‘Seinfeld’ and ‘Toy Story’ actor Estelle Harris dies at 93

NEW YORK – Estelle Harris, who made her way into television history as the mother of short-formed George Costanza “Seinfeld” Mrs. Potato Head crossed in Toy Story The franchise is dead. She was 93 years old.

As middle-class educator Estelle Costanza, Harris put a memorable stamp on her recurring role on the ’90s sitcom. With her high pitched voice and arrogant humorous attitude, she was an archetype of maternal indignation.

Exchanging insults and absurdities with her husband, who appears on the screen Jerry StillerHarris helped create a stepfather that would leave even a psychiatrist powerless to do anything but hope they’d move to Florida—as their son, played by Jason Alexander, vainly encouraged them to do so.

Harris’ agent Michael Eisenstadt confirmed the actor’s death in Palm Desert, California, on Saturday night.

Harris often told viewers of all backgrounds that she was just like their mother.

“She’s the mom everyone loves, even though she has neck pain,” she told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 1998.

The career-defining turn came after decades on stage and screen.

Estelle Harris as Estelle Costanza and Jason Alexander as George Costanza in “The Pageant,” the fourth season of the Seinfeld episode.Sony Pictures Television/Everett Collection Courtesy of Sony

Born on April 22, 1928 in New York City, Harris grew up in the city and later grew up in the Pennsylvania suburb of Tarantum, where her father owned a candy store. She began utilizing her comedic talents in high school productions where she realized she “could make audiences hysterical,” she told People magazine in 1995.

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After the nine-season series “Seinfeld” ended in 1998, Harris continued to appear on stage and screen. She voiced Mrs. Potato Head in the 1999 animated film “Toy Story 2” and played the character Muriel in the popular Disney Channel comedy “The Suite Life of Zack & Cody,” among other roles.

She had quit show business when she got married in the early 1950s, but resumed acting on amateur sets, dinner theater and commercials as her three children grew up (“I had to get rid of diapers and bottles and careless baby talk,” People said). Eventually, she began appearing in guest roles on television shows including the legal comedy “Night Court” and in films including director Sergio Leone’s 1984 gangster epic “Once Upon a Time in America”.

Her first appearance on “Seinfeld” came in one of the series’ most famous episodes: 1992’s Emmy Award-winning “The Contest,” in which the four central characters challenge each other to refrain from doing what is brilliantly described as just “that.”

Harris went on to appear in dozens of other episodes of “A Show About Nothing”. She listened to the crowded paella, screamed about George’s napkin in the parents’ bed and made space for Frank’s screen husband, Festivus.

“Estelle is a born artist,” Stiller told The Record of Bergen County, NJ, in 1998. “I just go with what I got, and it comes back to me the same way.”

However, Harris saw a sympathetic tinge to her character, often saying that Estelle had drawn her frustration toward her stammering companion and the machinations of her scornful son.

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She told viewers in an interview in 1998, “Just look at her as funny and cute and loud. But it’s not the way I play. I play with the misery underneath.”

She is survived by her three children, three grandchildren, and one great-grandson.

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