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Arts & Entertainment

Jason Alexander visits CFA students

Actor shares his views of Hollywood and path to success

Jim Petosa, left, director of BU's School of Theater Arts, with Jason Alexander. Photo by Vernon Doucette

Jason Alexander, best known for his role as George Costanza on the hit television sitcom Seinfeld, was on campus last week to talk to College of Communication and College of Fine Arts students about his experiences in show business and the future of the industry. Alexander (CFA’81, Hon.’95) has appeared in dozens of theater productions and films, including Pretty Woman, The Paper, and Shallow Hal.

“I’d like to take my industry and blow it apart,” Alexander told his audience, saying that many actors’ salaries are unjustifiably large. “Nobody needs an actor,” he said. “There is no reason that a nurse, a teacher, or a cop should make less money than I do.” The multi-award-winning entertainer who starred in such Broadway hits as The Producers and Stephen Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along also said that $100 theater tickets are exorbitant.

But traditional long-standing approaches to filmmaking are undergoing a transformation that Alexander believes can be only good. Technology, he said, will soon tip the industry as we know it on its head.

The advent of the Internet, coupled with increasingly sophisticated video equipment, has allowed virtual unknowns in Hollywood to make and sell blockbuster movies, Alexander said, an indication that things are going in the right direction. “The people that make me the happiest are people you’ve never heard of before,” he said.

Alexander answered several questions from Jim Petosa, director of BU’s School of Theater Arts, before opening up the Q&A to an audience of more than 200 students.

Recently, Alexander has become involved in a grassroots initiative seeking to unite Israelis and Palestinians through consensus building. As a celebrity, he explained, he can help bring attention to the group’s work, attention that it probably would not get otherwise.

Alexander advised the aspiring actors, directors, agents, and writers listening to him not to head to L.A. because it’s where they think they should be. Instead, he counseled them to ask themselves where they would like to be, and to go from there. “I made the mistake of chasing dreams,” the 46-year-old Alexander said. Up until he was 42, “I was two years ahead of myself,” he said. It took a decade of therapy to figure that out, he joked.

Alexander will appear in an upcoming NBC version of A Christmas Carol, playing Marley’s ghost to Kelsey Grammer’s Scrooge. Last year he starred in his own CBS sitcom, Listen Up. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Daena, and two sons, Gabe, 13, and Noah, 9.