CHICAGO - John Mahoney is known to most television fans for playing Frasier Crane's father on the long-running series "Frasier," but the actor has spent much of his time in the years since the show ended pursuing roles on stage.
Mahoney, 73, has done some TV roles since "Frasier" ended in 2004 - like playing Betty White's boyfriend on "Hot in Cleveland" - but he said the theater is home.
"You just get such better parts on stage and that's primarily what I've done," he said in an interview. "I'm almost never out of work and it's almost always on stage."
The Tony-winning actor's latest stint is at Northlight Theatre in the Chicago suburb of Skokie, where he stars in "Chapatti." The piece is by Irish playwright Christian O'Reilly and tells the story of a man living in Dublin with his dog named Chapatti. It runs through April 13 before going to Galway, Ireland.
The play's director, Northlight Theatre artistic director BJ Jones, said Mahoney isn't pretentious and describes him as "a real Chicago kind of guy."
"He just likes to work," Jones said. "It's in his genes. It's in his DNA. He's the same guy he was before 'Frasier' and all of the films he's done."
Mahoney came to acting in the middle of his life. He said he was 37 when he found himself unfulfilled in his job editing a medical journal. He decided to enroll in acting classes, remembering that he played Polonius in "Hamlet" at age 12.
"I thought, 'Why don't I try that again and see if this is what I should be doing,'" Mahoney said. "It was like life was just waiting for me to make that decision."
Mahoney was invited to join Chicago's famed Steppenwolf Theatre Company, home to actors like John Malkovich and Joan Allen.
In 1985 he starred in the Steppenwolf play "Orphans" directed by Gary Sinise. That production went to New York and the exposure "kicked off my career," Mahoney said. The next year he won the Tony Award for featured actor in a play for "The House of Blue Leaves."
After that, Mahoney said, he didn't have to audition for roles anymore.
Mahoney said he was a little leery when he heard about "Frasier" because he had previously done television shows that were canceled after a handful of episodes. But once he read the script, Mahoney said he was in. He calls it the "defining moment" of his career.
"I'm very proud to have 'Frasier' as my television legacy," Mahoney said. "I've done a lot of good television myself. But still I think nothing can quite compare to 'Frasier.'"
His role as retired police officer Martin Crane with his lovable terrier Eddie earned Mahoney Gold-en Globe and Emmy nominations.