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Comedic actor Bronson Pinchot first turned heads as a snobby art gallery worker of uncertain nationality and dubious sexual orientation opposite Eddie Murphy in "Beverly Hills Cop" (1984), before becoming a television staple as the lovable Balki on "Perfect Strangers" (ABC, 1986-1993). Prior to stardom, Pinchot's work in an off-Broadway show brought him to the attention of a casting agent on the Tom Cruise hit film "Risky Business" (1983). He followed his feature debut with a small, but scene-stealing turn in "Beverly Hills Cop" as the snarky, oddly-accented Serge. He developed a similar character - minus the attitude - with Balki, the bumpkin cousin from the fictional Mediterranean island of Mypos on the long-running sitcom "Perfect Strangers," alongside co-star Mark Linn-Baker. In the years that followed the end of his hit show, Pinchot made several unsuccessful attempts to land a new series, sporadically punctuated with supporting appearances in films such as "True Romance" (1993). Later, he would reemerge on the 2005 season of the reality show "The Surreal Life" (The WB, 2002-04/VH1, 2004-06), in which he showed himself to be far-removed from the sexually innocent Balki audiences had long...
Comedic actor Bronson Pinchot first turned heads as a snobby art gallery worker of uncertain nationality and dubious sexual orientation opposite Eddie Murphy in "Beverly Hills Cop" (1984), before becoming a television staple as the lovable Balki on "Perfect Strangers" (ABC, 1986-1993). Prior to stardom, Pinchot's work in an off-Broadway show brought him to the attention of a casting agent on the Tom Cruise hit film "Risky Business" (1983). He followed his feature debut with a small, but scene-stealing turn in "Beverly Hills Cop" as the snarky, oddly-accented Serge. He developed a similar character - minus the attitude - with Balki, the bumpkin cousin from the fictional Mediterranean island of Mypos on the long-running sitcom "Perfect Strangers," alongside co-star Mark Linn-Baker. In the years that followed the end of his hit show, Pinchot made several unsuccessful attempts to land a new series, sporadically punctuated with supporting appearances in films such as "True Romance" (1993). Later, he would reemerge on the 2005 season of the reality show "The Surreal Life" (The WB, 2002-04/VH1, 2004-06), in which he showed himself to be far-removed from the sexually innocent Balki audiences had long associated him with. Nonetheless, Pinchot's earlier body of comedic work earned him enough good will with fans that he continued to be a welcome presence in his many TV, film, and stage appearances.
Born Bronson Alcott Pinchot on May 20, 1959 in New York City to parents Rosina, a typist, and Henry, a bookbinder and restorer, he was raised in the suburban city of Pasadena, CA from a young age. Henry, who was of Russian heritage but reared in Paris before coming to the United States, was, according to Pinchot, an unrepentant substance abuser and wife beater, and abandoned Bronson's mother and his three siblings while he was still a small boy. Growing up poor in the affluent Southern California community, the academically gifted Pinchot saw education as his way to a better life. After graduating at the top of his class from South Pasadena High School, he attended Yale University on a full academic scholarship, where he studied fine art. It was as a student at Yale's Morse College that Pinchot first became interested in acting after taking part in several school productions. Graduating magna cum laude from Yale in 1981, he decided to pursue acting in earnest and was soon cast in an off-Broadway production. It was there that he was discovered by a casting director looking to populate the supporting cast of a new teen comedy feature titled "Risky Business" (1983).
Pinchot's film debut came when he was cast as Barry, "one of the guys" caught in the orbit of entrepreneurial bad boy Tom Cruise in "Risky Business," the movie that launched Cruise toward superstardom. The effect on Pinchot's career, however, was not quite as earth-shaking, and he struggled to pick up more roles in the months to come. The following year he appeared in two high-profile movies simultaneously. One, "The Flamingo Kid" (1984), starred Matt Dillon as a boy from Brooklyn working at a beach resort one summer in the 1960s, and did little to further Pinchot's visibility. Conversely, the other project, "Beverly Hills Cop" (1984), not only brought him great notice, but found him virtually stealing his one scene from the film's high-wattage comic, Eddie Murphy. As Serge, the snooty, bizarrely-accented, and sexually ambiguous art gallery receptionist, Pinchot's improvisational performance prompted director Martin Brest to give the actor more screen time than was originally written. Suddenly, Serge's acerbic response of "Don't be stupid," became a comedic tagline, repeated ad nauseam by fans of the film for months to come.
