John Madden was offered one of the lead roles in Cheers, but he turned it down — because he worried equally the show would fail and succeed.
Madden made a memorable appearance in the 1994 film Little Giants, in which he played a version of himself helping out Rick Moranis’ rag-tag youth football team. In an episode at the time, Entertainment Tonight dropped by the set and caught with the cast, including Madden, who admitted he did not love the hurry-up and wait of filmmaking.
“The more I am around, the more I realize why I like live television,” he told ET then. “Live television, they say they’re going to kick the ball off at 1 p.m., boom they kick it off at 1 p.m., and then you’re all done.”
In the same interview, Madden mentioned that he passed on the role of Coach Ernie Pantusso on Cheers, which apparently was written with him in mind. The late Nicholas Colasanto went on to play the role from the 1982 pilot until his death in 1985.
“When Cheers first started, they wrote me in as the bartender, Coach,” Madden said. “So, I talked about it. If the thing fails, you’re a failure, and I didn’t want to lose. And if the thing won, which obviously it did, then I would have had to quit what I was doing, what I loved. So, I couldn’t figure out why I should do it.”
Watch the retro interview below.