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JONATHAN STORM

 
 
 
 
 
Two New Shows for Jason Alexander
August 5, 2017  | By David Hinckley
 

Those ubiquitous Seinfeld reruns are just one of many places you’ll find Jason Alexander these days.

If you plunk your preschooler down in front of a new animated show called Kody Kapow on the Sprout channel, (Saturdays) you hear Alexander as the voice of Goji, a nervous white tiger.

This fall he’ll be the slightly delusional patriarch of a traveling pop-music group on the new Audience Network comedy Hit the Road, (top) which he co-created.

In a couple of weeks he returns to the stage at New York’s Manhattan Theater Club – and perhaps someday, if he gets one of his wishes, he’ll be back on a stage again as Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, the musical he says got him hooked on this whole acting and performance career in the first place.

Meanwhile, Goji has become the latest in an impressive string of animated characters Alexander has voiced over the years, notably including Eric Duckman in the ‘90s cult fave Duckman.

“I loved Duckman,” says Alexander. “It was stupid good. And it was probably a little ahead of its time.”

Kody Kapow, on the other hand, is pretty much timeless. The title character is a young boy who learns he’s destined to be a martial arts superhero. Sprout lets us watch him learn life lessons, like patience and loyalty, in a series of 11-minute adventures. Goji is part of Kody’s posse.

Alexander’s delighted to be in the game.

“I still audition for a fair amount of this stuff,” he says. “But for this one, fortunately, they came looking for me.

Voiceover work is nice, almost any actor will tell you, because there’s no tedious prep, no hair-and-makeup. You walk into the studio, pick up your script and start talking.

“The only downside, for me, is that you do it alone,” says Alexander. “You don’t see the other actors. But other than that, the only challenge is that the younger the audience, the more they need you to make wild and crazy sounds that can take a toll on your throat.”

He doesn’t work from the animation, he explains. “Mostly you just go by what’s on the page. My performance director, Charlie Adler, is great about telling me what the scene needs.

“I don’t see anything until after my voice work is done. I see the Kodys they send me, just so I can get a better sense of Goji.”

He doesn’t tend to seek out his work on the screen in general, he says, with one interesting exception: all those poker competitions in which he has rather successfully competed. He won the eighth season of Bravo’s Celebrity Poker Showdown, earning $500,000 for United Way.

“I’m not an actor who minds watching myself,” he says. “There’s always something you can change, but I put it in the third person, like ‘Oh, he did something interesting there.’

“But with poker, most of my learning about the game, I learned from the camera. Watching the games on TV was the first time I saw what I was up against, because when you’re at the table, you don’t know. So that was really helpful for improving my game.”

The biggest long-term influence on his work, though, says the 57-year-old Alexander, was the first: the theater.

“I became an actor because of the theater,” he says. “The career I fantasized for myself was all in the theater.

“So whenever I’m thinking of projects and ideas now, some element of the theater always seems to find its way in – whether it’s music, singing, dancing or magic, which was the first thing I performed.

Hit the Road has a musical element, and I love that. Whenever we get to those parts, it’s a lot of fun. It never gets monotonous – though it’s pretty fast-paced to begin with, so that’s not really a problem.”

Hit the Road, which launches Oct. 17 on AT&T’s Audience Network, follows the adventures of a family music group traveling around the country trying to hit the big time.

Unlike almost every other music drama, Alexander says, this one does not owe anything particular to Spinal Tap.

“Nope,” he says. “Just to The Partridge Family.”

Selling a show to the Audience Network, Alexander says, illustrates both the opportunities and challenges of today’s exploding television universe.

“Until we sold this show, honestly, I didn’t even know they had a channel,” he says. “But that’s what’s happened with TV today. There are so many more places you can take a project.

“Someone said there are 541 shows on the air this season. That means that even if you have a good show, there’s probably another good show on some other network at the same time. How do you break through that? How do you cut through the clutter?”

And then there’s the parallel evolution of musical theater. 

“Over the last 10 or 12 years, wonderful things have been happening in the theater,” he says. “With people like Sondheim and Hal Prince, and something like Rent, you’re seeing shows about people who didn’t used to have a voice.

“There’s a place for ‘entertainments,’ the old musicals. But to me, original musicals like Hamilton are some of the most exciting now. I’d rather see Hamilton than Hello, Dolly.”

While Alexander might make a nice Aaron Burr, he says he doesn’t have a long wish list of roles he’d like to play. The short list includes Sweeney Todd, “although age could start to be factor,” and Teyve.

“My 97-year-old mother really wants me to do Fiddler,” he says. “Teyve is one of the most compelling characters I’ve ever seen, and Fiddler is an almost perfect show.”

Meanwhile, he’s keeping busy, which is the real victory in a fluid business, and if part of the world will always think of him as George Costanza from Seinfeld, he’s personally expanded his palette.

“People ask me if I watch Seinfeld,” he says. “I tell them only by accident, if I happen to come across it. I think how young I was, and how I had a little more hair.”

 

 
 
 
 
 
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