A Disney actor stars in a newly-released blockbuster film that’s sweeping the nation, and regardless of what anyone thinks, he says he won’t apologize for the inspiration that led him to fully embrace the role.
Viewers who were old enough to watch, understand, and remember television sitcoms from the early 1990s will no doubt remember a series that ran on the NBC network from 1993 to 2004 about a cultured but uptight psychiatrist who reconnects with his father and brother in Seattle following his divorce. He hosts a nightly radio call-in show, during which he offers help to other Washingtonians navigating the challenges of living daily life. But as he’s only recently divorced, he, too, is learning to navigate life–now as a single man.
The show is, of course, Frasier, starring Kelsey Grammer, a sitcom on NBC that ran for 11 seasons from 1993 to 2004. The show was a spinoff from the wildly popular sitcom set in a Boston, Mass, bar where patrons came to drink, relax, and talk about the day’s events, Cheers. And though in the sitcoms, Grammer plays a man whose job is to help those around him, in real life, Grammer says someone has helped him navigate life’s trials and challenges–and he makes no apologies for saying so.
Kelsey Grammer’s parents divorced when he was only two years old, and he was raised by his mother and grandparents in New Jersey before moving later to Florida, though he still had a good relationship with his father, Frank Allen Grammer, Jr. Sadly, his beloved grandfather died from cancer, devastating Grammer. In 1968, in a rise in violence after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Grammer’s father was murdered during a home invasion in the U. S. Virgin Islands. Grammer was only 13.
Seven years later, when Grammer was only 20, his sister Karen was kidnapped and murdered. “I miss her in my bones,” Grammer wrote to the parole board in 2009, in response to the possible parole of his sister’s killer. “I was her big brother. I was supposed to protect her, [and] I could not. It very nearly destroyed me.”
During one of many parole hearings, Grammer said to his sister’s killer, “I accept your apology. I forgive you. However, I cannot give your release my endorsement. To give that a blessing would be a betrayal of my sister’s life.” Five years later, he would face multiple terrible tragedies on the same day, when two of his brothers, Stephen and Billy, died in a scuba diving accident in Saint Thomas.
Grammer would go on to become a successful actor, fully becoming his alter ego, Dr. Frasier Crane, beginning in Season 3 of Cheers and throughout the Frasier series. He also has many Disney credits on his professional resume, including voicing the Prospector, Stinky Pete, in Toy Story 2 (1999), and Doctor Frankeollie in the Mickey Mouse short, Runaway Brain. He also lent his voice to Dr. Ivan Krank in Teacher’s Pet (2004) and narrated Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas (1999).
Kelsey Grammer even combined his role as Dr. Crane with his love for Disney, reprising the role of the poignant and cultured psychiatrist in The Magical World of Disney television specials, Mickey’s 60th Birthday and Disneyland’s 35th Anniversary Celebration. He also played President Andrew Boone in the Touchstone Pictures film, Swing Vote (2008) and lent his voice to Sideshow Bob in 11 episodes of The Simpsons, now owned by Disney. Further, Grammer voiced Abraham Lincoln in The Ghost and Molly McGee, a Disney Channel series that began in 2021 and is still on the air today.
When speaking about the tragedies he’s suffered, Grammer says there’s been a lot of pain–but also a lot of joy–in his life. But the three-time Golden Globe and five-time Emmy winner doesn’t credit himself for his survival. Instead, he says it’s his faith that has preserved him, and last year, that faith led him to accept, and give life to, the starring role in a brand-new blockbuster film that is shattering the movie industry’s projections and expectations.
In Jesus Revolution, Grammer embraces his role as real-life pastor Chuck Smith, whose church in Costa Mesa, California, is in desperate need of a fresh wind and new life. Smith develops an unlikely friendship with a street preacher named Lonnie Frisbee (played by Jonathan Roumie), and the friendship brings Smith to the realization that his judgmental attitude toward hippies is wrong, ultimately leading him to come a full 180 degrees, welcoming the young people to his church with a sincere heart and open arms. Jesus Revolution follows the true story of the nationwide movement that began with a transformation in Smith’s heart, then in Smith’s church, and then across the country–the Jesus Movement of the late 1960s and early 70s that is classified by many historians as “the greatest spiritual awakening in American history.” The movement brought together Christians from many walks of life–some young, some old, some more traditional, and some more charismatic.
