Saturday, July 11, 2015

R.I.P. Roger Rees

So sorry to hear of the passing of Roger Rees. He was 71. For several years he played Robin Colcord on CHEERS. Roger was the consummate actor and consummate gentleman. I always thought he had a tough role. He was the “new guy," somewhat of an outcast. At times his role was to frustrate Rebecca and at others he was a rival of Sam’s. That made it hard for the audience to warm to his character. And yet, with charm and grace (in sometimes thankless situations) he eventually did win the hearts of CHEERS fans.  He won over the writers, cast, and crew in eleven seconds. 

Personally, Roger was a delight. His first love was the theater and his eyes just lit up when you talked about it. He was a Tony winner for NICHOLAS NICKLEBY, and appeared in dozens of theater productions throughout his life. He wrote and directed as well. Additionally, he was the Artistic Director of the prestigious Williamstown Theatre Festival for several years.

Whether it was Dickens, Shakespeare, Stoppard, Chekhov, or when he was really slumming – Levine & Isaacs, he gave consistently wonderful performances. Among my favorite episodes of all the CHEERS that David and I wrote was the two-parter “Finally” and Roger was a big part of them.  You could give him the nastiest things to say but he we could deliver them with such a twinkle that you laughed and found him endearing.   You can't believe how difficult that is to do.  And he did it with ease... always.

Roger Rees was a talented man, a gentle soul, and the classiest of class acts. I was so thrilled that when the great caricaturist, Al Hirschfeld was commissioned to do a portrait for CHEERS that Roger was included. The show and our lives were better because he was in it. Roger will be deeply missed.

28 comments:

Rich Shealer said...

I first saw Roger Rees in The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby a week long event on PBS. I was impressed as a teenager at the time. One of those national television events we used to see from time to time.

Amazon has the DVD set for the low low price of $268. Sadly from some of the reviews it was badly packaged. Yikes!

MikeK.Pa. said...

You're right, he could deliver the most deliciously barbed lines with aplomb. He was pompous with you were bemused. Very sad; 71 is still too young an age to die.

Joe said...

RIP Roger... loved the episode when he and Sam spent the day playing games in the bar, pissing off Rebecca who was trying to live out her fantasy day.

Cat said...

"Goodbye, sweet baby."

Klee said...

I loved Rebecca's relationship with and her unrequited love for Evan Drake. These what made her character shine, her insecurity. She was lucky to have great costars. Robin Colcord RIP.

Norm! said...

A wonderful actor. He was always great in whatever role he was cast. I remember as a teen going to see the godawful Stallone film Stop or My Mom Will Shoot and I was delighted to see his name in the opening credits. The film was terrible but Roger Rees was of course the best thing about it, always turning in a first class performance even when the material was poor.

But it'll always be Cheers I'll fondly remember him for. Rest in peace.

Anthony said...

Such a wonderful man and actor. As a lover of Theatre, he was one of the greats.

When I was in college, my acting teacher was acquainted with Mr. Rees and because of that, my acting class got to speak with him over the phone for about an hour, if not more. It was only supposed to be for about 30 minutes but he was so delighted to speak with us that he rearranged his schedule.

I am truly saddened by his loss and really loved his work on Cheers, too...thank you for posting this because one of my first thoughts today was I hoped Ken would have a post about Mr. Rees.

Michael said...

A terrific tribute to a terrific actor. And yet I will always think of him not on "Cheers," but on "The West Wing." There may not have been another actor in the world who could have discoursed on both the Irish "troubles" and Abby Bartlet's breasts.

Georgyne said...

Roger was wonderful. He became a friend of mine because we were the new kids on the block that year. He would come hang out with me at my desk, he didn't care I was "just" the production coordinator on the show, he became a friend. We did lose touch over time and I really regret that. He was a sweetheart and I adored him and am shocked of his passing.

Thank you for writing this about Roger.:)

Georgyne

Tudor Queen said...

I remember watching Nicholas Nickleby in its entirety during the first week my new husband and I were at the army base that would be our home for some years. I am still in awe of what he, his co-stars and the production team were able to accomplish.

Since then I've made a point of seeing him in just about anything lucky enough to have him in the ranks. He never disappointed.

I came here first thing to see what you wrote about Mr. Rees. You, too, did not disappoint. A great obituary/tribute makes you wish you knew the person. I wish I'd known Roger Rees.

Stephen Robinson said...

Robin Colcord was, in many ways, Rebecca's Frasier -- he was even introduced at the start of her third season on the show. However, Kelsey Grammer had the benefit of playing a man, who while pompous and arrogant at times, was basically a decent human being. Frasier even helps Sam get back on the wagon after his relapse, so we're inclined to view him favorably. But Colcord, underneath it all, was a rotten man. Yet, Roger Rees made it impossible to resist him.

