Estelle Harris passed away on Saturday (April 2) in her home in Palm Desert, California from natural causes. The beloved actress, who played George Costanza’s (Jason Alexander) short-fused mother Estelle on the iconic sitcom Seinfeld, was 93.
“It is with the greatest remorse and sadness to announce that Estelle Harris has passed on this evening at 6:25pm,” her son Glen Harris said in a statement to Deadline. “Her kindness, passion, sensitivity, humor, empathy and love were practically unrivaled, and she will be terribly missed by all those who knew her.”
Find out all about the inimitable actress, below.
1. Estelle hailed from Manhattan.
Born Estelle Nussbaum on April 22, 1928 in the Manhattan borough of New York City, the star later moved to the suburb of Tarentum in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where her father made a living as the proprietor of a candy store, according to the Chicago Tribune. She started tapping her comedic talents in high school productions where she realized she “could make the audience get hysterical,” as she told People magazine in 1995.
2. She paused her acting career to raise a family.
After Estelle got the acting bug from performing in high school productions, she pursued a career on stage, However, she stepped away from the spotlight in the 1950s to get married and raise a family, per the Tribune. After her children were grown, she got back into acting with dinner theater and commercials. She eventually landed roles on TV shows like the sitcoms Night Court and Married With… Children.
3. Estelle became recognizable from her Seinfeld gig.
Estelle made her debut on the famous NBC sitcom during one of its most memorable episodes called “The Contest” in 1992. She brought down the house as the high-pitched, overbearing mom of George and the wife of Frank Constanza, played by Ben Stiller’s father, Jerry Stiller. “Estelle is a born performer,” Jerry told The Record of Bergen County, N.J., in 1998, per the Chicago Tribune. “I just go with what I got, and she goes back at me the same way.”
Estelle enjoyed talking about her hilarious Seinfeld character. “She is the mother that everybody loves, even though she’s a pain in the neck,” Estelle told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 1998. Even though the role often had the actress screaming and arguing, Estelle was sympathetic to the character. She told a reporter, per the Tribune, that fans of the show “just look at her as being funny, cute and a loudmouth. But it’s not how I play her. I play her with misery underneath.”
She even once hypothesized how the characters Estelle and George would have celebrated Mother’s Day. “If George Costanza ever made me a meal for Mother’s Day, it would be a fiasco,” she told The New York Post in 2016. “Everything would turn out awful. He would probably do it the wrong way – he’d be breaking the dishes, inviting the wrong people, ruining everything.”
4. She went on to become a Pixar star.
After Seinfeld signed off in 1998 after nine seasons, Estelle continued her success in other projects. She signed on as Mrs. Potato Head in 1999’s Toy Story 2, and continued to play the character in its two sequels. She also had roles in The Suite Life of Zack & Cody, Tarzan II, and The Pinocchio Shop.
5. Estelle is the proud mother of three.
Estelle is survived by three children — Eric, Glen, and Taryn — and three grandsons, and a great-grandson, according to Deadline.