There’s no doubt that the late Jerry Stiller was a highlight on Seinfeld. His contributions to the show will live alongside some of the other greatest sitcom moments in history. So, it’s pretty remarkable to think that Jerry almost didn’t play Frank Costanza, George’s very strange, unhinged, and aggressive father. Without Frank, there’d be no Festivus. Without Frank, there would be no “Serenity now!”. And without Frank, Kramer wouldn’t have one of the best accomplices on the show.
Michael Richards’ Kramer is one of the greatest sitcom characters ever written. He could play off any one of the other characters on Seinfeld. But co-creators Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld knew he had something special with Jerry Stiller. Whenever Kramer and Frank were hatching a scheme or shooting the breeze, magic was happening. While some behind-the-scenes stories of the making of Seinfeld prove the show was far darker than fans know, other stories are totally heartwarming. This includes the truth about Jerry Stiller and Michael Richards’ relationship. Here’s how the two comic geniuses were able to work with one another and what they actually thought of each other…
Michael Richards And Jerry Stiller Were Allowed To Do Things On Set That The Other Actors Weren’t
According to Michael Richards season 6’s “The Doorman” was the first time that he worked closely with Jerry Stiller. This was the episode where the two come up with the idea for the bra for men, AKA “The Bro” or “The Mansier”. Up until that point, the two really only saw each other in passing. Frank was an established character after the original actor was replaced and Jerry was allowed to mold George’s father into something far different from what Larry David had intended. And Michael was well into finding the sweet spot for his iconic character.
Given the way these two dedicated actors worked, some directors may be afraid of putting them together. After all, both are bold in their choices and could easily attempt to outshine the other. But this wasn’t the case.
“Michael was very meticulous about the way he worked,” Jerry Stiller said in a behind-the-scenes interview for “The Doorman”. “I made up a line about him. I said, ‘He had a mercurial mind in a weightless body.'”
It’s well-documented that Michael removed himself from the rest of the cast and attempted to stay in his Kramer zone every hour of every day. He was always trying something different in each take and this wasn’t what every actor could work with. But Jerry had a blast with it because he was much the same.
The respect and affection that Jerry had for Michael and his work ethic was something that was mutual. In the same behind-the-scenes interview, Michael claimed that he was blown away by Jerry’s take on the character and that he adored working with him. Michael also enjoyed the freedom that working with Jerry allowed him. His scenes with the rest of the cast were well-rehearsed, but his scenes with Jerry were a free for all. The writers and director gave them carte-blanche to work out what they were physically doing in any given scene.
“[They] just [kept] the cameras going,” Michael said.
“We’d work it out. We’d get on camera… forget it… we just do whatever we want to do,” Jerry added.
How Michael Richards And Jerry Stiller Really Felt About Each Other
Jerry Stiller has been open about just how much respect he had for Michael as an actor. He’s also said that some of his best memories making Seinfeld involved working with Michael.
When Jerry Stiller passed away in 2020, many of Hollywood’s most famous faces publicly stated how sorry they were to hear of his passing and paid tribute to him. Among those who said something kind about Jerry was Michael Richards. However, unlike nearly everyone else who said something about Jerry, Michael didn’t have social media.
“Until today, I have avoided social media completely, but I’ve created this account in order to say something, belatedly, about a person I loved. Jerry Stiller was an absolute treasure,” Michael Richards wrote on Instagram after creating an account. “I adored him and loved working with him on ‘Seinfeld.’ Watch the pool table scene — that says it all — we could really shoot the ball back and forth and that’s what happened between us throughout the series. He was hilarious and a great friend. He’s a legendary showman and he was always an inspiration to me.”
While the two could have clashed onset due to their big personalities and style of acting, Jerry Stiller and Michael Richards actually thrived with one another. Not only that but there was real love there. Whether they did or did not know they were finding gold whenever they worked together or not is irrelevant. The pair truly, deeply loved each other.