It's interesting to think of Colcord again with Trump so much in the news, as Rebecca mentions him in the same breath as Trump in Rees's first episode (it was one of those Chekhov's gun moments, which predicted his eventual arrival in the last scene). Was Colcord intended to be English? Evan Drake, played well by Tom Skerritt, was nowhere near the jerk Colcord could be but I still never warmed to Drake as I did Colcord. Was there something about that accent and understated charm? Was there an American who could have played Colcord as a very Trump-like character who we'd have still loved?

Wendy M. Grossman said...

I was lucky enough to see Roger Rees in the original London production of Tom Stoppard's THE REAL THING, where he played the male romantic lead (opposite Felicity Kendal). Even in the stellar cast of that production he stood out.

wg

Astroboy said...

Wonderful actor, I think my favorite role of his was Lord Marbury on West Wing, always overjoyed to see him show up in an episode. But I have to admit, the first thing that came to mind when I read of his passing was 'Robin Hood: Men in Tights;" he was so much fun to watch as the Sheriff of Rottingham.

Barefoot Billy Aloha said...

Here it is: http://www.alhirschfeld.com/cgi-bin/popup?ID=CHEERS&CAT=A1

RIP

Boomska316 said...

Robin Colcord is probably my favorite recurring character on Cheers, and "Indoor Fun With Sammy and Robby" is one of my favorite episodes. R.I.P. Roger Rees.

BrettJ said...

I also loved his work on "West Wing", a series I thought brought out some of the best work of many of the actors on it, Roger included. Everything I saw him in - most recently, a role on "Elementary" - he was superb. R.I.P. Roger, your work will endure.

DBenson said...

There's a Friday question: Are there dos and don'ts to introducing a new regular or semi-regular to a tightly knit company? How does it change the dynamic?

I recall reading that Nick Colasanto was sort of the father figure on the "Cheers" set, and after his passing the tone was more like a frat house as Ted Danson filled that offstage role.

Diane D. said...

What a lovely tribute to Roger Rees. He was one of the best things about post Shelley Long CHEERS.

The most touching comment is the one from Cat; brings "a smile and a tear." I laughed out loud every time Rebecca said it.

Ray Morton said...

I loved Mr. Rees as Robin Colcord. I always hoped he would become a regular -- that Robin would lose his company and his fortune and spend his days hanging out at the bar trying to fit in and figure out how to get back on top. Perhaps the vibe would have been too Frasier-like, but I would certainly have welcomed more Roger Rees.

Anonymous said...

Lord Marbury's constant teasing of "Gerald" (The brilliant John Spencer's Leo on West Wing) was so rich. Easily among my most-treasured organic and layered bits of comedy in any genre/form. Watching Bartlett's acceptance of Marbury as an intellectual equal (I believe the only one so acknowledged) had more to do with Rees, than the outstanding character written by Sorkin.

Rees was also perfectly cast, and brilliant, in My So Called Life. He played the sketchy rebel English sub, Mr. Racine. Again, great writing and character. Yet Rees brought him to such an effervescent reality.

We lost a Great today.

Anonymous said...

Loved the episode where he played chess with Sam for a week's pay.

Anonymous said...

Loved him on Cheers. How Rebecca would swoon! Really liked him in Robin Hood. The scene between him playing the sheriff and Dom DeLuise's Mobster still kills me. RIP.
Janice B.

mdv59 said...

If Cheers had stayed with the original cast from the beginning I wouldn't have kept watching, but it was one of the rare series that really improved, in my opinion, from casting new characters starting with Kelsey Grammer and then Kirstie Alley. For me Cheers was at it's best when it included Bebe Neuwirth and Roger Rees.

Gerry said...

We saw Roger Rees onstage in Nicholas Nickleby, a great, fantastic NY theatre event. It pretty much imprinted us as Roger Rees fans for life!

YEKIMI said...

He was one of those actors whose name I never knew but I was always delighted when I saw him on a show because he was so entertaining and fun to watch.

charlottesometimesnot said...

Loved all his work that I was lucky enough to see. Never knew his name. Now I'll never forget it & will always remember Roger Rees most fondly as Angela's substitute teacher/schoolgirl crush on MY SO-CALLED LIFE. Sincere condolences to his family & friends. Life is too short. :( But at least creative work lives on forever....

Jeff Martin said...

I also came to the site to see what you would write about Roger Rees. You always write so beautifully about the good people you've worked with, and it seems there've been a lot of them.

And I agree with the commenters who say that CHEERS stayed good because the cast changes were done so organically, and the new actors were so terrific. There was something about how Rees could say terrible things so gently and beautifully that you couldn't really hate him, and could always understand Rebecca's ongoing love.

Dang, it's been too long since I watched an episode. I need to rectify that this weekend.

Anonymous said...

Roger Rees greatest performance for me was certainly A Christmas Carol. He played an exceptional Fred (Scrooge's Nephew, his sister Fran's son). Sorry to see his passing and it was clear he could act with depth of feeling, so hope he found that in life. He and George C. Scott, along with the whole production is one of my favorites of all time.