What The Cast Of Seinfeld Is Doing Today

In television (and streaming), sitcoms come and go. But there will always be "Seinfeld." Created by comedians Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David, the multi-camera show told the story of a group of New Yorkers that included stand-up comedian Seinfeld himself. That said, the show didn't really get many laughs initially as its pilot failed to appeal to both adult and teen viewers. Nonetheless, an NBC executive named Rick Ludwin was still convinced that they were onto something and ran with it, shortening the show's title from "The Seinfeld Chronicles" to simply "Seinfeld."

Eventually, "Seinfeld" started to draw in audiences as it made its way to the top of the ratings. It didn't take long for critics to take notice of the sitcom too as it scored 68 Emmy nominations and 10 wins. At one point, the show was such a huge hit that NBC even aired "Seinfeld" as a lead-in for its other hit sitcom "Friends" before that show took off. "Seinfeld" would go on for nine seasons, with David leaving the show after Season 7 to pursue other projects.

"Seinfeld" also went on to be a huge hit after its run, reportedly earning over $3 billion in syndication profits so far. The sitcom also went on to conquer streaming in the years after it went off the air, eventually closing a deal with Netflix that was estimated to be worth around $500 million. As for the show's cast, many have found more success since leaving their famous "Seinfeld" roles. 

Jerry Seinfeld

For Jerry Seinfeld, the idea had always been to create a sitcom that essentially mirrors real life — his, to be exact. That's how he and co-creator Larry David got to writing a half-hour show about a group of 30-somethings doing nothing in Manhattan. As it also turned out, this was the kind of sitcom America had been waiting for.

Following the success of the show, Seinfeld already knew what he didn't want to do next — write another sitcom. "We killed ourselves to make those shows as good as they were," the comedian once told PBS. "People always say, 'Why don't you do another sitcom?' I think, 'If I could do another sitcom that good, yeah, sure I'd do it.' You can't. I can't." Since the show ended, Seinfeld also admitted that he has a hard time watching its reruns.

In the years that followed, the comedian didn't take on much work, making brief TV appearances and voicing the lead character in DreamWorks' "Bee Movie." And while Seinfeld has never developed another sitcom since, he did create another hit show. Years after "Seinfeld," he went on to produce and host the hit talk show "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee." Just as the title suggests, each episode featured Seinfeld driving his famous friends around in some incredible classic cars. Some of those famous friends include John Mulaney, Kate McKinnon, Margaret Cho, and "Saturday Night Live" creator Lorne Michaels. The show went on to earn five Emmy nominations.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Elaine Benes)

When Julia Louis-Dreyfus dropped out of college to join "Saturday Night Live" and become the show's youngest female cast member at 21, she must have thought that big things were going to happen soon enough. But they didn't. Louis-Dreyfus may not have languished in the background, but she didn't become a star either. That's when she knew that she had to move on, making her way to Los Angeles just in time to audition for countless pilots. 

By then, "Seinfeld" had already aired its pilot and only received a lukewarm reception. That's when the NBC execs sent a note, telling creators Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David to write in a female character. The character that the men eventually came up with was Elaine, which David based on his ex-girlfriend, Monica Yates. Several actresses were up for the part, including Patricia Heaton, Megan Mullally, and Louis-Dreyfus, who also had a deal to develop a series with Warner Brothers Television. The day after that deal expired, Louis-Dreyfus got cast as Elaine.

For Louis-Dreyfus, life after "Seinfeld" has been nothing short of amazing. Since then, she has starred on the award-winning comedy "Veep," playing the wickedly funny former senator Selina Meyer, a role that led to multiple Emmy wins. The actress also branched out from TV comedy, surprising fans when she made her debut as the mysterious and lethal Valentina Allegra de Fontaine in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Jerry Stiller (Frank Costanza)

When the late Jerry Stiller was first approached to do "Seinfeld," the veteran actor's first instinct was to turn them down, although the actor would eventually join the show and replace the late John Randolph as George Costanza's (Jason Alexander) father. When Stiller finally signed on though, things still weren't working right away.

At first, Larry David thought Mr. Costanza had to be a mellower character, in stark contrast with Mrs. Costanza (Estelle Harris). The show's co-creator was also convinced he had to be bald, like his son. Stiller instinctively knew neither would work and proceeded to illustrate his point to David at dress rehearsal. "[Harris] started screaming at me, and I, out of instinct, instead of just saying my lines, I [screamed back]," Stiller recalled to The Hollywood Reporter. "Everybody starts laughing, and David said, 'Jerry, keep it that way.' And that was the beginning of Frank Costanza." David also told Stiller that he wouldn't need a bald cap anymore.

