After the recent overwhelming success and popularity of The Ethnic Backgrounds of the Cast of LOST, I decided I am among the thousands who are also intrigued by the vast different backgrounds of the actors of all-American TV shows. Starting with curiosity of my own ethnic background, I soon stumbled into a new hobby/obsession: studying and memorizing the ethnic backgrounds of celebrities. I am officially claiming to be an ethnic background specialist. And I’m half serious, half joking when I say that.
Of course for me, the most fascinating part is always discovering the Jewish actor(s) and writer(s). Being that there are more than twice as many Asians than there are Jews in America, in theory, for every Jewish actor in a show there would be two Asian actors. Or, being that Jews make up 1.7% of the American population, for every 100 actors in a show or movie, only two would be Jewish. But that’s almost never the case.
So with that in mind, I felt the best way to officially start “The Ethnic Backgrounds of the Cast” series is by examining two highly popular Jewish sitcoms. Whereas most sitcoms have at least one Jewish actor as part of the cast who plays a plain ole’ American mutt, both Friends and Seinfeld featured Jewish actors who occasionally incorporated their “Jewishness” into their characters and the culture of the show itself.
To keep from being confusing, unless specifically stated, “English” simply means the actor is American but of English descent. Same thing with “Scottish”, “Irish”, etc. However, if the actor was actually born in England and is not an American, I will specifically state they were born in England, or whatever country they were raised in.
If the actor is Jewish, and I know what country their family moved to America from, I will say “descended from” or “of (ex: German) descent”. In other words, each actor is American born, unless otherwise stated with the phrase “born in”.
David Schwimmer (Jewish, descended from Germany) as “Ross Geller” (Jewish)
Courtney Cox-Arquette (English, though she is married to David Arquette, who is Jewish, she did not convert) as “Monica Geller (Jewish)
Jennifer Aniston (half Greek, quarter Italian, quarter Scottish) as “Rachel Green” (American)
Lisa Kudrow (Jewish, descended from Russia) as “Phoebe Buffay” (French)
Matthew Perry (half Canadian-English, half Jewish) as Chandler Bing (Scottish)
Matt LeBlanc (French, Italian, Dutch, Irish) as “Joey Tribbiani” (15/16 Italian, 1/16 Portuguese)
Elliot Gould (Jewish) as “Jack Geller” (Jewish)
Christina Pickles (English, born in England) as “Judy Geller” (Jewish)
James Michael Tyler (English) as “Gunther” (Dutch)
Hank Azaria (Jewish, descended from Greece) as “David the Scientist”, Phoebe’s on-again-off-again boyfriend (American)
Paul Rudd (Jewish, descended from England) as “Mike Hannigan” (Irish)
Created by David Crane (English) and Marta Kauffman (Jewish, descended from Germany)
Jerry Seinfeld (Jewish, of Polish, Ukrainian, and Syrian descent) as “Jerry Seinfeld” (Jewish)
Jason Alexander (Jewish, of German descent) as “George Costanza” (half Italian, half Jewish)
Michael Richards (half Italian, half English) as “Cosmo Kramer” (Jewish)
Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Jewish, of French descent) as “Elaine Benes” (Czech)
Created by Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David (Jewish)
And if you’re interested in taking a DNA test like I did to find out if you might have Jewish DNA, here’s the link to MyHeritage.