Marisa Tomei Says She Was Cast in 'Seinfeld' Because Larry David Liked "The Sound of Her Name"
Short, stocky, bald men-loving actress Marisa Tomei spoke to Insider on Monday as part of a promotion for her partnership with luggage-maker Briggs and Riley. During the interview, the Academy Award winner took time to reflect on her sitcom stints and how they came to be.
Tomei talked about how she was considered for the role of Penny on The Big Bang Theory, a part which she turned down, as well as the origin of her iconic cameo on Seinfeld, which, allegedly, came about because Larry David liked the sound of her name and thought that it “has a really strong rhythm.”
Sure, Larry. That’s what you like about Marissa Tomei.
Though Tomei’s time playing herself on Seinfeld would prove to be her most memorable sitcom appearance, it was far from her only opportunity to shine in a multi-cam environment. One of her earliest acting gigs was in the Cosby Show spinoff series A Different World, which was originally conceptualized as a series about Denise Huxtable’s time at the fictional Hillman College where Tomei played Denise’s ditzy white roommate Maggie. However, the network was unsatisfied with the setup of A Different World and wanted to pivot the direction of the show to focus more on college life at an HBCU, so both Denise and Maggie were written off the series after the first season.
In her talk with Insider, Tomei revealed that she was an early candidate for the role of Penny on The Big Bang Theory, saying, "I thought it was a great script, and that's why we went so far as to check it out … And it's such an iconic kind of setup, all those archetypes, the scientists, and then the kind of little hottie and the whole thing." Tomei obviously passed on the role which would go to The Flight Attendant star Kaley Cuoco, but Tomei spoke favorably about the part, saying, "It wasn't really the right fit for me at the time, but I really did enjoy the script itself."
As for Tomei’s crowning achievement in the sitcom sphere, the original anecdote about how Tomei came to be George Costanza’s white buffalo came from an interview in Marie Claire from 2016, during which Tomei told the story of her first day of filming on Seinfeld, saying, “When I got there I did ask Larry David, ‘How did I get so lucky? How am I here?’ He just said, ‘Well, when you say your name over and over it just has a really strong rhythm: Marisa Tomei. Marisa Tomei.’”
It’s interesting that David chose to cast Tomei as an unlikely romantic interest for George Costanza, a character whom David famously modeled after himself. It would stretch the imagination to claim that the Curb Your Enthusiasm creator chose to cast the stunning star of My Cousin Vinny as a lover of bald men who goes on a date with David’s stand-in as a sort of petty exercise in wish fulfillment.
No, it’s much more likely that David simply enjoyed the musicality of Tomei’s name and wrote the romantic arc as an excuse to have the characters speak it over and over in the same way David does in his dreams.