Jason Alexander, a Tony Award-winning director, producer and actor best known for his role in the television series “Seinfeld,” spoke about his early career and his path to acting success at a Jonathan Edwards College Master’s Tea Sunday evening.
Alexander, who played the role of George Costanza in the popular television series, kept the audience of 70 students and theater enthusiasts riveted throughout the event with funny anecdotes. Alexander explained to the audience how he had grown as an actor over the span of his career from the time he was a shy and introverted 6-year-old.
Alexander said he attended magic camp as a 12-year-old and hoped to pursue a future in card tricks, but his magic instructors told him that his hands were not big enough to play cards and he “did not have the right build” for escapes. He subsequently played theater roles in various towns before a management company signed him when he was 14 years old. He then started working professionally in commercials and auditioning for shows on and off Broadway.
“I also auditioned off Broadway,” he said. “Illinois is a long way off Broadway.”
The actor said he faced considerable challenges early in his movie and stage career. His first film, the horror movie “The Burning,” failed miserably at the box office and Alexander’s first Broadway show, “Merrily We Roll Along,” also performed poorly. Alexander learned tap dancing around this time, he said, since “me getting into ballet tights would be a sin against man and God.”
In an industry in which most people were either “extremely beautiful or funny and odd,” Alexander said he could play adult roles at an early age because he started losing hair when he was only 17.
Alexander discussed how he managed to maintain a family life despite being in the entertainment industry. He was lucky to be acting on “Seinfeld” when his two sons were born, he said, because it gave him a more manageable work schedule.
“Theater is a bad schedule for parenting — it’s hard to be a hands-on parent then,” he said. “A four-camera sitcom is as close to a 9-to-5 job an actor gets.”
He stayed in Los Angeles, where “Seinfeld” was taped, and did not return to New York after the show ended because he wanted to continue spending time with his family, he added.
Audience members praised Alexander for his humorous talk.
Blake Smith ’16 said Alexander was “too funny” and “struck a nice balance between being informative and being funny.”
Katie Harmer ’15 said she found Alexander just as funny in person as she had found him to be on “Seinfeld,” and Sonia Taneja ’13 said it was one of the “most hilarious afternoons” of her life — “a childhood dream come true.”
Alexander’s son, Gabe Greenspan ’14, is a member of Jonathan Edwards College.