‘Seinfeld’: Jerry Stiller Never Got Any Notes on Playing Frank Costanza From Jerry Seinfeld
Frank Costanza introduced Festivus to the world and confidently wore a Manssiere on Seinfeld. Played by Jerry Stiller, Frank became known as one of the zaniest characters on the iconic series. Stiller’s performance regularly had Seinfeld fans laughing and not once did he receive any notes from Jerry Seinfeld, the show’s star and co-creator.
‘Seinfeld’ cast another actor as Frank Costanza before Jerry Stiller
Stiller, who passed away in 2020 at the age of 92, is remembered for his storied comedy career including his turn on Seinfeld. As he told Esquire in 2005, a different actor originally played George Costanza’s (Jason Alexander) dad.
“I was not the first father on Seinfeld,” Stiller said. “There was another father, whom I replaced.”
“I was out of work at the time,” he added. “My manager had retired. I was close to 70 years old and I had nowhere to go.”
John Randolph played Frank in one Seinfeld episode before Stiller, according to Vulture. The episode was later reshot with Stiller as George’s dad.
Jerry Seinfeld ‘never adjusted’ Jerry Stiller’s ‘performance once’ on ‘Seinfeld’
The cast of Seinfeld remembered Stiller after his May 2020 passing. Seinfeld reminisced about Stiller on the radio show What a Joke With Papa and Fortune, saying he just did his thing.
“He had the most amazing comedic stuff that he — we didn’t know if he was planning it or it just came out that way, or he couldn’t remember the line, or we didn’t know what it was, but we did not want to disturb it in any way,” Seinfeld said.
For that reason, Stiller never got any tips on his performance.
“We never gave Jerry Stiller a note,” Seinfeld said. “I never adjusted his performance once. Whatever he did, that’s it. We’re putting that out there.”
He continued, saying that it didn’t matter if Stiller’s performance was different than the script. As long as it was funny it was OK with Seinfeld.
“I don’t care what the line was supposed to be,” Seinfeld added. “He said it that way, we’re doing it that way.”
What Stiller brought to Seinfeld with his portrayal of Frank, according to Seinfeld, was a better understanding of George.
“What I loved about him is he so completes the George story,” Seinfeld said of Stiller’s performance as Frank. “When you meet the father, you go, ‘Oh, now I understand why he’s like that.’ It was — the perfect finishing of the painting of George Costanza was Frank Costanza.”
Jerry Stiller put his own spin on Frank Constanza: ‘Can I do it my way?’
The Frank Seinfeld fans know and love is much different than the original character.
As Stiller told Esquire, Estelle “was the screamer” and “boss lady of the Costanza household.” In contrast, Frank was supposed to wear “a bald wig to look like George and to act very meek.”
Not long after Stiller took over as Frank he discovered that “meek” wasn’t the right way forward.
“But after a couple of days I realized that acting meek was going to get me fired just like the last guy,” Stiller said.
He went to Seinfeld co-creator, Larry David, and asked if he could take a different approach.
“On the fourth day, I said to Larry David, ‘This ain’t workin.’ Can I do it my way?’” he said. The actor proceeded to bring a physicality to the role as well as a booming voice.
Watch Seinfeld on Hulu until 2021 when the show about nothing joins Netflix.