If you’re a fan of “Seinfeld” reruns, you know George Costanza and his mom, Estelle, who says things that are both cringe-worthy and hilarious. In one episode, Estelle tells her son’s date: “George doesn’t work. He’s a bum. That’s why he lives at home with us.”
Estelle Harris, the actress who played Estelle Costanza, has passed away at the age of 93. She was also known for playing iconic roles from our childhood like Mrs. Potato Head in “Toy Story” and Muriel in “Suite Life of Zack and Cody.”
According to a statement from her brother, Glen Harris, she died of natural causes in Palm Desert California.
“Her kindness, passion, sensitivity, humor, empathy and love were practically unrivaled, and she will be terribly missed by all those who knew her,” says brother Harris.
Born on April 22, 1928 in New York City, Harris grew up in the city, and later moved to the Pittsburgh suburb of Tarentum, PA where she acted in community theater, realizing she could “make the audience get hysterical” as she recounted to People magazine in 1995. She moved on to acting on TV and was even once known as the “Queen of Commercials” appearing in 27 national spots one year. With a voice as unique and recognizable as hers, it’s no wonder that she booked so many roles, including her work on “iCarly,” “Sabrina the Teenage Witch,” and “Brother Bear.”
Estelle Harris’ biggest claim to fame was her role as Estelle Costanza in “Seinfeld.” Starring in 27 episodes, her character was the “mother that everybody loves, even though she’s a pain in the neck,” Harris told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 1998. Despite humiliating her son on the show, she quickly became a fan favorite whose legacy on “Seinfeld” will continue to live on.
“Her passion was her work,” says her brother. “And her work is her passion.”
Harris took her roles seriously, and explained in a 1998 interview that beyond her Seinfeld character being outwardly loud, she had a sympathetic side. While viewers saw her “as being funny, cute and a loudmouth,” Harris said she played Estelle Costanza with “misery underneath.”
In a 2012 interview, Harris spoke about getting fan mail from young people who were just tuning into the sitcom then.
“I think Seinfeld, because of the writing and the right cast, will go on for years and years,” Harris said.
Jerry Stiller, who played Harris’ husband on the show, told The Record of Bergen County, NJ in 1998, “Estelle is a born performer…I just go with what I got, and she goes back at me the same way.”
Harris is survived by her three children, three grandsons, and a great-grandson.
Her onscreen son, Jason Alexander, tweeted about Harris’ passing: “The joy of playing with her and relishing her glorious laughter was a treat. I adore you, Estelle. Love to your family. Serenity now and always.”