Legend has it that Lana Turner was discovered sitting at the fountain of Schwab’s drugstore in Hollywood. Schwab’s is long gone.
Now actresses make their bids for bigger and better things by sitting on Seinfeld’s couch. Lest there be any misunderstanding, that’s the couch on the set of the hit NBC comedy.
Among the latest to go from “Seinfeld” to stardom is Jessica Lundy, whose “Hope & Gloria” looks like the newest jewel in NBC’s Thursday night crown. In her one-shot on “Seinfeld,” Lundy played a woman whose foghorn laugh derailed her romance with Jerry.
Vicki Lewis, who plays the daffy secretary on the new Tuesday NBC hopeful “NewsRadio,” also should be familiar to Seinfeld watchers. She was George’s secretary at the New York Yankees office.
Paula Marshall got what appeared to be a big break this past fall when she was cast in “Wild Oats” as the object of lust for two roommates. Alas, her lead role on the swiftly canceled Fox series was almost as short-lived as her Seinfeld guest shot: She played the reporter who concluded that Jerry and George are gay - “not that there’s anything wrong with that.”
When it comes to “Seinfeld” lines that linger, Teri Hatcher’s exit would have to rank high. Hatcher, who now stars in “Lois & Clark,” was the woman Jerry fretted over dating because he suspected that she’d had breast augmentation (not that there’s anything wrong with that, either).
Not even a surreptitious steamroom reconnaissance by Elaine could get a definitive answer for Jerry. That finally came when Hatcher’s character learned of Jerry’s duplicity and kissed him off with, “By the way, they are real - and they’re spectacular.”
Hatcher can’t be categorized as a “Seinfeld” discovery, having already enjoyed star billing on Norman Lear’s CBS sitcom “Sunday Dinner.” But her greatest success came after teasing Jerry.
The same could be said of Jane Leeves, who plays the deliciously offkilter Daphne Moon on “Frasier.” An accomplished character actor, her credits include a run as Miles’ girlfriend on “Murphy Brown.” However, to “Seinfeld” devotees Leeves will always be the girl who, on the brink of losing her virginity to Jerry, wound up giving herself to John F. Kennedy Jr.
Courteney Cox had a succession of series roles but never a starring role in a hit like “Friends” until after she pretended to be Jerry’s wife to get a discount at a dry cleaners.
The prominence of “Seinfeld” has made it an “in” place in Hollywood, according to casting director Mark Hirschfield, who lines up Jerry’s girls.
“It’s the show that people in the industry watch, so it’s a good place to be seen,” Hirschfield says. Because of this, he can pick up the phone and get almost anyone he wants, sometimes on ridiculously short notice.
A couple of weeks ago, he had a role that he felt fit Amy Hill, a regular on the ABC sitcom “All-American Girl.” He called her on a Sunday and told her he needed her yesterday. He wasn’t kidding. The episode, which also features Bette Midler, had gone into production on Saturday. Hill came right over.
Other star-caliber actresses who have answered “Seinfeld’s” call for a secondary role include Wendie Malick and Valerie Mahaffey. Malick, a regular on the HBO series “Dream On” (for which she won a CableAce Award), played a physical therapist friend of Elaine’s this season on “Seinfeld.” Mahaffey, whose roles include the goofy hypochondriac Eve on “Northern Exposure” (for which she won an Emmy) and the naive secretary on the new “Women of the House,” played an eccentric with chopsticks in her hair who dated George.
Most actresses get more warning than Amy Hill did, but sometimes not a lot more.
“We usually don’t get ‘Seinfeld’ scripts until the day of the first table reading,” Hirschfield says. Then it’s up to him to find just the right person for the situation.
Fortunately, he has a voluminous file, a terrific memory and plenty of opportunity. He and his partner, Meg Liberman, cast numerous shows.
He put together the ensemble of “Married … With Children.” Some of his agency’s other clients include “Grace Under Fire,” “Party of Five” and “The Larry Sanders Show.” When someone impresses in an audition for one of these shows but isn’t quite right for the part, Hirschfield tries to think of another of his series in which the performer would be a better fit.
It takes more than looks to qualify for “Seinfeld,” he says. An actress must be unique in some way.
“They have to have a strong point of view or an attitude,” he says. “You don’t see any women on ‘Seinfeld’ who are armpieces.”
What you do see is an uncanny number of actresses who go on to become centerpieces of other shows.
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