Constanza no more! Jason Alexander’s latest journey is all about setting a good example for kids in Star Trek: Prodigy.
There’s little doubt that Jason Alexander will be forever associated with his alter-ego on Seinfeld, the neurotic and hilarious George Costanza. It’s one of the best characters to ever come to television and no small part of the show’s success. But, by no means does George define the oeuvre of Jason Alexander or the life of the man. In the past few years, he’s appeared in comedies like The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, The Connors, and the recent hilarious TV movie, Out of Office. Alexander is the father of two sons, both of who are all grown up.
Recently, he’s returned to one thing he loved as a child very much, namely, Star Trek. “Since eight or nine,” Alexander grew up idolizing William Shatner, and now, in a voice role in Star Trek: Prodigy, he’s come back to that sci-fi universe that buoyed his early years. But this full circle doesn’t just connect to Alexander’s childhood. It’s also reconnected him with the start of his career. Alexander began his acting life by channeling William Shatner.
“I didn’t want to be an actor,” Alexander tells Fatherly. “As a kid, I didn’t even know I was a fan of Shatner’s. I wanted to be Captain Kirk!”
As with many young sci-fi fans, growing up and imagining yourself as the captain of a starship, “jumping in the air and doing the double leg kick,” occupied much of Jason Alexander’s boyhood. And so, when he got serious about what he calls “dramatic” acting, his first major audition deeply channeled his love of Captain Kirk.
“I auditioned at Boston University, there was a gentleman there named William Lacy who was a professor. And he had done Shakespeare with Bill [Shatner] up in Canada when they were young men,” Alexander reveals. “And I finished my audition, he said ‘I have no idea what kind of an actor you are, but that's the finest Bill Shatner imitation I've ever seen.’ And they admitted me. And so I began my official training. [as an actor].”
In the Seinfeld episode “The Foundation,” George, Jerry, and Kramer all debate the various merits of different ‘80s Star Trek films. And, when George’s inlaws put him in a bind, all because Jerry quoted The Wrath of Khan, Jason Alexander’s famous Shatner impression made it into a classic Seinfeld bit. In fact, when George bellows “KHAAAAN!!!!” the moment is perhaps even more Shatner-esque than Shatner himself.
“Well, you’ve got to really get that eruption,” Alexander jokes. “That sort of holding back the vomit thing.”
In the Nickelodeon-produced animated 7+ series, Star Trek: Prodigy, Alexander plays the voice of Dr. Noum, a character who isn’t just there for comedic effect at all. In fact, if you didn’t know it was him, you wouldn’t know.
“Normally when people call me for an animation, they're looking for some variation of Duckman or George,” Alexander tells Fatherly. “And yet, they're showing me this kind of a hulking guy.” To come up with the voice for the imposing Noum, Alexander channeled an over-the-top loud-mouth Klingon villain (Michael Pataki) from the slapstick 1967 Star Trek episode, “The Trouble With Troubles.” By doing a deep cut of this obscure character — that’s nothing like his own voice or Shatner’s cadence — Alexander sold the producers on the character’s persona “hook, line, and sinker.”
And so, Alexander exists, somewhat anonymously within Prodigy, a series that boldly goes where few Star Trek shows have gone before.
“Star Trek shows have never really specifically tried to become a young person's show,” Alexander says. “So now, the idea of taking a show that celebrates diversity and the challenges of diversity and inclusion, and for young people, is amazing.”
One of the biggest themes in Prodigy is the question of how various alien species can find common ground through simple communication. The sci-fi tech and ideals of Star Trek, make the job of overcoming prejudice “look easier than apparently, it is,” Alexander reflects.
For a very funny man, Alexander gets pretty serious about his love of positive sci-fi and the impact it had on him as a child, and what another version of that idealism might feel like for children today.
“I don't want to get too highfalutin about it, but one of the things that always struck me with Star Trek was its vision of our diversity being a glorious thing,” Alexander says. “I'll take any tool in the toolkit that informs our next generations about what humanity is supposed to look and act like. And I think what Star Trek aspires to is a very noble cause. I’m personally delighted to be a part of it in any way.”
Star Trek: Prodigy — co-produced by Nickelodeon — streams on Paramount+.
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