BY: Jake Coyle
NEW YORK – Outrageous! Egregious! Preposterous!
More than a decade after ‘Seinfeld‘ ended, one of the TV series’ most beloved characters has been reborn online. Jackie Chiles, the fast-talking attorney whose civil lawsuits were dependably foiled by Kramer, is starring in his own series on the comedy video website Funny or Die.
Chiles is played by Phil Morris, a 41-year-old Los Angeles actor who never wanted to fully relinquish the role. After ‘Seinfeld’ ended in 1998, Morris tried to develop a spin-off about Chiles, but it never got off the ground.
“It always kind of festered in me that that was an opportunity missed, that the public missed something, that I missed something,” says Morris. “It was always in me to do. As an actor, you rarely get characters that are as full as a Jackie Chiles, where I can just put on the suit and the mustache and — Boom! — he’s there.”
Chiles, a parody of O.J. Simpson’s late defense attorney Johnnie Cochran, appeared in five episodes on ‘Seinfeld,’ including the finale. Kramer (Michael Richards) comes to him repeatedly to sue over things like hot coffee burning him (because he hid a cup in his pants at a movie theater) and the graying of his face from cigar smoke (“Your face is my case,” says Chiles).
In another episode, Chiles helps Kramer sue over the public indecency of another character, Sue Ellen Mischke, who was wearing only a bra as a top. Though Jackie calls it “lewd, lascivious, salacious, outrageous!” he’s undone in the trial, when — much like the glove in the O.J. Simpson trial — Mischke tries on the bra and it doesn’t fit.
In the Funny Or Die clips, Jackie has moved his practice to Los Angeles. He announces his return: “Did you miss me? I knew that you did. But I’m back and I’m badder and madder than ever.”
As for what he’s been doing the last 12 years, Jackie only says “none of your business.” But he does add another factoid from his past, claiming that Barack Obama was his paralegal before he went into politics and became president.
Working with a Funny or Die production team, Morris made five clips. Two have been release and the rest will come out gradually. Though mainly an actor by trade, Morris wrote them himself, along with actor-writer Whit Hertford.
“I had to write these spots in the tone of the `Seinfeld’ universe,” says Morris. “I know this character, I know this guy.”
To bring Chiles back, Morris first had to get permission from ‘Seinfeld’ production company Castle Rock Entertainment, and the go-ahead from the show’s creators, Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David.
“We always enjoyed Phil’s ability to bring that character to life,” says Seinfeld. “Glad that it’s living on.”
For Morris, it’s an opportunity not just to resurrect his most famous character, but also to expand his career. Morris has been acting in TV and film for more than three decades, with credits including recurring roles on the series ‘Smallville‘ and ‘Love that Girl!’
Says Morris: “I’ve been acting a long time and I really want to produce stuff and write some things and come to table with more creative projects that come out of me, that I’m not just auditioning for.”
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