‘Seinfeld’ Pays Tribute to Late Character Actor Philip Baker Hall

by Caitlin Berard

The Hollywood career of late actor Philip Baker Hall began in 1970, with an uncredited role in Zabriskie Point, a dramatized depiction of late 1960s America. From there, he began to build his reputation as an incredibly talented character actor, bringing unforgettable personality and humor to even the smallest parts. It’s no surprise, then, that in 1991, Seinfeld came calling.

The Seinfeld crew were filming the Season 3 episode “The Library,” and in need of a hilarious actor who could convincingly make a huge deal out of Jerry’s overdue library book – from 1971. The choice of Philip Baker Hall for the role of library detective was a no-brainer, as the beloved actor now had twenty years of experience under his belt and was a proven star.

The character was an instant hit. So much so, in fact, that Seinfeld producers invited Philip Baker Hall to return 7 years later for the series finale. Though he only appeared in two episodes, Hall made a significant impact on both the show and his colleagues. Following the news of the iconic actor’s death, Seinfeld paid tribute to the late star on social media.

“The great Philip Baker Hall will forever be remembered by Seinfeld fans as the hard-nosed library detective, Mr. Bookman. Hall had a long and impressive career as one of Hollywood’s top character actors. His talent will be cherished,” they wrote.

Philip Baker Hall On His ‘Seinfeld’ Audition, ‘It Was a Memorable Day’

For Philip Baker Hall, the book detective on Seinfeld was simply one of the hundreds of roles he played throughout his career. For fans, however, Mr. Bookman was nothing short of iconic. And though Hall was slightly confused by the popularity of that particular character, he was always extremely grateful for the opportunity.

In a 2012 interview with AV Club, Philip Baker Hall recalled his Seinfeld audition fondly. “You know, because it was so eventful, career-wise, in my life, I can still remember that audition,” he explained. “I was kind of amazed at the depth of the role. Seinfeld wasn’t writing roles that big for the guest actors. Or that varied, that interesting. So that was surprising.”

After seeing the competition – several major Hollywood stars – Hall was a little flustered, but still managed to nail the audition. “I remember walking in and feeling a little intimidated by the star power I saw sitting around the room,” he said. “But then I went in to read and—by the way, Jerry was still reading with the actors. So it was the director [Joshua White], Larry David, and Jerry Seinfeld, just the four of us in the room, and I remember that none of them could stop laughing. They just couldn’t stop laughing.”

“They were, like, choked up with laughter,” he continued. “And it was one of the few times that, when I came back from that audition, I told my wife… in this business, we normally don’t count any chickens before they hatch, but I said, ‘I got this role. They will be calling soon. I got this role.’ And an hour or so later, they did call and offer the part to me. It was a memorable day.”