Both Jerry’s dad, Morty, and George’s dad, Frank, were recast in Seinfeld with Barney Martin and Jerry Stiller, respectively. Here’s why.
Here’s why Seinfeld recast Jerry’s dad after season 1, and George’s dad after season 4. Among the many memorable recurring characters on the sitcom were Jerry and George’s parents, Morty and Helen Seinfeld, and Frank and Estelle Costanza. Making several appearances across Seinfeld’s nine-season run, the parents brought a hilarious dynamic to the show, most notably by providing amusing commentary on Florida’s senior citizen communities, and Frank’s famous Festivus holiday. Funny storylines involving Jerry’s parents included Morty being impeached as community president after Jerry bought him a Cadillac. At the same time, some of Frank’s best storylines included the running “serenity now” gag, and the rye bread incident. Helen and Morty Seinfeld also had a strong disdain for George’s parents.
Morty and Helen’s first appearance on Seinfeld was in the season 1 episode “The Stake Out,” where they try to give Jerry some relationship advice. In that episode, Liz Sheridan portrays Helen, as she did throughout the series. However, Morty is played by Phil Bruns, rather than Barney Martin. Martin joined the cast in Seinfeld season 2, debuting in “The Pony Remark.” John Randolph’s Frank Costanza showed up in Seinfeld’s season 4 episode “The Handicap Spot.” The character didn’t reappear until season 5’s episode “The Puffy Shirt,” and this time, it was Jerry Stiller filling the role. Given how committed Larry David was to maintaining Seinfeld’s continuity, recasting the parts so quickly reads as a curious decision. But there’s a good reason for it.
Recasting isn’t new for sitcoms when it comes to side characters. The interesting aspect of Seinfeld‘s recasting, is that both Morty Seinfeld and Frank Costanza became bigger players in the series after the fact. Shows don’t often recast recurring roles, due to flack from many. But for Seinfeld, the new actors worked, and arguably, flourished in their respective parts. Here’s why Morty Seinfeld and Frank Costanza were both played by different actors in the series.
Why Seinfeld Recast Morty Seinfeld
Morty Seinfeld was recast after season 1 for the same reason as Frank Costanza — the show creators wanted to go a different direction with the character. The Seinfeld seasons 1 & 2 DVD set includes a special inside look at “The Stake Out,” which briefly discusses the Morty role. Director Tom Cherones notes that after “The Stake Out” aired, Seinfeld and David decided they wanted a “harsher parent” for Morty, and replaced the actor. The implication is Bruns was too laid back for what the co-creators envisioned, so they took things in a different direction.
If the idea was to give Jerry a “harsher parent,” Seinfeld and David were successful in that goal, just as they were with George’s dad. Martin brought a cantankerous edge to Morty, a stark contrast from Bruns’ interpretation in “The Stake Out.” Bruns was a very accomplished actor with over 100 credits to his name, but looking back at Seinfeld, a case can be made he wasn’t right for the part. It’s hard to picture Morty’s rivalry with Jack Klompus being as effective with Bruns in the role. Martin, and Jack actor Sandy Baron, both had a stubbornness to their portrayals that made their interactions hilarious to watch. They both felt they were in the right and wouldn’t back down from each other. This dynamic was perfectly encapsulated as early as “The Pen,” proving David made the right choice for Seinfeld by moving on from Bruns.
Why Did They Replace George’s Dad On Seinfeld?
Frank Costanza became a favorite among Seinfeld‘s recurring cast after being played by Jerry Stiller. While the original Frank, John Randolph, was only present for one episode, Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld decided they wanted to make Frank Constanza a better fit for the Seinfeld universe. John Randolph was by no means a bad actor. He simply played Frank too subtly.
Larry David recalls that he couldn’t remember if Randolph was busy at the time of “The Puffy Shirt,” or if they just wanted a fresh start with Frank. Initially, Estelle Costanza was meant to be the more overbearing character — but that wasn’t enough to justify why George turned out the way he did. Once season 5 rolled around, the series creators decided they wanted to rewrite Frank Costanza into a much more involved character, as he was too passive in the series up until this point. Either way, the casting worked wonders, and George’s dad quickly joined the show’s favorites, rivaling even Newman for popularity.
When Seinfeld recast Newman (originally voiced by David) and George’s dad, David chose to re-record or reshoot scenes for syndication to keep continuity intact. He wanted to do the same thing with Morty, and reshoot the scene from “The Stake Out,” but by the time he came up with the idea, the actors had aged so much it wouldn’t have been realistic. Seinfeld was made well before de-aging technology was prevalent in visual effects, so there wasn’t a way around it.
Next: Why Seinfeld Killed Off Susan In Season 7
Seinfeld is now streaming on Netflix.
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