ALEXANDER, JASON (1959– ), U.S. actor and entertainer. Born in Newark, n.j., as Jay Scott Greenspan, Alexander starred in 180 episodes, over nine years, of the wildly popular situation comedy Seinfeld, starring Jerry *Seinfeld. Alexander portrayed the hapless George Costanza, a "schlepp" partly based on the show's co-creator, Larry *David. Costanza, neurotic, devious, and unscrupulous, was one of the more memorable characters in television series history.
Although he was short, chubby and began to grow bald at an early age, Alexander had such a commanding stage presence that he was invariably cast as the star in school plays, in roles ranging from romantic leads to elderly character parts. He won a scholarship to Boston University's drama department and at 20 was cast in the Stephen *Sondheim Broadway musical Merrily We Roll Along, but the show closed shortly after it opened. Alexander left college soon thereafter to pursue his acting career. He got his first film role in The Burning, produced by Harvey *Weinstein, in 1981 and three years later he played four roles in the Broadway musical The Rink. He created the role of Stanley Jerome in Neil *Simon's semi-autobiographical play Broadway Bound and then took on a starring role in Jerome Robbins' Broadway, for which he won the Tony, Drama Desk, and Outer Circle Critics awards as best actor in a musical.
Alexander's voice appeared in a number of animated features, including Aladdin, The Return to Jafar, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. In 1997 he played an aids-afflicted drag queen who finds romance in the movie Love! Valour! Compassion! He also got a lead role in the Los Angeles stage version of The Producers.
After Seinfeld, for which he won six Emmy nominations, four Golden Globe nominations, and other honors, Alexander starred as a self-help guru in a television series, Bob Patterson, but it was quickly canceled. In 2004 he starred in another situation comedy, Listen-Up, based on the life of a sportswriter. He also made a quick, highly publicized trip to Israel to air his views about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
[Stewart Kampel (2nd ed.)]