Why Jason Alexander Gave Up Dramatic Roles for Comedy

Interview   Why Jason Alexander Gave Up Dramatic Roles for Comedy
 
The Tony-winning actor and Seinfeld star returns to his roots with The Portuguese Kid.
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Jason Alexander Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Jason Alexander is often asked about his career choices; but much of his success, the actor says, he owes to the decisions of other people. “If actors tell the truth—people choose us and we say yes or no,” says Alexander. People like Jerome Robbins, who hired Alexander primarily for his writing skills for Jerome Robbins’ Broadway. (Then Alexander’s performance ended up winning him a Tony Award.) People like Larry David, co-creator of Seinfeld, the sitcom that propelled Alexander to international stardom.

Jason Alexander surprises Larry David in <i>Fish in the Dark</i>
Jason Alexander surprises Larry David in Fish in the Dark

David was also responsible for roping Alexander back into Broadway in 2015, when he asked Alexander to replace him in David’s play Fish in the Dark. “I loved the poetry of that,” Alexander says. “He had been instrumental in pulling me away from what I thought would be my only career—doing theatre in New York—and had opened all these other doors for me. To go back under his auspices had a wonderful symmetry to it.”

As a young acting student, Alexander had planned to pursue dramatic roles—but again, someone pulled him a new direction. “I’d started losing my hair in college and I was always carrying at least a good ten pounds more than I’d like,” he says. “I had a professor who told me that if I wanted to have a commercial career, that I should start to look at comedy.” Taking his advice to heart, Alexander began to seriously study funny. He was a natural, and his career took off.

“Jason Alexander is one of the comic treasures that we have in this country,” says writer and director John Patrick Shanley, who sought the actor for his new comedy The Portuguese Kid, now playing Off-Broadway at Manhattan Theatre Club through November 26. Unlike the times before, this time, it was a meeting of mutual aspirations. Alexander says he has long been an admirer of the Tony-winning playwright, and taking on The Portuguese Kid—about a new widow (three-time Tony nominee Sherie Renee Scott) and her second-rate lawyer (Alexander)—was a “wonderful alchemy.”

To purchase tickets to The Portuguese Kid, click here.

As for his next career decision, maybe this one will be firmly Alexander’s. The actor has been writing more and more for television, and the idea of writing a full-length play or libretto intrigues him. “Perhaps one day, ‘Written by Jason Alexander’ will hang over a marquee,” he says. “I still find it frightening, but that would be very interesting.”

SEE WHAT ELSE IS COMING TO OFF-BROADWAY THIS FALL!

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