Kelsey Grammer
Conservative actor Kelsey Grammer says his political views may have cost him an Emmy. Reuters

"Frasier" star Kelsey Grammer makes an abrupt change of direction in his upcoming new TV series, playing a ruthless, power-hungry mayor in a drama series that he calls "the greatest time of my life creatively."

After years of playing comedy roles on television, Grammer, 56, said on Thursday he had decided to return to his roots for the October drama series "Boss" on cable channel Starz.

"It has always been in my mind to play a more serious role. I didn't start out as a comic actor. I started out in classical theater, playing tragedies. That was my first love..."

"This particular role couldn't have taken place directly after 'Frasier'. It would have been too big of a jolt," Grammer told television journalists gathered here for a bi-annual meeting of critics.

Grammer stars in "Boss" as Tom Kane, the brooding, manipulative, fictional mayor of Chicago who will do anything to stay in power. But he also has a degenerative brain disease that he is trying to keep secret from family and political foes alike.

Grammer portrayed arrogant psychiatrist Dr.Frasier Crane on the comedies "Cheers" and later "Frasier" for 20 years. But his follow-up TV comedies "Back to You" and "Hank" were commercial flops, and Grammer switched gears last year to appear in the Broadway musical "La Cage aux Folles."

His personal life hit the headlines last year in a messy public divorce from third wife Camille, while she was appearing in the reality show "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills".

Grammer did not address the divorce, nor his fourth marriage in March to flight attendant Kayte Walsh. But he said a serious heart attack in 2008 had been the catalyst for change both personally and professionally.

"I spent the next several months looking at my own life and I cast my imaginative net over the next 30 or 40 years, and I decided I didn't want to have that story ("Frasier") be my last story and so I decided it was time to make changes that involved my career as well as my personal life," he said.

Grammer said he personally asked for his 2009 TV comedy "Hank" to be axed in its first season because it was not working. But he described the ending of the show as "a catalyst for the most extraordinary journey of my life on a personal and professional level."

"Boss" makes its debut on Starz on October 21.