American actress Estelle Harris reached prominence as Mrs. Costanza, George’s cranky mother and wife of Frank, on the long-running television sitcom “Seinfeld,” a role she played from 1992 to 1998. She has had guest roles in a number of shows like “Law & Order,” “Mad About You,” “Night Court,” “Good Advice,” “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch,” “Family Guy,” and more recently Disney’s “The Suite Life of Zack and Cody” and “ER.” As for film, the prolific actress who frequently portrays maddening, dumpy-looking and/or harsh relatives is maybe best known for portraying Aunt Harriet in This is My Life (1992) and Aunt Velda in Playing Mona Lisa (2000). Her other film work includes Out to Sea (1997), Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple II (1998), What’s Cooking (2000), Dancing in September (2000), Good Advice (2001), The Grand (2007) and Movin’ In (2007).
Estelle also has done numerous voice-overs on television and movies. She has voiced such characters as Mrs. Potato Head in Toy Story 2 (2000), Old Lady Bear in Brother Bear (2003), Audrey the Chicken in Home on the Range (2004), Mrs. Boogins in Teacher’s Pet (2004). On the small screen, she has played the voice roles of Mrs. Turtle in “Mickey Mouse Works” (1999) and “House of Mouse” (2001-2002), Mama Lipsky in “Kim Possible” (2004), and others.
Outside the limelight, Estelle has been married to Sy Harris since 1954, and is the mother of three. In September 2001, Estelle and his husband fled injury after their car blew a tire and flicked twice outside of Los Angeles.
Childhood and Family:
Daughter of Anna Nussbaum, Estelle Harris was born as Estelle Nussbaum on April 4, 1932, in New York, New York. She was raised in Pennsylvania and Brooklyn, NY, and attended Tarentum High School in Tarentum, Pennsylvania. In 1954, Estelle married Sy Harris, and they have three children together. Her daughter, Taryn, is a retired New York City police officer, and son Greg, a music promoter, has played a significant part for Estelle’s career start in Hollywood.
While raising her family, New York native Estelle Harris found work in dinner theater and television commercials. She entered the cinematic industry in 1977, when she landed bit parts in the Linda Yallen comedy Looking Up and John Clayton’s Summerdog, and continued seven years later with 1984’s Once Upon a Time in America, a crime/drama film starring Robert De Niro and James Woods. There, she appeared as the mother of Peggy, the girl the boys do on the roof.
However, it was not until her son suggested Estelle to try her hand in Hollywood that the actress gave it a buzz. She had a recurring role in the television series “Night Court” (1985-1986) and over the years appeared in commercials and other series such as “Married with Children” (1987), “Brooklyn Bridge” (1991), “Law & Order” and “Mad About You” (both 1992). She also played Shelley Long’s receptionist on an episode of the CBS short-lived sitcom “Good Advice” (1993).
Estelle got her break when she joined the cast of the long-running comedy series “Seinfeld,” playing the screechy-voiced Estelle Costanza, George’s (Jason Alexander) mother, and Frank’s (Jerry Stiller) wife. Making her first appearance in 1992, her role was upgraded to recurring role from 1993 and remained with the show until it came to an end in 1998.
The actress went on to make guest performances in multiple shows and had small roles in films, most notably as Aunt Harriet in This Is My Life (1992), a drama starring Julie Kavner and directed by Nora Ephron. In 1997, after having a small role as one of the cruise ship pass angers in Out to Sea, Estelle was back to series TV as Mrs. Fox in the sitcom ‘Nick Freno: Licensed Teacher,” an assignment she had from 1997 to 1998. She then had roles in movies Chairman of the Board (1998), My Giant (1998), Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple II (1998), Addams Family Reunion (1998), Lost & Found (1999) and the animated Toy Story 2 (1999), where she voiced the role of Mrs. Potato Head. 1999 also found Estelle on the TV animation series “Queer Duck,” as Mrs. Duckstein, and “Mickey Mouse Works,” as Mrs. Turtle.
Entering the new millennium, Estelle took on supporting roles in three movies. She first portrayed Aunt Velda in Playing Mona Lisa, and was then cast as Aunt Bea in the Gurinder Chadha-directed What’s Cooking, opposite Alfre Woodard, Julianna Margulies and Mercedes Ruehl. She also played Sally in writer/director Reggie Rock Bythewood’s Dancing in September. From 2001 to 2002, she voiced Mrs. Turtle in the TV series “House of Mouse” and appeared on episodes of “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch” and “Family Guy.” Meanwhile, on the big screen, she had supporting roles in Good Advice (2001), which starred Charlie Sheen, and No Prom for Cindy (2002), as the mother of the title role.
Estelle’s voice next could be heard as Old Lady Bear in 2003’s Brother Bear, Mrs. Boogin in Disney’s Teacher’s Pet (2004), as well as Audrey, the Chicken in Home on the Range (2004) and A Dairy Tale (2004). She also voiced Mrs. Lipsky, Dr. Drakken’s Mom, in four episodes of Disney’s “Kim Possible” (2004), and in 2005, she lent her voice for Mama Gunda on Tarzan II (2005). In 2005, Estelle appeared as Howie’s grandmother on the improve comedy show starring Howei Mandel as herself, “Hidden Howie,” before having a semi-regular role in the Disney Channel’s “The Suite Life of Zack and Cody,” playing Muriel, the lazy hotel maid, from 2005 to 2006. She followed it up with episodic turns in the series “Mind of Mencia” and “ER” (both 2006).
The 75-year-old player is scheduled to play the supporting role of Ruth ‘Nana’ Melvin in The Grand (2007), opposite Julie Claire, David Cross, Shannon Elizabeth, Mike Epps, Dennis Farina, Judy Greer and Woody Harrelson. She also will be cast as Arlene Taylor in Movin’ In (2007), a comedy about a young man from Switzerland who goes to L. A. to escape his cul-de-sac life and to reconnect with a female pen pal he has lost touch with.