Having expressed an interest in run­ning for elec­tive office—perhaps as a Repub­lican can­di­date in the 2013 New York City mayor’s race—actor Kelsey Grammer may be the latest celebrity hoping to cross over to the world of pol­i­tics. We asked Alan Schroeder, jour­nalism pro­fessor and author of “Celebrity-​​in-​​Chief: How Show Busi­ness Took Over the White House” to weigh in on the his­tory of celebri­ties who run for office and ana­lyze the advan­tages they have over tra­di­tional candidates.

Can celebrity can­di­dates be taken seri­ously, or do voters tend to view them with skepticism?

Celebrity can­di­dates have a ten­dency to want to start at the top, rather than paying their dues and learning pol­i­tics from the ground up. In this way, fame cre­ates a sense of enti­tle­ment that may turn off the elec­torate. On the other hand, their lack of prac­tical expe­ri­ence can also be viewed as a pos­i­tive, given voters’ cyn­i­cism toward career politi­cians these days. Much depends on the indi­vidual celebrity and his or her back­ground. The smart ones will make a gradual tran­si­tion into pol­i­tics, thus allowing the public to get com­fort­able with the rebranding.

What advan­tages do celebri­ties have over tra­di­tional candidates?

The key advan­tage is name recog­ni­tion. Only a handful of politi­cians achieve the level of fame that TV and movie stars rou­tinely enjoy. Celebrity can­di­dates, such as Kelsey Grammer, also have the luxury of oper­ating with com­plete finan­cial inde­pen­dence. He has so much money that he can devote him­self full-​​time to cam­paigning, without the fund-​​raising headaches that tra­di­tional can­di­dates must face and without selling him­self out to special-​​interest groups.

Who was the first celebrity–turned–public ser­vant, and might the trend continue?

The obvious name that springs to mind is Ronald Reagan, who was elected gov­ernor of Cal­i­fornia in 1966 after a 30-​​year Hol­ly­wood career. How­ever, two years before that, Cal­i­for­nians elected a dif­ferent actor, the song-​​and-​​dance man George Murphy, to the U.S. Senate. Inter­est­ingly, both Reagan and Murphy had served stints as pres­i­dents of the Screen Actors Guild, which gave them valu­able polit­ical expe­ri­ence before they ran for office. In the years since, there have been dozens of celebrity can­di­dates, mostly from the worlds of enter­tain­ment and sports, and they’ve included Sen. Al Franken of Min­nesota and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of Cal­i­fornia. These can­di­dates have had varying levels of suc­cess. But there’s no reason to believe the trend won’t continue—if any­thing, con­sid­ering the public fas­ci­na­tion with celebri­ties, it will prob­ably intensify.