Fans still can’t believe that Jerry Stiller is over a year old. This man was a force of nature. Comedic genius. Absolutely loved. Exceptional talent. And everyone who worked with him knew it. Perhaps none more than his famous son Ben Stiller, who constantly mourns the death of his father, recalling some truly happy moments. But Jerry influenced not only his son and fans of his work. This man also fell in love with Seinfeld’s cast. But this almost never happened, since Jerry was not the first to play Frank Costanza.
It’s hard to imagine anyone else bringing to life George Costanza’s temperamental, creative and downright odd father. Jerry’s acting was so specific and ideal for the character. During the filming of 27 episodes of Seinfeld, Jerry developed one of the most iconic supporting characters. It reminded the show’s creators, Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David, that they made the right choice in choosing him. But there was a time when Jerry barely played Frank. In fact, they were happy to hire and work with another actor.
John Randolph played Frank Costanza before Jerry Stiller was hired
In the fourth season of Seinfeld, viewers finally met Gorge Costanza’s father. Until this moment, they only talked about him. Estelle Harris has already acted as Gerge’s mom, Estelle Costanza. But Jerry and Larry needed Frank.
“I couldn’t imagine who they were going to get for my husband,” said Estelle Harris. in the backstage documentary for the episode “A place for the handicapped.” “And then I found out it was John Randolph. Sweet, sweet, wonderful person and wonderful actor. “
When the character of Frank Costanza was originally conceived, he was meant to be a much more obedient character. Estelle had to “wear pants” in a relationship. Her character was extremely dominant, so the actor was required to play a much more low-key character. So, renowned theater legend John Randolph was hired.
“John Randolph and I worked together on Broadway, he played my grandfather on Neil Simon’s Broadway Frontiers,” explained Jason Alexander. Although Jason said he enjoyed working with John, he didn’t think he “looked like Costanza.”
Eventually, something came to the minds of the writers, and Frank’s character was further developed, and John had to be replaced. It was pretty straightforward considering that John only starred in one episode of Seinfeld.
How Jerry Stiller played the role of Frank Costanza
“Next season, I don’t know if John was unavailable or something … something made us want to change actors,” explained Larry David. “[Director] Larry Charles suggested Jerry Stiller and um … he was great and we loved him. And then because of [the show going into] syndication, they would keep re-launching Handicap Place with John Randolph, and it would be odd that George had two different fathers. So I got Castle Rock and NBC to let me re-shoot those scenes with John Randolph and replace them with Jerry Stiller, which we did. “
The same thing happened with the original actor, who played Jerry’s father, but Larry chose not to go and reshoot it due to the fact that it was in the very first season and the characters are aging so much. The choice to replace only John Randolph was not personal, it just made more sense to the show and the character that Frank eventually became. Even Jerry Stiller respected John immensely as he was one of those who inspired him to become an actor. John even gave Jerry advice after they met in John’s dressing room after a Broadway performance.
While Jerry was extremely grateful for his experience on Seinfeld, he did regret John’s replacement. This is because they became friends and John was effectively blacklisted by Hollywood for possible ties to the Communist Party. When he finally returned, Jerry replaced him.
“I had very mixed feelings, but not for long,” admitted Jerry Stiller. This is because at the time Jerry really had to work. His Broadway show had just closed and he needed money. In accordance with interview with The Television AcademyJerry took off and had a great meeting with Larry David. But at first he was not thrilled with this character.
At the time, Larry and the writers still wanted Frank to be weaker than Estelle. Jerry was not happy about this, and he did not like his lines. He even tried to change them, but NBC advised him not to. Coming to rehearsals for the show, Jerry tried to yell at Estelle in the scene and everyone started laughing. At this moment, the real Frank Costanza was born. Larry, Jerry, and the rest of the team decided to let Jerry play with the character and eventually turn him into the same power as his wife.
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