This ‘Seinfeld’ Star Went From Bailbondsman To Overnight Sensation and Now Makes Bank off the Character
When Seinfeld began in 1989, no one knew the cult following the show would have over 30 years later. Stars from the show still enjoy the successes syndication has brought — especially one who worked with bail bonds before landing a role that became one of the most iconic in TV history.
This ‘Seinfeld’ character was inspired by a real person — but the actor didn’t know that
Years after Seinfeld premiered, a guest actor stepped in to play the role of a chef working in his soup restaurant. Due to his militant style and no-nonsense “order and get out” rules, Jerry Seinfeld and friends deemed him “The Soup Nazi.”
The first episode actor Larry Thomas appeared as the chef aired in 1995 as he worked as a bail bondsman in Los Angeles between auditions. He’d just met with a second bail bonds company, but that wasn’t where his heart was.
“The only people who had seen my work were the four people who had sat in the audience of the plays I was doing,” Thomas told The Hollywood Reporter.
A turn of events came by way of actor Jeffrey Tambor who sometimes taught at Thomas’ acting class. Thomas asked Tambor to connect him with the Larry Sanders Show casting director, where Tambor worked at the time. That casting director also worked on Seinfeld.
Thomas landed an audition through Tambor’s connection at Seinfeld. He prepared to read for “The Soup Nazi” role by dressing up in the most literal way.
“I had a pair of green pants. I had this old army shirt from back the ’70s when my friend’s older brothers were in Vietnam,” Thomas said.
“My wife went, ‘Oh my god. I’ve got an idea.’ She went into her part of the closet and took out a beret. We both stood there staring at the mirror. I looked like Saddam Hussein, who was not a very popular guy in 1995. I’m going, ‘Do I have the guts to walk in there like that?'”
Thomas said he didn’t know the character was based on real-life New York chef, Ali Yeganeh but he did get a callback after the audition.
Thomas thought he ‘blew’ the audition
By the second audition, co-creator Larry David, producers, and others were present. He recalled waiting while overhearing another actor audition before him.
“Jerry was laughing his head off. I would have thought he was just trying to mess with me, he was laughing so hard,” he said, adding Seinfeld then asked him to play the character “nicer.”
“I called my wife and said, ‘I had Seinfeld going for a minute, but then I blew it because he wanted something different. But I tell you, it was the audition of my life.’ “
He obviously got the part and started work soon after.
“Jerry walked up to me and first thing says, ‘Hey, forget about the direction I gave you. Just do what you did when you came in. For some reason, the meaner, the funnier,'” Thomas said.
“That’s Jerry. One of the most powerful men in the industry tells some nobody actor that ‘your idea was better than mine.’ When something is funny to him, his ego is not involved.”
The star added that during taping, the cast stayed to film after the audience left to add new pieces into the scenes. One of which, he said, is the classic moments between Thomas and Julia Louis-Dreyfus in which she does an Al Pacino impression.
“Larry said, ‘I want you to go ‘very good, very good.’ You know what? No soup for you'” Thomas added.
The rest is history.
‘The Soup Nazi’ lives in infamy
Though Yeganeh famously disassociated himself from the portrayal, Thomas was solidified as “The Soup Nazi” forever. However, when fame first struck, he didn’t love saying the famous lines for fans.
“The big thing I remember distinctly about that period was I refused to say ‘No soup for you’ for anybody because I thought I’d sound like a bad watercooler impression of something I did in a specific moment,” he said.
He later got over the sentiment and is now the face for Yeganeh’s re-branded soup franchise — thanks to a little kudos from David.
“They didn’t ‘realize what an anathema would be for me at that moment,” he said. “First take, ‘No soup for you!’ That was it. Out and done, moving on. I was walking away and Larry David says, ‘You know, you say it the exact same way that you said three years ago?’ So from now on I say it 20 times a day.”