Edward (Ted) Bridge Danson III was born Dec. 29, 1947 in San Diego, but was raised outside of Flagstaff, Ariz., where his father, a professor and archaeologist, taught at Northern Arizona University. Danson's parents sent him back east to prep school, where he attended the Kent School for Boys in Connecticut. There, the lanky teen excelled at basketball, even entertaining the idea of playing professionally some day. Danson attended Stanford University before transferring to Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, where he received his B.A. After college, Danson moved to New York City and pursued roles on and off-Broadway. Tall, dark and handsome, the young actor was meant for TV, and he got his start in commercials and soap operas. His first TV gig was on daytime soap Somerset.Danson worked steadily throughout the '70s, making appearances on shows including The Amazing Spider-Man and B.J. and The Bear. His first film role was in The Onion Field. Following his big screen debut, Danson took a hiatus from film roles to care for his first wife, Casey Coates-Danson, who had suffered a stroke during childbirth. He continued his TV work, making appearances on Laverne & Shirley and Family in 1980, and Benson and Magnum P.I. in 1981. He returned to movies in 1981 in the steamy noir film Body Heat.
In 1982 Danson's appearance on an episode of Taxi -- combined with an audition for a pilot entitled The Best of the West -- so impressed director James Burrows that he kept the young actor in mind for a new a sitcom he was developing that was set in a Boston bar. Danson landed the role of bar owner Sam Malone, a cocky ex-jock and recovering alcoholic. He would play Sam for 11 seasons (1982-1993), winning two Emmys and a Golden Globe for his work on the show. Danson's popularity on the sitcom led to roles in the movies Just Between Friends, the mega-hit Three Men and a Baby, and Cousins. Made-for-TV movies of note include the controversial Something About Amelia -- for which he won a Golden Globe -- and When The Bough Breaks, in which he starred and was the producer. Danson co-starred in Made in America with then-girlfriend Whoopi Goldberg. The duo caused something of a furor when Danson showed up in black face at a Friar's Club roast for Goldberg.
Since Cheers' cancellation in 1993, Danson has continued to appear on TV and in films. He starred in NBC mini-series Gulliver's Travels and appeared in the Steven Spielberg blockbuster Saving Private Ryan. In 1994 Danson met his wife, actress Mary Steenburgen, on the set of Pontiac Moon, which he produced. The two went on to co-star in and produce the short-lived TV series Ink. Danson returned to sitcoms in 1998 as surly Dr. John Becker on the CBS sitcom Becker, and he starred in the short-lived ABC sitcom Help Me Help You. He frequently appears as himself on HBO's Curb Your Enthusiasm. Danson and his family reside in Los Angeles.
Sam keeps his interests in life simple, and his primary interest is the ladies. He got an early start with the fairer sex (in sixth grade, if you believe him) and you could dismiss him as an insufferable flirt, but the fact is ladies love Sam's brand of charm. And what's not to love about the former Red Sox relief pitcher? He never comes on too strong, and he always uses his assets (toothy grin, soulful eyes, full head of hair) to his advantage. Just don't get too attached, because while Sam loves the chase, he's not into lengthy commitments. He's kind of like the guy who fishes for sport -- he has no intentions of keeping what he's hooked, and for that Sam is worshipped by bar regulars Norm Peterson and Cliff Clavin. Truthfully, Sam's pretty carefree about love and relationships. That is, until the day Diane Chambers walks into the bar. The brainy neurotic's ambivalence captivates him, and if there's one thing Sam enjoys, it's a good challenge in the form of an uptight woman. Diane will take him around the bend a few times (and even send him back to the bottle), but he'll love every crazy minute of it.
It's easy to assume that a handsome, personable guy like Sam has it easy in life, but he's had his share of rough patches -- and he'll have a few more in the years to come. He bought the bar during his drinking days (which kind of coincided with the end of his ball-playing days), but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Now retired from his somewhat illustrious baseball career (depending on whom you talk to) and completely off the booze, Cheers is Sam's happy dominion. He is the king, surrounded by friends who feel more like family, and an abundant and continuously renewing supply of women to chase. He'll sell the bar when things with Diane get rough (to sail around the world), but in time he'll buy Cheers back. Because when you get right down to it, the bar is really, truly the one place Sam feels at home.