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Bob Balaban has had a great career as a character actor, appearing in well thought-of movies and TV programs alike. In the early nineties, the Moonrise Kingdom actor appeared on Seinfeld as recurring character Russell Dalrymple, the President of NBC who was obsessed with Elaine. His story was sort-of a tragic one on the series, but this week Balaban revealed that Russell’s original story arc should have been very different.
Anyone who remembers Russell on Seinfeld should already know that his trajectory on the series was pretty bizarre. He became acquainted with Elaine while Jerry and George were busy working on a potential NBC pilot. He immediately became obsessed with having a relationship with her. Unfortunately, Elaine was pretty creeped out by the man. When Russell suddenly disappeared, it was a bit surprising, but the audience later found out he had drowned in the middle of the ocean after having joined Greenpeace in a misguided attempt to impress Elaine. But what if the tables had been turned?
Bob Balaban says his character was planned to be totally different when he signed on. Instead of Russell being the weirdo, initially Elaine was conceived as the crazy one. Check out the full story, below.
“By the way, when I was first cast as Russell, they told me Larry David had a general outline for the arc of the character: in the original concept, Elaine was going to fall MADLY In love with me, we were going to sleep together, and she was going to experience her first orgasm with me. Instead I fell in love with her, she rejected me, and I died. The story of my life...”
The plotline Seinfeld ended up with is definitely wilder than the show’s original idea, but had the NBC comedy gone the other route, I’m not sure we would remember Russell with quite as much clarity as we still do today. And Balaban seems pretty happy with how Russell shaped out, noting the role was a positive experience.
“I really enjoyed being Russell Dalrymple. It was really interesting to watch the rest of the regulars rehearsing and shooting. And my most fun scene was when I was on a boat in the middle of the ocean. I was standing in front of a green screen, and 5 men with hoses were spraying me with water, and I fell off the boat and drowned. It's really fun having a good death scene.”
You can check out more of Bob Balaban's crazy stories from the set over at Reddit.