Ted Danson's toupee practically became its own character on Cheers
Did you know the moment Sam removed his hairpiece was totally unscripted?
In the early Eighties, Ted Danson became a sex symbol by starring in Cheers as the womanizing Sam Malone.
Throughout the show’s run, Sam’s obsessed with his gorgeous full head of hair, constantly primping himself and inspiring critics to claim he loved his hair perhaps even more than the ladies.
But in reality, Danson never felt sexy, and as the show went on, his extreme insecurity grew, as his hair began thinning.
Despite describing himself as "a guy with a very large ego," Danson didn’t understand why anyone would consider him all that attractive, claiming in a 1989 interview that "on screen, I had no self-confidence that way. I was spending so much time trying to be sexy, I ended up looking neurotic."
By the end of the Eighties, though, his reputation as a leading man had been solidified by his award-winning performances on Cheers.
"His appeal is that he’s funny and he’s good-looking, which is a hard combination to find," Cheers co-creator James Burrows told The Los Angeles Times in 1989. "That’s the most sought-after kind of actor both on television and in the movies. Everyone is always looking for that kind of guy."
It was around this time that Danson started being featured in movies like Three Men and a Baby, straddling his TV role with big screen starring roles.
And this was also the moment that Danson first donned a hairpiece while filming the 1989 movie Cousins.
"I wore a hairpiece for the first time when I did Cousins," Danson was quoted in the Weekly World News in 1991. "It was thinning in the back, so they put a piece in, and it was great."
Wearing the hairpiece gave Danson a lot of the confidence that he lacked even before his hair was thinning, though, and he said it was while filming Cousins that he first started understanding why others saw him as leading man material.
He decided to stop being so self-deprecating during interviews.
"I guess I’ve matured," Danson said. "I’ve learned, or I’m trying to learn, not to be so hard on myself all the time. I’ve stopped saying stupid things about my looks, for example. I used to say when I smiled, it looked like I had a hand grenade in my mouth."
After donning the hairpiece in Cousins, Danson started wearing the toupee while he played Sam Malone.
This led to a very funny scene in a 1993 episode called "It’s Lonely on the Top," where Sam reveals to Carla that he wears a hairpiece.
According to IMDb, in the script, Sam was supposed to whisper this reveal to Carla, but Danson decided to improvise while shooting and snatched off his toupee onscreen.
The reaction of Rhea Perlman captured her genuine surprise that Danson would pull such a stunt, which comes as a total shock, especially considering his poor self-image when the series started.
That year in 1993, the sitcom came to a close, but four years prior, Danson said he had realized that Sam wasn’t a character he was stuck playing in just one way, but a vehicle to have more fun with all his time onscreen. It made playing the character feel second-nature.
That impulse to evolve apparently included a very memorable, but impulsive scene where he messed with how viewers thought of Sam and his precious hair forever.
"When Cheers hit, it jammed me up a bit," Danson said. "I was afraid I’d be stuck (as a TV star), so I started making scared career decisions. I thought too much and didn’t ask the right questions. Now that I’ve finally made it, in my own eyes, I think I can have fun."