With his career experiencing a bit of an up-tic, Pinchot accepted a lead role in the easily forgotten "Hot Resort" (1985), one of the weaker entries in the teen-sex comedy trend of the early '80s. More respectable, although less prominent, was his small role in the episodic dark comedy "After Hours" (1985), directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Griffin Dunne as an ordinary guy having one extraordinarily bad night. Despite the admonitions of former co-star Tom Cruise against taking on television work, Pinchot jumped at a regular cast role on the short-lived Geena Davis sitcom "Sara" (NBC, 1985). Generally well-received by critics, it was notable primarily for featuring one of the first openly gay characters in its regular cast (Pinchot's Dennis Kemper), before being cancelled after a mere 13 episodes. Fortune smiled on the actor, however, when he was immediately invited to co-star on the odd couple sitcom "Perfect Strangers" (ABC, 1986-1993), a project largely inspired by his unforgettable turn as Serge in "Beverly Hills Cop" two years earlier. For eight seasons, Pinchot played Balki, the unbelievably naïve and distant cousin of uptight Chicagoan Larry (Mark Linn-Baker). Having traveled from the tiny fictional Greek-like island nation of Mypos, Balki - a character developed in large part by Pinchot himself - alternated between being the bane of Larry's existence, and his best friend in the world.
At the height of his popularity on television, Pinchot attempted to parlay the success of "Perfect Strangers" into a lucrative film career. The results were far from stellar. He first shared top billing with sitcom veteran John Larroquette, playing a psychic in the critically lambasted supernatural comedy "Second Sight" (1989), then followed with the even less-seen mistaken identity farce "Blame It on the Bellboy" (1992), in the titular role of the much maligned hotel employee. Although his television show had been a respectable success for ABC, eventually the ratings for "Perfect Strangers" began to decline precipitously, and it was given the rare opportunity to close out the storylines with a farewell episode in the summer of 1993. Pinchot attempted to make a smooth transition to another sitcom when he signed on for the lead in "The Trouble with Larry" (CBS, 1993), in which he played a husband, long since presumed dead, who throws his now-married wife's life into turmoil when he unexpectedly returns 10 years later. After a small number of episodes, the show was pulled from the line-up.
Pinchot managed to breathe some much needed life into his feature film career with a small, but hilariously spineless turn as a Hollywood bottom feeder in director Tony Scott's violent love story "True Romance" (1993), written by Quentin Tarantino and starring Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette as young lovers on the run from the mob. He also reprised his signature role as Serge in "Beverly Hills Cop III" (1994), once again stealing scenes, albeit less memorable ones, from Murphy. While not on a series of his own, he continued to appear on television in a variety of roles, including a pair of appearances as the super villain The Prankster on "Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman" (ABC, 1993-97), and as a mentally unstable passenger on a doomed airliner in the miniseries adaptation of "Stephen King's 'The Langoliers'" (ABC, 1995). Pinchot picked up a rare dramatic role in the war drama "Courage Under Fire" (1996), alongside Meg Ryan and Denzel Washington, and offered comic support to Diane Keaton, Goldie Hawn and Bette Midler in "The First Wives' Club" (1996).
The following year, Pinchot joined the long-running family sitcom "Step by Step" (ABC, 1992-98) in 1997 as the co-owner of a hair salon with star Suzanne Somers. However, when the opportunity to take the lead on another series presented itself, the actor jumped ship and took on the title character in the sci-fi comedy "Meego" (CBS, 1997), playing a 9,000-year-old alien who befriends a family on Earth. Unfortunately, the gamble did not pay off and "Meego" was jettisoned back into space after only a handful of episodes. Alternating stage work with his projects in film and television, he co-starred in the direct-to-DVD homage to the great silent-era comedy duo "The All New Adventures of Laurel and Hardy - For Love or Mummy" (1999), delivering a respectable impersonation of the reed-thin Stan. In another little-seen film, Pinchot joined the ensemble cast of "Second Best" (2004), a comedy about a group of old friends consumed by jealousy over the success of a member of their formally tight-knit cadre. On television, he took part in the 2005 season of the celebrity reality series "The Surreal Life" (The WB, 2002-04/VH1, 2004-06), impressing cast mates and the audience in all the wrong ways with his persistent lecherous behavior. Pinchot later picked up a recurring role in six episodes of the daytime soap opera "The Young and the Restless" (CBS, 1973- ) in 2008, and lent his voice to the animated children's fable "The Tale of Despereaux" (2008) that same year. Other work included guest turns on television series that included the action-comedy "Chuck" (NBC, 2007- ), and an appearance on the cop show reboot "Hawaii Five-O" (CBS, 2010- ), as an art dealer caught up in a high stakes drug operation.
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"[My father] was an out-of-control, substance-abusing wife beater. To me, he was scarier than the boogeyman. He would show up high as a kite and try to break through the windows. He came home one Christmas, kicked the presents around the house like soccer balls and beat my mother with a telephone cord. [My mother] was interested in giving her kids more than the usual. She was like taking an arc light into a grimy garage. She made all the rats and creepy-crawler things run into the corners." --Pinchot in PEOPLE, June 20, 1994
Pinchot is a "beyond passionate" collector of Greek and Roman antiques.
"There are times when I just want to spent a week by myself. I'm going to pull a Charlie Chaplin and have kids when I'm 60."--Pinchot in PEOPLE, June 20, 1994
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