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The George Incident On Seinfeld That Had Jason Alexander Threatening To Quit

Who in their right mind would quit a leading role on "Seinfeld"? It was arguably the most popular show of the '90s, running nine seasons from 1989 to 1998. It made the news with "The Contest" (Season 4, Episode 1), simultaneously launching the euphemistic catchphrase "master of my domain." It got us all saying things like, "No soup for you!" and "yada-yada" on a regular basis, even today. It catapulted comedian Jerry Seinfeld into superstardom, and it brought Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Michael Richards, and Jason Alexander there, too.

And yet it's true. Alexander once came close to walking away from his role as Jerry's best friend, George Costanza, plus all that fame and fortune. He already had a solid career in show business and other options for his continued success, as he was happy to point out when push came to shove. But what could have possibly happened to push Alexander so far he'd consider such a drastic move?

Laughter aside, George was prepared to leave

The incident in question took place early on, long before "Seinfeld" became a cultural phenomenon. Back then, it was just another sitcom. With Jerry Seinfeld himself at its center, producers hoped it would be a hit. But no one could predict how it would play out.

When the pilot episode, originally titledĀ "The Seinfeld Chronicles," aired on NBC in 1989, there were three other characters on the show: Kessler (Richards), George (Alexander), and Claire (Lee Garlington, per HuffPost). Things were a lot different back then. Kessler was more polite and conventional than the Kramer character he'd grow into. George had a job and confidence. And Claire, the female character who would be replaced by Elaine, was a waitress who didn't play as a main cast member.

By Season 1, Episode 2, "The Stake Out," changes had been made that would define the show moving forward. Elaine Benes (Louis-Dreyfus) joined the show as Jerry's friend and former girlfriend. As the show progressed, it was clear he had a very close relationship with her. Maybe she was even his best friend. But where did that leave George?

Season 3, Episode 3, "The Pen," revolved around Jerry and Elaine's ill-fated trip to visit his parents in Florida. Conspicuously missing from the episode: Kramer and George. They'd been written out. When Alexander returned to the set for work the following week, he wasted no time getting straight to the point with producer Larry David. "If you do that again, do it permanently," he said (via Access Hollywood). "If you don't need me to be here every week, I'd just as soon go back home and do what I was doing."

Thankfully, the breakup didn't take

Alexander's threat didn't have quite the level of drama of George's quitting speech in Season 2, Episode 7, "The Revenge" (on YouTube). He told David he understood. Shows change. Characters are written out. But if it was going to happen, he wanted to rip the Band-Aid off quickly and get it over with. And while he offered a matter-of-fact take on the situation, his words had a dramatic effect on David, who didn't want to see one of his star players go.

As Alexander recalls, David responded with characteristic flustered and neurotic angst about the challenges of writing a show with four main characters. If he didn't figure it out, though, George might have walked away from that close-knit circle of fictional friends forever. As a secondary character, there just wasn't enough incentive for Alexander to stick around. "When 'Seinfeld' started, I had a very successful career in theater in New York, which is what I thought I was going to be doing all my life," Alexander explained to Access Hollywood.

It wasn't until "The Contest" that everyone working on the show recognized what they'd created with "Seinfeld." Suddenly, the sitcom critics ignored was igniting attention. The future looked bright for this show that was presumably about nothing, and it continued with great success for five more seasons. As for Alexander, he now looks back at that moment he nearly quit with relief and dose of self-deprecating humor. "Thank God (David) didn't say take a hike," he said, "because I would have had no life and no career."