Only two years before the revival began, TIME Magazine published a wildly controversial cover story, found in the pages of its April 8, 1966, issue, complete with a cover that featured no images and only three words in bold red letters: “Is God Dead?” even though surveys at the time showed that 97% of Americans said they believed in God. But the faith movement was so undeniably powerful and so far-reaching, that TIME would publish–on the cover of its June 21, 1971 issue–an image depicting Jesus under a banner that read, “The Jesus Revolution.”
“There is an uncommon morning freshness to this movement,” the cover story reads in part, “a buoyant atmosphere of hope and love along with the usual rebel zeal. Their love seems more sincere than a slogan, deeper than the fast-fading sentiments of the flower children; what startles the outsider is the extraordinary sense of joy that they are able to communicate.”
A year later, the momentum of the faith revival was even stronger, and in Dallas, Texas, alone, as part of Explo ’72, held at the Cotton Bowl, more than 80,000 high school and college students filled the seats to hear messages of hope and faith and the Bible, delivered by the late Rev. Billy Graham and Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ International.
The film depicts the relationship that grows between Chuck Smith, a pastor in Costa Mesa, California (played by Kelsey Grammer), and a hippie preacher named Lonnie Frisbee (Jonathan Roumie). In real life, both men were instrumental in the Jesus movement after Smith abandoned his attitude of dismissal toward hippies, choosing instead to embrace them and welcome them with open arms. Also depicted in the film is a young Greg Laurie (played by Joel Courtney), who is now the pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, California, a church that–to this day–offers events that continue to welcome and host thousands of people to hear the message of faith and hope.
Jesus Revolution (LionsGate/Kingdom Story Company) debuted at theaters across the country on February 24. Industry projections estimated the film would bring in $6 million on opening weekend. Instead, it garnered more than $20 million in its first week in theaters, landing the film in the #3 spot behind Marvel’s Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania and Universal’s Cocaine Bear.
In only its second weekend, Jesus Revolution beat out James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water by more than $5 million at the box office.
“While the runaway hit is exciting, it translates to over 1 million people who have watched and been inspired by the movie,” said producer Kevin Downes in a press release. “That’s why we made it, and what we’re thrilled to see.”
Jesus Revolution has received rave reviews from audiences around the country who have given the film a 99% positive rating on the review site Rotten Tomatoes and a grade of A+ on the marketing research site, CinemaScore. According to CinemaScore, the newly-debuted faith-based film is the only currently-showing movie to have received a score of A+.
“As filmmakers, we always want to create something that’s well made and catches fire with audiences,” producer Andy Erwin said. “The audiences’ response to ‘Jesus Revolution’ has done just that. We’re so grateful. In the weeks ahead, we pray the film continues to inspire audiences.”
“’Jesus Revolution’ is all about love,” co-director Brent McCorkle said. “My heart for this film is that people who watch it have a stirring inside that calls them back to love–to getting back to the practice of caring for each other again, just as Jesus did. Reading stories of that happening across the country [recently] has been incredible.”
As for Kelsey Grammer, now 68, humbly says the film is perhaps the greatest work of his career, and he remembers well the Jesus Movement that began more than 50 years ago. When asked during an interview with USA Today whether Grammer was a “square” back in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Grammer says he was “squarish” but not a hippie.
“I celebrated with my peers the idea that we could love each other and love well, and that it would enhance our lives,” Grammer expounded. “I think that’s the most attractive part of this movement still. There’s a religious component of it through Christ.”
For Grammer, a father of seven, the film is personal too. He says his faith is the reason he has come through the many difficult times in his life, and he shares–unapologetically–that Jesus himself has made all the difference for him.
“I’ve had hiccups. I’ve had some tragic times. I have wrestled with those, sometimes rejecting faith, sometimes rejecting God even, in a period of being pretty angry about it, like, ‘Where were you?'” Grammer said openly, “but I have come to terms with it and have found great peace in my faith and in Jesus. It’s not cavalierJesus made a difference in my life. That’s not anything I’ll apologize for.”
Jesus Revolution is in theaters now, and you can see the official trailer for the film here: