Newman P.I.: Wayne Knight Once Worked as a Private Detective

Sherlock Holmes, Philip Marlowe… Newman?
Newman P.I.: Wayne Knight Once Worked as a Private Detective

It’s hard to imagine Seinfeld without the Lex Luthor to Jerry’s Superman: Newman. A big reason why the conniving postal worker became such an indelible part of the series is due to actor Wayne Knight, who fully committed to every scene, whether it involved playing a game of Risk or ranting about the mail or nearly burning to death while belting out The Commodores’ “Three Times a Lady.”

Prior to Seinfeld, Knight appeared in movies such as Dirty Dancing and JFK (the non-loogie version), and he also worked as a hard boiled dick — and by that, we mean, he got a job as a private investigator. 

Yes, according to Knight, back when he was a struggling actor, waiting tables to pay the bills, a friend offered him some P.I. work at a detective agency. When Knight questioned how he could possibly be qualified for such a position, his friend told him, “Well, they like hiring actors. Because they’re usually intelligent, conversant, they can play different parts, and they have no scruples.”

While you might imagine Knight cradling a revolver in a smoky office lit by a blinking neon sign that shines through half-closed venetian blinds, that wasn’t really his experience. He didn’t carry a gun, and mainly performed surveillance-oriented tasks that ranged from running background checks on prospective employees to tailing spouses suspected of infidelity. Knight revealed that he used pseudonyms at the time such as “Bill Monty,” a combination of his father’s first name and his mother’s maiden name, and “Nicholas Rome.” 

Knight claims that he worked as a P.I. for five years, and continued picking up detective gigs while he was a regular cast member of the British sketch show Assaulted Nuts. No word on whether or not any cases were blown after people recognized him as the guy who gleefully farted on Channel 4. 

His experience working as a detective actually helped Knight when he later went up for parts in auditions. “When you went into a casting office and you hadn’t done anything recently, you could just mention you were a private investigator,” Knight once told The Los Angeles Times, “and you had 10 minutes of stuff to talk about.” He also found that his time spent with homicide detectives helped to inform the “groundedness” of his cop character in Basic Instinct. Unfortunately, his P.I. years seemingly never brought him into contact with any embryo thieves. 

Possibly because so many interviewers won’t stop asking him about this period in his life, Knight once tried pitching a TV show about actors-turned-detectives, based on his experiences. Sadly, that project never got off the ground, possibly because the idea of pairing a Seinfeld actor with a comedy about private detectives had already been forever tainted.

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