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Few TV series have had as many memorable characters as Seinfeld, even when the central quartet isn't included. (Hell, some of them weren't even seen.) It surprisingly took until Season 9 for veteran character actor Jon Polito to show up, but he made an indelible mark when he did as the apartment building landlord Silvio. And it turns out the character's signature details - the terrible hair and the indistinct accent - all spawned from a silly misunderstanding in which Polito erroneously thought the character was meant to be foreign. Sadly, the actor passed away today at the age of 65, but thankfully his story of Silvio can live on.
Without a doubt, that's one of the most brilliant ways a character can come into existence. Sure, if Jerry Seinfeld had written it as such, it would have showed off his good instincts, but there isn't any amusing imagery to go along with him typing or jotting down notes. Picturing Jon Polito innocently mulling over the kind of accent he'd want to affect in a mirror, however, is hilarious. As you might have imagined from his tone, Polito didn't even realize he wasn't supposed to use an accent until just before he was called into his audition.
Jon Polito talked with Uproxx last year about a completely different topic, but the Show About Nothing is never too far away from any conversation. Another part of the story had him revealing the hairpiece he used in the episode was actually the one he used in the the Coen brothers' Barton Fink, making that one of the coolest sitcom easter eggs I can think of.
It wasn't just the hair and accent that Jon Politio won over the Seinfeld creative team with, either. Apparently he went a little over the top for some of his scenes, which Jerry Seinfeld liked a lot, so they made him even more extravagant. Such is the power of funny people working together. Can you imagine watching "The Reverse Peephole" and having Silvio be some well-coifed American? I think not.
An actor best known on the big screen for his work in the Coens' films, Jon Polito was seen much more frequently on television, most notably for Modern Family, The Chronicle, Crime Story - Polito and Dennis Farina are probably tearing up the afterlife right now - and Homicide: Life on the Street. I'm hoping we get some behind-the-scenes stories about that show next.