Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus Thought Seinfeld Would Be Canceled Before Season 1's Finale

Jerry Seinfeld's ex-girlfriend turned bestie, Elaine Benes (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) became a mainstay on NBC's "Seinfeld," which continues to resonate with both critics and audiences. Louis-Dreyfus, who was already an actor, "Saturday Night Live" player, and a member of The Second City, was exposed to a whole new wealth of fans, as were her co-stars. And "the show about nothing" made household names of Louis-Dreyfus, Jason Alexander and Michael Richards. In addition, the series eventually catapulted its titular star, Jerry Seinfeld, into a global icon.

However, the TV series got started without Elaine's sponge-worthy, Jesus fish-stealing antics, and the show's lucrative future wasn't a sure thing even after the pilot was produced. Executives at NBC screened the first episode, "Good News, Bad News," and the network decided to order four episodes of the sitcom. However, Seinfeld and co-creator Larry David were given a single note that had to be addressed before moving forward. "You have to have a woman in this that has a real part," Seinfeld said during the "Seinfeld: How It Began" documentary (via YouTube). That's when Louis-Dreyfus was signed on to join the hijinks.

Prior to Louis-Dreyfus showing up in the second episode of Season 1, "The Stakeout," the pilot only featured a cameo by the waitress (Lee Garlington) at the original diner, Pete's Luncheonette, and Jerry's guest-star love interest — she turned out to have a fiancé — Laura (Pamela Brull). Today, almost everyone knows how successful "Seinfeld" was, but Louis-Dreyfus didn't think there was a chance for a second season.

Louis-Dreyfus thought Seinfeld was doomed

Julia Louis-Dreyfus' character on "Seinfeld," Elaine Benes, showed up in "The Stakeout," and she immediately bonded with her co-stars Jerry Seinfeld, Michael Richards (Kramer), and Jason Alexander (George Costanza). The foursome's on-screen chemistry was undeniable, but Louis-Dreyfus was still convinced that the fledgling series was sure to be cancelled. "I remember thinking, 'This show is so good, and the network is going to be so stupid to cancel it,'" Louis-Dreyfus said in a 2019 interview with Vanity Fair.

NBC only requested four episodes after the "Seinfeld" pilot, and Louis-Dreyfus worried there'd never even be a Season 1 finale. "You know, a four-order," Dreyfus continued. "A four-episode order is hardly a seal of approval from the network." During the "Seinfeld: How It Began" documentary (via YouTube), Seinfeld felt good about the future, but Richards and Alexander shared Louis-Dreyfus' uneasiness. "We're doing four?" Alexander laughed. "Oh, well, I think I'll hold onto my apartment then."

"I just figured we were goners," Louis-Dreyfus told Vanity Fair during their interview. To the "Seinfeld" star's surprise the Emmy Award-winning show not only persevered, but it went on for a total of nine seasons. During that time, Elaine Benes assembled an impressive highlight reel loaded with memorable moments. Whether she was putting the Soup Nazi (Larry Thomas) out of business, breaking up with her eye-squinting boyfriend, David Puddy (Patrick Warburton), or going toe-to-toe with Frank Costanza (Jerry Stiller), there's no denying that Elaine's inclusion was a genius move that paid dividends.