After his time on Seinfeld, Stiller went on to do another hit television show, playing Kevin James' father-in-law in the Emmy-nominated comedy "The King of Queens." At the same time, he also went on to star alongside his son, comedian Ben Stiller, in films such as "The Heartbreak Kid" and the "Zoolander" movies. He also starred in films such as "Swinging with the Finkels," "Excuse Me for Living," "On the Line," and "Hairspray." The elder Stiller passed away in May 2020.

Jason Alexander (George Costanza)

When Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David came up with their show, David knew early on that he didn't want to be on camera that much. That's when he decided that the character of George Costanza would become his mouthpiece, although the character was never an exact representation of David on-screen. With that all set, the show proceeded to consider several actors for the role — Nathan Lane, Anthony Edwards, and Brad Hall among them — but they still ended up with no one.

Around this time, Jason Alexander was a Broadway actor, having performed onstage roles since the early '80s. He found out about "Seinfeld" after the show asked a theater director to put several actors on tape. At that point, Alexander received a few pages of the show's script. When he read them, George seemed a lot like Woody Allen, so that's how he approached the role. The tactic worked, and Alexander found himself getting flown out to Los Angeles to do a screen test with Seinfeld. He got the job and dropped the Woody Allen impression. Alexander also went on to earn multiple Emmy nominations for his performance.

Meanwhile, after "Seinfeld," Alexander continued to find success in television, making guest appearances on "Friends," "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel," "Young Sheldon," and David's "Curb Your Enthusiasm." He also produced and starred in the series "Bob Patterson." In between shows, the actor also did several films, including "Shallow Hal," "My Boyfriend's Meds," and "Faith Based."

Michael Richards (Cosmo Kramer)

By the time "Seinfeld" was casting its main roles, Michael Richards was already quite the star. Having made his on-screen debut back in 1982, the Los Angeles native had already appeared on hit shows such as "Cheers" and "Miami Vice." Richards had also auditioned for the sitcom "Married ... With Children," but failed to land the part of Al Bundy (that eventually went to actor Ed O'Neill). That said, Richards' audition still impressed casting director Marc Hirschfeld enough to get him the role of Cosmo Kramer on "Seinfeld." The character is based on comedian Kenny Kramer, although as Richards once told Charlie Rose, "Much of it does come from my sense. I bring a certain presence, a certain sensibility to the character."

The actor remained on the show until its final season. After "Seinfeld," Richards went on to co-create and star in his own sitcom, "The Michael Richards Show." He continued to capitalize further on his "Seinfeld" success until 2006, when he launched into a racist rant after getting heckled onstage during a stand-up performance. The crowd became upset with him soon after. In footage obtained by TMZ, someone from the audience can be heard telling Richards, "That was uncalled for." The comedian has since apologized for his tirade. Richards is also revisiting both his time on "Seinfeld" and his shocking outburst in his memoir "Entrances and Exits," which is scheduled for release in June 2024.

Estelle Harris (Estelle Costanza)

When the late Estelle Harris auditioned for "Seinfeld," she was in for a shock. Of all the audition pieces she could have gotten, the actress ended up with a script for the unforgettable episode titled "The Contest," which is where the show's famous "master of my domain" line comes from. 

"I looked at the script and I said to myself, 'Oh, that couldn't be,'" Harris recalled while speaking with The Associated Press. "I asked them, 'What did he do?' and they all started laughing. I said, 'Oh, no, it's impossible. On TV? It's impossible.'" Soon after, Harris landed the role of George Costanza's loud, nagging mom, Mrs. Costanza. Even after she got the role, however, the actress struggled to relate to Mrs. Costanza because of how miserable she was. "Nobody had a past like that! I mean, that poor woman," Harris later lamented in the same interview.

Following her time on "Seinfeld," Harris continued to take on television roles, making appearances on shows like "ER," "iCarly," "Sabrina the Teenage Witch," "The Suite Life of Zack & Cody," and Larry David's "Curb Your Enthusiasm." For the most part, however, the actress ventured into animation, voicing Mrs. Potato Head in the "Toy Story" franchise. Harris also provided voice talent for animated shows such as "House of Mouse," "Dave the Barbarian," "The Emperor's New School," "Futurama," and "Captain Jake and the Never Land Pirates." Harris passed away in April 2022. She was 93.

