‘Seinfeld’: Here’s Why the Show Recast Jerry’s Dad

by Maria Hartfield
Credit: David Hume Kennerly / Getty Images

Seinfeld originally cast actor Phil Bruns as Jerry’s dad in Season 1. Barney Martin eventually replaced Bruns after the first season. Below we explore the details on the recast and why the sudden switch of actors.

Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld created the sitcom in the 1980s. It aired on NBC for over nine seasons and 180 episodes. The series takes place in an apartment in New York City’s Upper West Side focusing on the nuances of daily life.

Many of the characters on Seinfeld were recurring roles including Jerry’s parents, Morty and Helen Seinfeld. The couple often provided playful banter in regards to the senior citizen communities based in Florida. One memorable storyline involving Jerry’s parents is when Morty gets impeached as community president after Jerry bought him a Cadillac. Additionally, Helen and Morty publically loathed George’s parents, Frank and Estelle Costanza.

Morty and Helen first appear in the show in Season 1 on an episode called “The Stake Out”. In the episode, they try to give Jerry some relationship advice. In “The Stake Out” Jerry’s dad is played by Phil Bruns instead of Barney Martin. Martin didn’t join the cast until Season 2 making his debut in “The Pony Remark.” Maintaining the continuity of the series was extremely important to show creator Larry David. Therefore, it’s interesting they decided to move forward in recasting the part so quickly.

The Recast of Morty Seinfeld

Morty Seinfeld is a fictional character on Seinfeld (1989-1998). He is Jerry Seinfeld’s father and Helen Seinfeld’s husband. Morty made a living selling raincoats under Harry Fleming for 38 years. He is insistent on never letting Jerry pay for a meal when they go out to eat. However, he always sticks up for Jerry regardless of whether Jerry himself is bothered.

In seasons 1 & 2 of the Seinfeld DVD set, there’s a special inside look at “The Stake Out” episode. The added commentary goes into detail about Morty’s character. After “The Stake Out” aired, director Tom Cherones along with Seinfeld and David decided to find a “harsher parent” for Morty.

They ended up being successful after casting Martin in the role. Barney Martin’s outdated business sense and humorless quips set the stage for Morty’s character. These traits severely contrast to Burns’ version of the character. It’s hard to argue between the two actors. Bruns had over 100 credits to his name, however, Martin’s unforgiving attitude clearly defined the patriarchal character.

Looking back, it would be hard to imagine Morty’s animosity towards Jack Klompus (Sandy Baron) being as hard-hitting if Bruns was in the role. Martin and Baron’s uncanny banter ultimately created a comedic relationship.

Seinfeld eventually recast Newman (originally voiced by David) and Frank (originally played by John Randolph) and David chose to reshoot the scenes for continuity. He wanted to do the same thing with Morty by reshooting the scene from “The Stake Out,” but ultimately decided it wouldn’t have been realistic.