(PhatzNewsRoom / Chicago Tribune) — The actor John Mahoney, a longtime Steppenwolf Theatre ensemble member and a performer known to millions for his work on the NBC sitcom “Frasier,” died Sunday at the age of 77. Mahoney had been suffering from cancer.
Mahoney’s death was confirmed Monday by the Steppenwolf Theatre Company, which canceled its scheduled Monday night opening of “You Got Older” in Mahoney’s honor.
Mahoney, who long has lived in Oak Park, was born to British parents and grew up in Manchester, England. He first came to Illinois in the 1950s at 11 years old, to visit his sister, a war-bride. That visit made such an impression, Mahoney found his way back eight years later, under the sponsorship of his sister.
Unusually, Mahoney became a professional actor only in his 40s, after John Malkovich and Gary Sinise invited him to join their nascent Steppenwolf —at the time, the early ensemble members were allowed to sponsor the entrance of others. Steppenwolf then was populated mainly by people 15 or 20 years younger than Mahoney. But Steppenwolf needed someone who could play older roles.
Mahoney played the father of Kelsey Grammer and David Hyde Pierce’s characters during the show’s run on NBC from 1993 to 2004. He won a SAG Award and received two Emmy and two Golden Globe nominations for his portrayal.
From 2011 to 2014, he had a recurring role on “Hot in Cleveland” as Roy, the love interest of Betty White’s character, Elka.
Mahoney worked in film for more than 35 years, appearing in classics like “The American President” and “Say Anything,” along with voicing animated characters in the “Antz” and “Atlantis” films. He also had guest spots in a number of popular TV shows including “Cheers” and “3rd Rock from the Sun.”
Born Blackpool, England, the actor started his career in theater and continued to return to the stage, appearing in “Prelude to a Kiss” on Broadway and “The Outgoing Tide” and “The Birthday Party” in Chicago after “Frasier” ended.
He came to the U.S. at age 19 and taught English at Western Illinois University before entering into the entertainment industry in 1977.
Mahoney never married and didn’t have any children.