Following the cast's sweet reunion at the 2023 Emmy Awards, catch up with the Boston barflies
Everybody has always known their names.
The famous faces of Cheers have seen their stars rise in the decades since the beloved series ended in 1993. At the 2023 Emmy Awards in January of 2024, several of the cast members reunited to present together, with Ted Danson, Kelsey Grammer, Rhea Perlman, John Ratzenberger and George Wendt sharing memories on a set made to look like a bar, à la their cozy Boston hangout.
"Ted, don't you just think about it as a long overdue class reunion, huh?" Ratzenberger said. "Being together brings back some great memories from show we're all very proud of."
Here, take a walk down memory lane with the stars of NBC's Cheers, then and now.
Ted Danson as Sam Malone
As Sam Malone, a former baseball star and the owner of Cheers, Ted Danson kept "everyone's sanity" on set, costar John Ratzenberger told PEOPLE in 1987. "He absorbs the angst."
Best known for his part on The Doctors prior to Cheers, the San Diego native earned 11 Emmy consecutive nominations and two wins for his work. After leaving the bar he went on to much success, starring alongside Tom Selleck and Steve Guttenberg in Three Men and a Baby and its sequel Three Men and a Little Lady, and leading a host of TV series including Ink, Becker, Bored to Death, CSI, The Good Place, Curb Your Enthusiasm and Mr. Mayor.
Off-screen, he has been married to actress Mary Steenburgen since 1995. He has two children, daughters Kate and Alexis, from his previous marriage to Casey Coates.
Shelley Long as Diane Chambers
Shelley Long's graduate student Diane Chambers stumbled into the bar after a breakup and took a job as a waitress — though ultimately became a love interest for Ted Danson's Sam. Though rumors of a rift between the two stars swirled, especially as Long left the show in 1987, "we did our jobs with a caring for each other," Long told PEOPLE that year. "That doesn't mean that there weren't days that were harder than others."
The Indiana native, who came up through Chicago's Second City improv troupe, had a few roles prior to Cheers, though the series launched her into superstardom. She earned five Emmy nominations and one win for Cheers, and went on to series including Good Advice and Modern Family, in addition to stepping into the role of Carol Brady in the updated Brady Bunch movies.
Long has been married twice; she has one daughter, actress Juliana, with ex Bruce Tyson.
Rhea Perlman as Carla Tortelli
PEOPLE once described Rhea Perlman's Carla Tortelli as "man-hungry" and "tough-as-nails." The cocktail waitress was Sam's eternal sidekick and a mother of eight.
For her, Cheers "was huge," the New York City-born actress told PEOPLE in 2022. "And I wouldn't have had any of the career that I — well, who knows what I would've had? Nobody knows what doesn't happen, but it was the best job in the world." She scored 10 Emmy nods and four wins for her work as Carla. The role opened doors to parts on TV series like Pearl, Ally McBeal and Hung, plus costar Kirstie Alley's Kirstie and more recently, The Mindy Project. She also had a touching part in 2023's Barbie movie.
Fun fact: Perlman's father, the late actor Philip Perlman, also acted on Cheers as a regular patron of the bar.
John Ratzenberger as Cliff Calvin
John Ratzenberger's know-it-all mail carrier Cliff Calvin was a bar regular, spewing trivia whether the other patrons wanted to hear it or not.
He was busy in movies prior to Cheers, with roles in Star Wars: Episode V — The Empire Strikes Back, Ragtime and Gandhi.
He actually made up the role of Cliff during his audition. "I had already worked 10 years in London, doing my own comedy shows, touring through Europe," the Connecticut native shared in a 2014 interview with Fox 11 Los Angeles. "And I really just wanted them to know that I knew what I was doing. So as I walked out I asked, 'Do you have a bar know-it-all?' And then I just launched into this character." He earned two Emmy nominations for the role.
Aside from Cheers, Ratzenberger is perhaps best known for having voiced a character in every single Pixar movie. "It's good luck for me," he shared with Fox. "The beauty of Pixar, they do things the old-fashioned way. They have a very high standard. So by the time you walk into the recording booth, the writer or director, they know every nuance, every comma, so I just simply listen. It's their child, I'm just babysitting." He also appeared on TV series including 8 Simple Rules and Legit.
He has been married to Julie Blichfeldt since 2012 and has two children from his first marriage to Georgia Stiny.
George Wendt as Norm Peterson
Chicago native George Wendt also came up through Second City, joining Cheers as accountant and bar regular Norm Peterson after a handful of TV and movie roles.
In a chat on Marc Summers Unwrapped, Wendt recalled being offered a "small" role in the pilot, with a one-word line: "Beer."
The casting director gave him more to read, and he was ultimately offered a role, which he couldn't take since he was involved in a different CBS series, Making the Grade. He was allowed to work as a guest star on the Cheers pilot, however — and when Making the Grade wasn't picked up by a network, he was offered his iconic Cheers part, dropping what Summers called "Norm-isms" through many an episode.
