Brian George talks about 'Seinfeld' and his long career
Being Babu Bhatt has kept the character actor in demand.
Brian George was born in Israel, lived in England, cut his comedy teeth in Canada, and made his career in Hollywood. But the role for which he's best known is as a hardworking Pakistani cook whose arch nemesis just happens to be Jerry Seinfeld.
Over the past 25 years, the veteran character actor has been a go-to guy to play roles of people who are of Indian or Pakistani decent – despite the fact that he's a native of Jerusalem.
The role that started him down this path is still talked about today; the doomed Pakistani restaurant owner Babu Bhatt on "Seinfeld." More recently, he has also been cast for guest roles on "Elementary," "The Big Bang Theory" and "Once Upon a Time in Wonderland."
Brian George has played dozens of roles in a career that has spanned over 30 years, including roles in "Seinfeld," "The Big Bang Theory," and "Horrible Bosses." (Photo: Canadian Film Centre/Flickr)
"'Seinfeld' was such a big show and it made such an imprint, so I guess I’m 'The Indian guy' now," George said. "That’s just what it is. I’ve been lucky. I mean 'Big Bang' and [other hit shows] are not low level things. But I just have to accept the fact that my face is apparently not going to be seen as the guy next door unless he’s an Indian guy next door."
Everyone who is a 'Seinfeld' fan remembers Babu. In the third season episode "The Cafe," he takes restaurant advice from Jerry, which leads Babu to go out of business. Two years later, in "The Visa," Babu is back on his feet as a cook at Monk's Diner, but then gets deported when his visa renewal application gets mixed with Jerry's mail, and Jerry notices too late. Both times, George gives Jerry a finger wave with the admonition, "You are a very bad man!" Babu also showed up in the 1998 series finale, to testify against Jerry during the episode's infamous trial.
Where did the finger wave come from? "That was something that just happened," George said. "You’re in the character and then you start doing stuff. The character starts behaving and you start doing what the character does. I didn’t think to myself, 'Ah, I’ll wave my finger.' It just sort of happened. It was one of those, it seemed to be part of his behavior so it popped up."
A look at George's IMDb listing shows he is likely connected to more people than Kevin Bacon. He did voice work for the late John Candy's cartoon "Camp Candy," had a regular role in the cult favorite sitcom "Doctor Doctor" in the late 1980s, did a guest spot on "Desperate Housewives," and a role in Ed Norton's "Keeping the Faith," and that's just scratching the surface. George is the first to say that he's having a "fabulous life," and he's come a long way from being on Toronto's Second City stage, even if he's the "Indian guy next door."
"I didn’t have the luxury of saying 'No I won’t take that role,'" George said. "My kids were more important to me than my career frankly. As much as I wanted to work, and as much as I love working and love the business, my job was to raise kids, not to worry about my ego," he said. "I always thought, 'I’m not trying to be a leading man.' I’m not trying to be Cary Grant. I want a comedy career and there’s no reason why I couldn’t be, say, the next Peter Sellers or whatever. But that never happened. It just never happened."
George was cast as one of the co-leads in a 2008 movie "Shades of Ray" with "Chuck" star Zachary Levi, so he knows he can carry a movie. But at this stage in his career, he's happy to do be doing what he's doing.
"I played his dad and it was about our relationship," George said. "And I went, I can do this. Because until you do it, you don’t know. Can I carry a movie? Can I be in pretty much every scene and not embarrass myself? And yes, apparently I can. But again it’s not going to be my career path and that’s fine. As long as I’m working, I’m happy."
MORE FROM THE GRAPEVINE:
Related Topics: TV