Wayne Knight (Newman)

As "Seinfeld" found its groove, Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld thought about introducing the audience to Newman, a character that David himself provided the off-screen voice for in a past episode. And that's when they met Wayne Knight, an actor who had already been starring in movies since the '80s, including classics like "Dirty Dancing." While the idea was for Newman to appear on the show briefly, Knight found himself playing a recurring role, much to his surprise. "And I just kept coming back. I kept thinking, 'They're gonna make me a regular on this thing!'" he later told The A.V. Club.

Since the end of "Seinfeld," Knight has worked on all sorts of projects. Much like his other former castmates, the actor has also continued to take on television roles, making appearances on "That '70s Show," the 2003 "Twilight Zone" reboot, "The Drew Carey Show," "CSI, "CSI: NY," "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation," "Nip/Tuck," "Bones," "Hot in Cleveland," and "Narcos." The actor also stayed on as a recurring character on the family comedy "3rd Rock from the Sun." Later on, Knight joined the rest of the "Seinfeld" cast for a reunion of sorts on David's "Curb Your Enthusiasm." Aside from his many television gigs, Knight also landed several film roles, appearing in "Hail, Caesar!" and later on, "12 Mighty Orphans." At the same time, the actor ventured into animation, voicing characters in the "Toy Story" and "Kung Fu Panda" movies.

Liz Sheridan (Helen Seinfeld)

By the time the late Liz Sheridan auditioned for the part of Helen Seinfeld, she was already quite familiar with Jerry Seinfeld's work. "I had watched him do stand-up when he was not famous yet," the actress said in an interview for Mark Voger's "Celebs" newspaper column (via The New York Times). Sheridan remembered that when she auditioned, she made everyone laugh. Later, when she got home, she learned she got the job. And while Sheridan only appeared in 21 episodes, the actress ended up forming a close bond with Seinfeld. "I'll hug him to say goodbye, and I'll hug him to say hello. I told him I love him like he was my son," the actress once told The Associated Press in a 1998 interview. "He said, 'I know. I love you and Barney like you were my father and mother.'"

Meanwhile, after wrapping up her time on "Seinfeld," Sheridan had some difficulty landing other projects because she was so closely associated with her character on the hit sitcom. That said, the actress went on to do several films, including "Closing the Deal," "Play the Game," and "Trim." She also continued to take on TV roles, making appearances on "Numb3rs," "Complete Savages," and "Noah Knows Best." In addition, Sheridan stayed on as recurring character Raquel Ochmonek on the comedy "ALF." Just like her former "Seinfeld" co-star Estelle Harris, Sheridan passed away in 2022. The actress was also 93.

Barney Martin (Morty Seinfeld)

By the time Barney Martin auditioned to play Jerry Seinfeld's on-screen dad, Philip Bruns had already portrayed the character in one episode. Nonetheless, once Martin took over, he owned the role. He also formed a close relationship with his fictional son. "He's a hard worker and a great guy. I would love to have him as my real son, although my real son is a wonderful guy," the actor said in an Entertainment Weekly interview.

After his role on "Seinfeld," Martin became a more recognizable figure in entertainment. That said, like his "Seinfeld" TV wife Liz Sheridan, the actor had some difficulty distancing himself from his role on the hit sitcom. As it did for her, this made it hard for him to land roles at times. "If I play a priest or something, they'll say, 'Hey, that's Morty Seinfeld playing the priest!' In that sense, it's hurt me, but I wouldn't change it for all the money in China," the actor also told Entertainment Weekly. That said, Martin did go on to book a couple of roles after "Seinfeld," appearing on the series "Noah Knows Best" (also just like Sheridan) and "Center of the Universe." He passed away in 2005 after a cancer diagnosis.

John O'Hurley (J. Peterman)

When John O'Hurley decided to audition for "Seinfeld," he didn't think the show was funny. At least not with respect to the way the part of J. Peterman — the savvy clothing entrepreneur — was written. "It was the un-funniest show to read," the actor once said in an interview for a PhillyMan magazine cover story. "There's no setup." 

When O'Hurley landed the role and got to the show's set, he also discovered that his character on the show was based on a real person. The actor got to know the real Peterman as he did the show. "John Peterman walks the talk," the actor once told Rolling Stone. "He's the guy who, instead of taking a flight to South America, would hop on a freighter and rent a room for a night."

Meanwhile, after O'Hurley ended his stint on "Seinfeld," he took on other television jobs, making appearances on shows such as "Sabrina the Teenage Witch," "Come to Papa," and "All My Children." The actor also served as a voice talent for animated series such as "The Legend of Tarzan," "Kim Possible," and "Family Guy." Around the same time, O'Hurley reunited with Peterman to relaunch his company years after some financial trouble had forced him to sell it. O'Hurley became a part owner of the company and a member of its board of directors.