as a security guard and a Bloomingdale’s salesperson to pay the bills. In the meantime, he refused to give up on his dreams and honed his talents at Michael Howard Studios before landing his first part in an Off-Broadway production of Hamlet. In 1982, he finally saw his dreams come true when he made his Broadway debut in Christopher Durang’s Beyond Therapy.
Spending the rest of the decade getting acquainted with Broadway, Pierce landed guest parts in episodes of Spenser: For Hire and Crime Story in 1987 and closed the decade with small roles in films like The Appointments of Dennis Jennings, Bright Lights, Big City, Crossing Delancey, Rocket Gibraltar and Vampire’s Kiss. With his career obviously shifting more toward television and film, Pierce caught a huge break in the early 1990s when he was cast as a Congressman in the political comedy, The Powers That Be. Although the show was a favorite among critics, audiences couldn’t connect with the storyline and the series was canceled after its second season.
Fortunately, it didn’t take Pierce long to land on his feet when Cheers producers started working on a spinoff starring Kelsey Grammer. Casting directors were struggling to find someone who resembled Grammer enough to play his younger brother and knew they’d hit the jackpot when they met Pierce during the audition. Casting him as the tightly wound, opera-loving psychiatrist Dr. Niles Crane, Pierce excelled in the role and earned four Emmy Award wins with a record-breaking 11 nominations throughout the show’s entire run from 1993 to 2004. He contributes part of his success to his costars and shooting in front of a live audience. “Between the fact that we had a live audience, the quality of the writing, which was theatrical and most of the cast being theater actors. From day one we related to each other as if we were doing a play,” he said. “I would just say it was like doing a play a week doing Frasier.”
Going on to appear in films like Sleepless in Seattle, Addams Family Values, Nixon and Full Frontal, Pierce made cameos in Caroline in the City, The Simpsons and Saturday Night Live before wrapping up Frasier in 2004 and returning to the stage. While many fans thought he disappeared completely, Pierce couldn’t ignore his passion for theater or his fear of being typecast as Niles. “I went to musicals, which is something I had never done before,” he said. “If I had done another TV show or another film I would have to have done something very close to Niles or something very different and people wouldn’t have accepted it. But the theater is the thing that allowed me to expand very quickly away from what I had been doing on Frasier.”
For Pierce, life after Frasier has been incredibly busy as he starred in productions of Spamalot, A Wonderful Life and Curtains while openly coming out as a gay, which put him in the spotlight once again. Confirming his relationship with television producer, director and writer Brian Hargrove, Pierce gave a heartfelt speech and acknowledged Hargrove as his partner of 24 years during his acceptance speech at the 2007 Tony Awards. The couple married a year later before Proposition 8 banned all gay marriage in California.
Today, Pierce and Hargrove are still together and are happily living in New York City where Pierce recently wrapped up an award-nominated performance as Nate Martin in a production of A Life. Making cameos in The Good Wife, Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp and in Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later, he’s once again returned to the stage as Horace Vandergelder in a 2017 production of Hello, Dolly! For Pierce, the transition back to the stage is natural and gives him everything he wants and more. “It’s the real connection. Not only with the audience, but the real connection with time,” he says. “It’s a little bit like living in New York. Living here, I’m constantly engaged walking down the street. You don’t have the chance to blunder through. It’s the same with theater.