“I am not a dancer, but I am a fearless actor mover,” Jason Alexander said at a Jonathan Edwards master’s tea on Wednesday afternoon.
Alexander, who is best known for portraying George Costanza on the acclaimed sitcom, “Seinfeld,” was referring to his former aspirations to become a dancer. During his talk, Alexander shared personal experiences, musings about the state of theater and behind-the-scenes stories from the set of “Seinfeld.”
Referring to himself as a “100 percent geek,” Alexander said as a child he attempted to learn magic under the mentorship of a magician named “Slydini.” Dabbling in acting, singing and dancing, Alexander said his first foray into theater was playing one of the von Trapp children in “The Sound of Music.” Although he eventually recognized ballet was not his calling, he spent years learning how to tap dance.
“At 13-14, I was still pretty heavy, and I knew I just can’t go to ballet school … A size 57 tight, I just can’t,” he quipped.
Alexander said he soon realized he was not a triple threat, and decided acting was his forte. He eventually enrolled as an arts theater major at Boston University.
Asked about the strangest acting role he has encountered during his career, Alexander confessed he had a brief X-rated moment.
“My son doesn’t even know this,” he said. “I was offered a lot of money to do a porno version of ‘Seinfeld’ … based on the masturbation episode, so you can just imagine.”
Alexander reenacted George Costanza’s famous moments, performing snorting laughs and shouting, “HO HO! BANG ZOOM!” as the crowd erupted in laughter. The inspiration for George’s personality, he said, was derived from TV personas, such as Jackie Gleason from “The Honeymooners.”
Sharing memorable moments from the set, Alexander recalled shooting a scene in bed with Jerry Seinfeld where the two actors could not stop laughing after running through at least 30 takes. Although some viewers criticized the “Seinfeld” finale, Alexander said it was a sentimental experience to have all the minor characters return for the last performance.
In response to questions about the state of the performing arts in today’s society, Alexander said the industry is dramatically different from the era when he began acting.
“I think we are engaged in what I call the Y2K that never came … The 21st century is radically different from the 20th century,” he said.
But it is an exciting time for aspiring actors who can land a career by simply using a digital camera, basic video-editing programs and the Internet, he said. He cautioned that it is a more challenging time for actors who want to stand out from the crowd of hopeful artists.
Audience members, many of whom said they are “Seinfeld” fanatics, said they relished the opportunity to ask Alexander about the details of his performances.
William Shikani ’10, who has seen every episode of “Seinfeld,” came to the tea with a large book containing scripts of the show’s episodes. He said it was “unbelievable” to see the famed George Costanza in person.
Noriel Luna ’12, who might pursue a profession in the performing arts, said he appreciated the perspective that Alexander gave regarding the acting industry.
“I found it interesting how he talked about the realities of being out there,” he said.
Alexander told the audience he hopes to stop being typecast as a comic relief actor and, one day, play the role of Sweeney Todd.