After a lengthy battle with throat cancer, John Mahoney passed away on 4 February 2018. Despite his passing, his legacy can and should live on to inspire us all.
Born in Blackpool in 1940, John Mahoney grew up in Manchester but was dissatisfied with his life. He decided to move to the US and pursue an acting career, finally appearing in his first stage production in 1977.
Acting is generally a career started at a young age, with most successful actors having made their debut as children or young adults. As such, to act professionally for the first time in one’s 30s as Mahoney did is an impressive feat, made still more impressive by the fact that he was then able to build such a lengthy career out of it.
Following his first performance at the Chicago theatre, Mahoney met a fellow newcomer to the acting scene, John Malkovich, who advised him to join the Steppenwolf Theatre. Here he would go on to perform on and off for 39 years, almost the entirety of his career, even winning a Tony award for his performance in The House of Blue Leaves, and performing various times on Broadway. It is clear that even when his work moved on to include TV and movies, his passion for the theatre remained.
Mahoney is best known for his role as Martin Crane on Frasier. The father of Niles and Frasier (played by Kelsey Grammer and David Hyde Pierce respectively), he provided a much-needed grounded character, often acting as the straight man and a foil to his oddball and somewhat elitist sons. Starting off as stiff and cantankerous, Marty softened as the seasons of Frasier went on, eventually becoming loveable, warm hearted and devilishly charming.
It is clear that Mahoney’s relationship with the rest of the cast went far beyond simply that of coworkers. He has referred to Hyde Pierce as a son, and both Grammer and Hyde Pierce have referred to him as a father to them in turn. Along with Hyde Pierce, he is also the godfather of fellow Frasier star Jane Leeves’ son. Several former Frasier cast members have expressed their love of Mahoney and their deep sorrow regarding his death, regaling fans with their best memories of him from over the years.
Other than his early theatre work and Frasier, Mahoney has had a lengthy and impressive voice acting career, appearing in classics such as Atlantis: The Lost Empire and The Emperor’s New Groove. He also appeared on an episode of The Simpsons alongside Grammer and Hyde Pierce, playing the role of Sideshow Bob’s father.
Despite his career starting far later in life than most actors, John Mahoney has very much left his mark. His presence has been felt for decades and he will be missed, not just as a performer, but as a friend and a real-world character too. As well as the many beloved characters that he has left with us, Mahoney’s legacy should act as an inspiration to us all, reminding us that no matter how many barriers stand in the way, it is never too late to follow your dreams and change your lot in life.
Image: Wikimedia Commons