The Kennedy Center

Jason Alexander



Biography

While his former "Seinfeld" character George Costanza might have slid from smugness to paranoia to disintegration after any personal triumph, seven-time Emmy nominee Jason Alexander has managed to negotiate the perils of success just fine.

For the big screen he executive produced the family film hit Agent Cody Banks and the recent sequel, Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London, also lending his recognizable pipes to Disney's 101 Dalmatians II. On television he's gone from being a guest star on "Malcolm in the Middle" to a presenter at the 46th annual Grammy Awards. His new children's book for Scholastic, Dad, Are You the Tooth Fairy?, was released in May 2005. And girding his ego against a roomful of fawning undergraduates, he also spent a semester as a visiting professor teaching theater at USC.

And speaking of theater, Tony-winner Alexander sang, danced, joked and schemed for eight months at L.A.'s Pantages Theatre, starring opposite Martin Short in the regional production of Mel Brooks' hit Broadway musical The Producers, wrapping his run in early January, 2004. In the role of Max Bialystock, Alexander earned kudos and even inspired former "Seinfeld" creator Larry David to write himself into the same role, albeit fictitiously, for his HBO series "Curb Your Enthusiasm."

For Alexander, nine seasons as hapless shlep George Costanza on NBC's "Seinfeld" was a high point in a career on stage, screen and television. For his portrayal of George, Alexander earned six Emmy and four Golden Globe nominations, an American Television Award and two American Comedy Awards for Best Supporting Actor in a Television Series. The Screen Actors Guild went one step higher and knighted him Best Actor in a Comedy Series, despite his role as a supporting actor.

Recent television roles also include a version of "A Christmas Carol" for NBC, playing Marley's ghost to Kelsey Grammer's Scrooge, and he starred in his own CBS sitcom, entitled "Listen Up." Based on the life of ESPN personality and Washington Post columnist Tony Kornheiser, the series starred Alexander as Tony Cleinman, whose professional world is constantly colliding with his home life.

Born and raised in New Jersey, Alexander first found an audience among his classmates, entertaining them in an effort to distract from his chubbiness. At sixteen he earned his first professional job when he was spotted in a children's theater group and was asked to perform on a local New York children's program. Two years later he landed his first film – The Burning, a horror yarn produced by Harvey Weinstein – while studying acting at Boston University (in 1995, at the height of his "Seinfeld" acclaim, Alexander would return to his alma mater to receive an honorary doctorate in Fine Arts).

From that first film role, Alexander honed his chops in such features as in Brighton Beach Memoirs, Mosquito Coast, Jacob's Ladder, White Palace, Coneheads, Blankman, The Last Supper, Denial and the Academy Award-nominated live-action short, Down On The Waterfront. His most memorable roles include those in Rob Reiner's North, Ron Howard's The Paper and as Richard Gere's villainous lawyer in Pretty Woman. As a leading man he brought comedic flair to starring roles in I Don't Buy Kisses Any More and Dunston Checks In, and garnered exceptional reviews for his portrayal of Buzz in the film version of Terrance McNally's Tony Award-winning play Love! Valour! Compassion! More recently Alexander appeared as Boris Badenov opposite Rene Russo and Robert De Niro in Rocky & Bullwinkle and in the Farrelly Brothers comedy Shallow Hal.

Among his television work, Alexander starred in the CBS series "Everything's Relative," the Elliot Gould comedy series "E/R," the miniseries "Favorite Son," ABC's version of "Bye Bye Birdie" opposite Vanessa Williams, "Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Cinderella" with Whitney Houston, Brandy and Whoopi Goldberg, the CBS movie "The Man Who Saved Christmas," and the ABC series "Bob Patterson." He hosted "Saturday Night Live" and earned his seventh Emmy nomination for a guest spot on HBO's "Dream On." Alexander never ceases to surprise, revealing a broad range with song-and-dance numbers for "The Comedy Hall of Fame," "The Kennedy Center Honors" and "The 1994 Emmy Awards" (for which he was nominated for an American Comedy Award), and as a co-host of "The 1995 Emmy Awards" with Cybill Sheperd. He also performed with the Boston Pops on PBS and with the orchestra again at Carnegie Hall.

Alexander's voice has become equally as famous in animated features and television series. For four seasons, he starred in USA Network's critically acclaimed adult animation series "Duckman" and has provided guest chords in "Aladdin," featured voice work in "The Return of Jafar" and "Hercules" as well as Hugo the gargoyle in Disney's The Hunchback Of Notre Dame.

Besides his producing work for the Agent Cody Banks films, Alexander has also made strides as a director. He helmed the coming-of-age comedy Just Looking, starring Patti Lupone, and the romantic comedy For Better Or Worse starring himself, Lolita Davidovich and James Woods. His first effort behind the camera, an episode of "Seinfeld," was nominated for a DGA Award.

A lover of theater, Alexander made his Broadway debut in the Hal Prince/Stephen Sondheim show Merrily We Roll Along. He later starred on Broadway in Rupert Holmes' Accomplice, Neil Simon's Broadway Bound and The Rink with Liza Minnelli and Chita Rivera. In 1989 a theatrical milestone came in Jerome Robbins' Broadway, for which he won Tony, Outer Critics and Drama Desk Awards for Best Actor in a Musical. Alexander also authored the narration of the show, which itself won a Tony for Best Musical. In Los Angeles, he received unanimous kudos and a Dramalogue Award for his portrayal of Harry Truman in the one-man play Give ‘Em Hell Harry, starred in Promises, Promises for Reprise! Broadway's Best in Concert, and starred opposite Peter Falk in Lee Kalcheim's Defiled at Geffen Playhouse.

Donating his time to many charitable causes, Alexander recently traveled to Israel on behalf of One Voice, a grassroots initiative to unite Israelis and Palestinians through consensus building. Closest to his heart is his role as spokesperson for the United Scleroderma Foundation, given that his own sister suffers from the life-threatening disease of the vascular and immune systems that primarily affects women. Though he misses the New York theater community, Jason Alexander now calls Los Angeles home, where he lives with his wife Daena, their sons Gabriel and Noah, and Sandy the dog.

Updated October 2006
Jason Alexander