Jerry, Elaine, Kramer… and Chris? During an appearance on The Late Show this week, Chris Rock confirmed the recent rumour he was in consideration to play Jerry’s best friend, George Costanza, on Seinfeld. Can you imagine? And why wasn’t this the first topic discussed when Chris was on Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee with Jerry? He also revealed there was actually “a lot of NBC talk” in those days, which included discussions of him being one of the “friends" on Friends. He doesn’t specify if he was being considered for Joey, Chandler, or Ross, but it’s hard to imagine him playing any of them. George Costanza, maybe, although Chris admits they definitely made the right choice with Jason Alexander — but Chris chilling in Central Perk with Phoebe, or dating Monica or Rachel… I really don’t see it.
Friends and Seinfeld are two of the biggest sitcoms in modern TV history. Chris is a comedy icon and household name but I wonder what his career trajectory would have looked like had he been on Friends when it premiered in 1994, the year after he left SNL. More importantly, what would television look like had he got either of these gigs? Probably a lot better. If a sitcom as widely successful as Friends and Seinfeld had a Black actor amongst the principle cast that would have seriously and quickly increased representation on other sitcoms going forward. Friends was on the air for seven years before they let a Black actor speak. That was Gabrielle Union, who appeared in one episode. Then the show went another two seasons before Aisha Tyler got a multi-episode arc. Had Chris been part of the show, that could have led to more diversity in their writers’ room and without a doubt would have led to more BIPOC guest stars. You can’t have a Black “friend” and still pretend that New York City is populated by only white people, like they did for ten years.
Speaking of New York City… by now we’ve all heard the Sex and the City reboot is official and Sarah Jessica Parker says they’re not looking for a fourth character in the absence of Kim Cattrall’s Samantha because “we have New York City as a fourth character.”
SJP… girl, what does that even mean? New York City’s always been a big part of the show, but even Kim Cattrall herself said back in 2017 that Samantha should be recast with a woman of colour. I’ll give SJP the benefit of the doubt because she does say in the clip that there will be “lots of interesting new characters” that she’s excited about. Hopefully those characters are diverse in ethnicity and sexuality. For a show about sex, it can afford to be a little less vanilla. But I still feel like if you think your characters have more to say, then the character of Samantha should also have more stories to tell. So why not take the opportunity to do better this time around, instead of rebooting a show about four white women as a show about three white women. What I don’t want to see is these “interesting new characters” exist in the periphery, with storylines that only serve the three main women.
Sex and the City premiered in 1998, the same year Seinfeld took its final bow. I wonder if they would have casted SATC differently if they had Chris Rock, Jerry Seinfeld, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and Michael Richards together (pulling huge ratings at NBC for a decade) to look to as an example. Maybe then we wouldn’t even be having this recast Samantha conversation, 20 years later.