‘Seinfeld,’ Why Did Showrunners Recast This Major Character

by Megan Molseed

The popular 1990s TV sitcom series, Seinfeld has left a big impact on comedy history. From original storylines that remain favorites to this day, to spot-on characters that we will never forget, the popular classic TV series will remain one of the most prolific shows of all time. However, Seinfeld fans may not realize one shocking piece of trivia about the award-winning series. The trivia? The fact that one of the show’s most popular characters, Frank Costanza, was originally given to another actor, John Randolph.

Originally, it was actor John Randolph who portrayed George Costanza’s (Jason Alexander) father in the popular series. In fact, Randolph remained in this role for the show’s first four seasons.

Now, it seems impossible to imagine another actor portraying the character for which Jerry Stiller is so well known. However, when looking at the evolution of the elder Costanza’s and their appearances in the series, this little piece of trivia becomes a little easier to understand.

The first appearance of Frank Costanza in the hit series occurs in the fourth season episode titled The Handicap Spot. This episode sees George borrowing his parent’s car, bringing his previously unseen parents into the fold. Frank Costanza doesn’t appear in the series again until the fifth season. By this time showrunners had already decided to go another direction with the character.

Jerry Stiller Turns Frank Costanza Into One Of The Most Iconic TV Characters Of All Time

Originally, Seinfeld creators saw George Costanza’s father as being a passive character. Estelle (Estelle Harris) was the more dominant of the two. However, soon the showrunners decided to bring the Costanza elders into more episodes. To do this, series creators began to focus on developing this character further. Into the sort of manically sensibly unsensible character created by comedian Jerry Stiller.

Series creator, Larry David, doesn’t recall how the recasting occurred…whether it was because Randolph was unable to return or not. Whatever the case, this move began Jerry Stiller’s iconic run as the unforgettable Frank Costanza.

Why Can’t Seinfeld Find The John Randolph Episodes?

Once the recasting of Frank Costanza was official, Larry David turned his focus to continuity in the series. He soon convinced NBC to allow the series to reshoot the scenes from Randolph’s fourth season appearance on Seinfeld.

So, anyone who missed the original casting of this Seinfeld episode likely only knows Jerry Stiller’s Frank Costanza in the story. Randolph’s run as George’s father hasn’t totally fallen from existence, though. This episode is part of the sitcom’s DVD sets. The episode has also made its way onto a few streaming services. Netflix watchers, however, can only find the Jerry Stiller version on the popular streaming service.