A six-time Emmy nominee for his work as Norm, he went on to his own The George Wendt Show, SNL, Modern Men, Clipped and some TV voice work, and films including The Independents, Forever Young and even Spice World. Like several of his costars he also did Broadway, with roles in Art, Hairspray, Elf and Breakfast at Tiffany's.
Wendt has been married to Bernadette Birkett, a Second City alumna, since 1978, and together they have five children.
Kelsey Grammer as Dr. Frasier Crane
Kelsey Grammer's psychiatrist Dr. Frasier Crane arrived at Cheers in 1984, first as a love interest to Shelley Long's Diane but ultimately marrying Bebe Neuwirth's Lilith. He earned two Emmy nominations for the role, but more notably moved on to his ever-popular spinoff Frasier, for which he scored 10 Emmy nominations and four wins.
He, too, was fairly new to television when he landed Cheers, first starring on Broadway in Macbeth and Othello. But he holds a soft spot for what he called his "first job in Hollywood."
"It's such a wonderful show and an institution," Grammer told USA Today at the 2023 Emmys. "It deserves its place in history."
Aside from Frasier, the Virgin Islands native has starred in TV series including Back to You, Hank, Boss and even The Simpsons, for which he also won an Emmy as the voice of Sideshow Bob. Most recently, he's back on screen as Dr. Frasier Crane once again in a Paramount+ revival of the beloved series. He's also stayed busy on Broadway in Finding Neverland and La Cage aux Folles (for which he earned a Tony nomination).
Bebe Neuwirth as Dr. Lilith Sternin
Though Bebe Neuwirth's big TV break was as Frasier's deadpan wife Dr. Lilith Sternin on Cheers, the New Jersey native and classically trained dancer was already big on Broadway when she joined the cast, having starred in A Chorus Line, Little Me and Sweet Charity, for which she won a Tony Award.
"It's really fun to play Lilith," she told PEOPLE in 1991 of her pivot. "We have some things in common, like honesty." She won back-to-back Emmys for the role, and followed on-screen husband Kelsey Grammer to Frasier, earning one more Emmy nomination there. She appears on the Paramount+ revival, too.
In the years since Cheers ended she's starred on everything from Deadline to Madam Secretary, and in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. She also returned to the stage in Damn Yankees, Fosse, Funny Girl, The Addams Family, Chicago and soon a revival of Cabaret.
She has been married twice, wedding director Chris Calkins in 2009.
Woody Harrelson as Woody Boyd
Woody Harrelson's Woody Boyd joined Cheers in season 4 as a not-so-bright but very cute bartender. The Texas native earned six Emmy nominations and a win for the role.
He recalled almost passing on the role in an interview with Howard Stern, as Broadway was calling. "Everybody told me, you've gotta do this show," he recalled. "I'd never seen it, then I watched one or two episodes and I was like yes, this is a great show." Calling it "the best" gig, he said his costars were "so fun."
Harrelson had several film roles under his belt when he joined the show, and hasn't really stopped since, starring in The People vs. Larry Flynt, Anger Management, The Messenger, No Country for Old Men, The Hunger Games, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and Zombieland, picking up three Oscar nods along the way. He's been buzzing on TV again recently, too, on White House Plumbers and True Detective, for which he had two more Emmy nominations.
Harrelson has been married to Laura Louie since 2008; together they have thee daughters, Deni, Zoe and Makani.
Kirstie Alley as Rebecca Howe
Wichita native Kirstie Alley got her big break in 1987 as Rebecca Howe on Cheers, joining in season 6 following Shelley Long's exit.
“She waltzed in and danced out with everyone’s heart,” according to a 1987 PEOPLE article, which noted she showed up to work her first day dressed as Long (complete with a blonde wig!) to break the ice. In 1991 she took home the Emmy for best actress in a comedy for her role.
She went on to great success in movies and TV, notably on Veronica's Closet from 1997 to 2000 and in the 1989 favorite Look Who's Talking and 1999 cult classic Drop Dead Gorgeous. Alley also competed on the 2011 season of Dancing with the Stars.
On Dec. 5, 2022, Alley died of colon cancer at age 71.
Nicholas Colasanto as 'Coach' Ernie Pantusso
Nicholas Colasanto was one of the original cast members, starring alongside Ted Danson's Sam as bartender "Coach" Ernie Pantusso.
According to an EW profile, the Rhode Island native started on stage — a career U-turn as the World War II veteran was about to take a job abroad in oil — ultimately finding his place in television directing and dramatic movie acting. He landed the part of Coach on Cheers and earned three consecutive Emmy nominations, though died suddenly following a heart attack toward the end of season 3. He was 61.
His death opened the door for Woody Harrelson's Woody character — a pen pal of Coach's — though the loss was felt among viewers and the cast.
"On stage and off. He was the older, more experienced one of all of us," director James Burrows told EW. "Nick was Coach.”
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