‘Seinfeld’: How a Casting Shake-Up Made One Role Iconic

by Michael Freeman

Avid Seinfeld watchers likely agree the entire cast is iconic and it’s hard to imagine anyone else playing their signature roles. Nonetheless, there was one casting shake-up that helped make one actor’s role even more iconic.

The character in question is none other than George Costanza’s father, Frank. When you think of Frank Costanza, you think of Jerry Stiller, and for good reason. It may surprise you to learn then Stiller actually wasn’t the first actor to play Frank. John Randolph initially took the role for “The Handicap Spot,” in episode 22 of season 4. After that single appearance, producers brought Stiller in to play him from then on, Looper reports. The transition resulted in Frank becoming the less gentle, angrier character we grew to know and love.

Speaking to Esquire in 2020, Stiller informed the outlet that series co-creator Larry David wanted him to play the role from the beginning. However, Stiller had his hands full with other projects and couldn’t commit at the time. Once the show was going to begin season 5, producers reached out again but this time managed to snag Stiller.

You may wonder how the show would address the change in actors, so Randolph’s scenes were re-shot. If you’ve seen “The Handicap Spot” on networks airing the show, you can vouch for the fact Stiller is in fact present. Luckily, if you’re curious about the original versions of the episodes, you can see them in the DVD releases.

Interestingly, in his Esquire interview, Stiller said George’s mother was supposed to be the “screamer” and Frank was supposed to be meek. He talked to Larry David about it and put his own spin on the role, turning Frank into the loud, angry version we know today.

It’s a Festivus miracle!

‘Seinfeld’ Character Elaine was Also Almost Played by Other Actresses

Having Jerry Stiller almost not play Frank Constanza is one thing, but what if Julia Louis-Dreyfus never played Elaine Benes? That was almost the case, with at least six other notable actresses trying their hand at the part.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus is synonymous with her role as Elaine, but it could have easily have gone to someone else. According to Screenrant, there were at least six other famous actresses who tried out for the part. These include Rosie O’Donnell, Patricia Heaton, Mariska Hargitay, Jessica Lundy, Amy Yasbeck, and Megan Mullally. Unsurprisingly, many of them had backgrounds in comedy, making them contenders for the role.

Though none of them ended up playing Elaine, they all saw success elsewhere. For instance, Mariska Hargitay is known for her staple character of Olivia Benson on Law & Order: SVU. Funnily enough, she also appeared on Seinfeld later trying out for the part of Elaine. For context, Jerry and George created Seinfeld within the Seinfeld show and Hargitay was an actress who showed up hoping to play Elaine.

It sounds a bit confusing, but technically Hargitay did get to play Elaine, to an extent.