Why Jason Alexander was not invested in Seinfeld’s longevity
Even though all of the characters on Seinfeld got along perfectly on-screen, off it, things were a bit different. And one of the biggest reasons for the discontent was, sadly, money. Jerry Seinfeld (Jerry Seinfeld), Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Elaine Benes), Jason Alexander (George Costanza), and Michael Richards (Cosmo Kramer) had to deal with unequal payments.
By the time Seinfeld’s last season kicked in, every cast member was earning $1 million per episode. However, Alexander, Richards, and Louis-Dreyfus still had a sour deal. This is because NBC left them out of the lucrative royalty payments that co-creators Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David would earn for decades from the re-runs and the DVDs. And that is why Jason Alexander was not interested in the show’s longevity at all.
Seinfeld – four leads, different payments
Seinfeld was still at the peak of its popularity during season 9. NBC executives were even willing to pay Jerry Seinfeld another $110 million to keep the show running. But, he refused and so the show came to an end after the 9th season.
A big reason for that was that the co-creators feared that they just had no stories to tell. The writing was already the most difficult task of the show. And to keep on churning new content was difficult as time passed. And Jason Alexander also agreed with this idea, as he told The Globe and Mail:
The obstacle was that after nine seasons, the audience could more or less anticipate how any of these characters would react in any given situation. There was nothing new we could do to these characters and still have it be Seinfeld… Since the show had career-wise done everything it was going to do for us and it had taken care of us financially extremely well, the mutual thought was why don’t we tuck it in before the audience says this kid’s been up too long.
Jason Alexander did not bother about the longevity of Seinfeld once it was done
The series finale aired on May 14, 1998. But, the hype around Seinfeld never really died down. People bought DVDs of the show and continue to watch it on streaming platforms as well, with Netflix recently buying the rights to put the show on their platform. But, Jason Alexander didn’t really care about that. After all, he wasn’t getting any royalties from it. He said in the same interview:
When the DVDs came up, we were being asked to provide new services. We had no problem with the DVDs being released, but then they said, ‘We want you to perform new services. We want to do interviews and create additional footage and additional material’. Why would we do that? They said, ‘Because of the legacy of the show’.
On continuing the legacy, Jason Alexander just told his bosses over at NBC that he simply didn’t care about the “longevity of the show”. He continued:
Well, the character of George is not a millstone around my neck, but I had to turn to my former bosses and say, ‘I’m not invested in the longevity of the show. The longevity of the show actually is a detriment to me right now. It keeps me from getting certain kind of work. You have not made me a participant in the life of this show, therefore I am not inclined to give you these services’.
In the end, they compromised
Despite these severe disputes and disagreements, the cast members still agreed to shoot the extras for the DVD. Alexander said:
It took a while for them to understand. Frankly, I think they were well prepared to proceed without our services until the audience said, ‘Don’t do that’. I said to Jerry when he made the decision years ago to not let us in, ‘The day will come when you regret this decision, only because it’s going to put us in a position eventually of seemingly tainting the wonderful impression of what this was for the four of us’.
Even though this bone of contention exists between the cast members, they do have some amazing memories to cherish. Not to mention that to this day, Seinfeld is the most notable work that any of the cast members has done throughout their lives. That said, it would have felt a lot better had they been democratic with the royalties too.