‘Seinfeld’: The ‘Friends’ Star You Never Knew Auditioned for Kramer

by Sean Griffin

Michael Richards will always be remembered for his time as Cosmo Kramer on Seinfeld. However, like many iconic roles in Hollywood, it almost went to someone else.

Friends and Seinfeld are heralded as the most successful sitcoms of the 1990s. Both shows helped define the decade culturally. Recently, it was revealed that a Friends cast member auditioned for the role. However, the role went to Michael Richards instead.

Larry Hankin also auditioned for the role of Kramer on Seinfeld. After he lost the iconic part, he earned a nice consolation prize. He landed the role of Mr. Heckles on the show Friends. Mr. Heckles is the eccentric, disgruntled downstairs neighbor of Monica Geller (Courteney Cox) and Rachel Green (Jennifer Aniston).

Hankin appeared on five episodes of Friends. However, in that short string of episodes, Hankin became a memorable recurring character. Many Friends fans would have thought the actor appeared in more episodes. He reprised the role in those five episodes across three seasons.

Recently, Larry Hankin spoke with the “Beyond the Backlot” podcast. Hankin talked about his experience auditioning for Kramer on Seinfeld. The actor brought up that he and Michael Richards were friends before auditions. He said because of their similar type, they normally auditioned for similar roles. Frequently, they’d audition for the same roles.

Hankin recalled that Larry David told him he looked more like the person Kramer was based on than Richards did. Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld both based the characters on people they knew in real life.

Hankin Talks About ‘Seinfeld’ Audition

After he lost the role, Hankin kept his eye on the series to see who won the part. He claims he initially was annoyed his buddy had landed the role. However, on the podcast, Hankin admits the right choice was made.

“They picked the right guy. When he comes through the door!” Hankin laughed as he said this, remembering Richards’ iconic opening sequences. Oftentimes, Kramer enters a scene with a frantic and boisterous door opening. Richards’ combination of smooth vocal delivery and zany physical comedy made the character a fan-favorite.

Hankin revealed Richards himself encouraged him to audition for another role in “The Pilot.” He auditioned despite Richards’ endorsement. Hankin remembered that actor Tom Pepper also auditioned. He claimed that Tom Pepper looked nothing like Jerry’s actual weird neighbor.

“I really had an attitude about that,” Hankin claimed. Apparently, when auditioning for Kramer, Larry David asked Hankin to perform a door entrance. Apparently, he auditioned a whopping five times for the role. However, it eventually went to Michael Richards. Yet, Hankin remains a hilarious secondary character on Friends. Fans remember his signature broom-thumping and wild antics. He recorded his last appearance on Friends in a flashback episode called “The One with the Flashback.”