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Interview: ‘Frasier’ star Kelsey Grammer talks about starring in Amazon’s new show debuting tomorrow

The Last Tycoon Amazon

You won’t ever catch Kelsey Grammer glued to a smartphone to stream a TV show.

“I’d rather sit in front of a big ol’ screen in my living room and have a bowl of popcorn and just get immersed in something,” the veteran “Frasier” and “Cheers” actor told BGR in advance of the July 28 premier of the new series he can next be seen in — “The Last Tycoon.”

It’s a nine-episode prestige drama set amid the heady glamour of Old Hollywood and based on the final, unfinished work of F. Scott Fitzgerald.

The studio behind it is Amazon – sharing co-production with TriStar Television — which means the series will as usual be available to stream in its entirety Friday for Amazon Prime customers. And even though that doesn’t line up with his own personal consumption habits, Grammer is still happy streaming TV options exist — and that big tech companies like Amazon support the teams behind them — all the same.

“Listen, they throw money at this thing. That’s a good thing,” Grammer said about Amazon, which may also soon boast more Prime subscribers than the number of U.S. households that still pay for cable or satellite TV packages.

That’s according to the investment firm Morningstar, which estimates there are almost 79 million subscribers to Prime — Amazon’s service that provides free two-day shipping in addition to other add-on benefits like Amazon’s streaming TV and movie options.

Business Insider, for comparison, has cited an estimate from S&P Global that there are about 90 million households currently paying for cable or satellite TV. Amazon, for its part, continues using Prime content to help keep a pretty obvious flywheel spinning — spend big to make premium TV shows and movies, which hopefully lures customers to sign up for Prime, at which point those customers would then keep filling up that online shopping cart.

Free TV and movies, to be sure, aren’t the only lure Amazon dangles to win and keep Prime subscribers. But in addition to producing content for customers to enjoy, meanwhile, it’s also a reward on the creative side.

“(Amazon) is paying actors,” Grammer said. “That’s a nice thing. It’s always good to know there’s somebody out there willing to pay actors to do their job. I do think it’s great that entertainment has found its way to this place where so many seem to be satisfied with it. Or at least, they watch. They’re watching, and that’s the great thing.”

The Last Tycoon was written and directed by Academy Award-nominee Billy Ray, whose writing resume has included “Captain Phillips” and “The Hunger Games.” Handling showrunner duties are Christopher Keyser of “Tyrant” and “Party of Five,” along with Ray.

The show follows a studio executive named Monroe Stahr — played by Matt Bomer — as he wrestles for the soul of a movie studio with his boss, the imposing Pat Brady, played by Grammer. Other castmates include Rosemarie DeWitt and Lily Collins.

As far as the look and feel, studio hotshots portrayed in the series are sharply dressed, with polished shoes and double-breasted suits. The women, redolent of 1930s Hollywood chic — all of it thanks in part to the participation of Mad Men’s costume designer Janie Bryant.

Grammer was on NBC’s “Today Show” this week and reflected on the fidelity to the style of the era — how, for example, in one particular scene set at the Academy Awards of the time, he watched the cars pulling up, the women filing out in their gowns, and for a moment it felt just like being there.

“I think the look here will pull some people in, and the nostalgic vibe about how beautiful Old Hollywood was, and the glamour of it,” Grammer said. “I do believe there’s a lot of appeal in that. Once they get past that, they’re going to want some meat and potatoes, and I think we’ve got plenty for them.

“As far as parts, I’m one of those guys who thinks you don’t have to necessarily have done a ton of research, because — I think there’s a sort of universality about all human experience. I think it’s always bigger than what my own personal experience has been. It doesn’t hurt that I have personal experience. It might support the idea of this character. And when that bubbles up, in the midst of playing something, it’s like a little credibility that comes along for the ride. A little life experience that filters in.”

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Andy Meek is a reporter who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming. Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.