Family & Companions
Whether a blessing or a curse, actor Wayne Knight would be forever remembered as Newman, the annoying neighbor and chief nemesis to Jerry Seinfeld on the famed sitcom "Seinfeld" (NBC, 1989-1998). But aside from his enormously popular turn as Seinfeld's nefarious foil, Knight made a name for himself by appearing in a number of television series and films while lending his distinctive voice to extensive voiceover projects. He had notable supporting turns as one of Jim Garrison's investigators in "JFK" (1991), a DNA thief in "Jurassic Park" (1993) and the assistant district attorney who examines Sharon Stone during her infamous leg crossing scene in "Basic Instinct" (1992). From there, he began his long run on "Seinfeld" while simultaneously playing the uninformed officer Don Orville on "3rd Rock from the Sun" (NBC, 1996-2001). Knight also voiced characters in animated films like "Hercules" (1997), "Tarzan" (1999) and "Toy Story 2" (1999), as well as animated series on the Cartoon Network. After "Seinfeld" ended in 1998, he made a string of guest appearances on both dramas and comedies, including "Nip/Tuck" (FX, 2003-2010), "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" (CBS, 2000-2015) and "Hot in Cleveland" (TV Land, 2010-15), and even reprised Newman on "Curb Your Enthusiasm" (HBO, 2000- ). By the time he had a recurring role as a CIA honcho on the British series "Torchwood: Miracle Day" (BBC One/Starz, 2011), Knight was one of the most in-demand character actors working in the business.
Born on Aug. 7, 1955 in New York City, Knight was raised in Cartersville, GA, by his father, a textile factory supervisor, and his mother, a woman's apparel worker. He studied acting at the University of Georgia where he was an honor student, but left one credit shy of graduating to pursue a career as a professional actor. After earning his Equity Card at the Barter Theatre in Virginia, Knight moved back to his native New York where he made his Broadway debut in the long-running "Gemini" (1977). In between jobs, he worked as a private investigator to make ends meet and made his onscreen debut with an uncredited role as a gang member in Philip Kaufman's "The Wanderers" (1979). He went on to play a video game fanatic in "For Lovers Only" (1982) and appeared in a pair of dismal sex comedies, "The Sex O'Clock News" (1983) and "Porky's 2: The Next Day" (1983). Following another small part in the forgettable Deborah Harry comedy "Forever, Lulu" (1987), Knight finally began appearing in bigger high-quality studio films, albeit in limited capacity.
Knight landed a small role in one of the biggest hits of the 1980s, "Dirty Dancing" (1987), and followed with a bit part as a college partygoer in the sports film, "Everybody's All-American" (1988). A year later, he snagged a small role in the Oliver Stone film, "Born on the Fourth of July" (1989), before appearing in a more substantial supporting role in "JFK" (1991), playing an investigator on District Attorney Jim Garrison's (Kevin Costner) assassination investigation team. Meanwhile, Knight continued landing supporting roles in number of memorable films, notably with "Dead Again" (1991), where he played "Piccolo" Pete Dugan, and "Basic Instinct" (1992), where he portrayed the assistant district attorney who interrogates Sharon Stone during the infamous leg crossing scene. Rumor had it that the strong impression Knight made in that scene caught the attention of Steven Spielberg, who promptly cast him in the role of the duplicitous Nedry in the mammoth blockbuster, "Jurassic Park" (1993). His evil dinosaur DNA thief met a memorable end by a screeching dinosaur that at first glance, appeared harmless.
It was around this time that Knight was cast as irascible postal carrier Newman on "Seinfeld" (NBC, 1989-98), down-the-hall neighbor and sworn enemy to Jerry Seinfeld (Jerry Seinfeld). Though Knight himself did not join the show until season three, the character had been mentioned early in the show's run and had, in fact, been voiced by series co-creator Larry David in the season two episode, "The Revenge." Knight first appeared onscreen as Newman in the third season episode, "The Suicide," and in later years appeared so regularly that he was almost a fulltime cast member, often collaborating with Kramer (Michael Richards) in a series of bizarre schemes. Knight's character even parodied the actor's film roles in a pair of episodes: his "JFK" role was spoofed in "The Boyfriend, Part 1," where New York Met Keith Hernandez is accused of spitting on Newman and Kramer after a game; and his "Basic Instinct" role as an interrogator was spoofed in "The Package." Remarkably, Knight was pulling double duty while playing Newman with another prominent supporting role on the sitcom, "3rd Rock from the Sun" (NBC, 1996-2001), playing another uniformed character, Officer Don Orville.
Meanwhile, Knight enjoyed a successful voiceover career in animated films by voicing Demetrius in "Hercules" (1997), Tantor in "Tarzan" (1999), and the villainous toy collector Al McWhiggin in Pixar's "Toy Story 2" (1999). He continued his voice work on television with "Toonyslvania," (Syndicated, 1998), the Disney animated show, "Buzz Lightyear of Star Command," (2000) and "Justice League Unlimited" (Cartoon Network, 2003-05), among others. Back on live action shows, he appeared in bit parts on "Becker" (CBS, 1998-2004), "The Drew Carey Show" (ABC, 1995-2004) and "CSI: NY" (CBS, 2004- ), while on the big screen he appeared in the comedy "Rat Race" (2001) and had an uncredited part as an electrician in "Cheaper by the Dozen" (2003). Moving deftly between comedy and drama, Knight made a number of guest appearances on popular series like "Nip/Tuck" (FX, 2003-2010), "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" (CBS, 2000-15) and "Hot in Cleveland" (TV Land, 2010-15), and in 2009 he even reprised Newman for "Curb Your Enthusiasm" (HBO, 2000- ) during the season in which star Larry David reunited the cast of "Seinfeld." After voicing Gang Boss in "Kung Fu Panda" (2008), Knight appeared as a judge on "The Whole Truth" (ABC, 2010) before landing a recurring role as a CIA boss on the popular British series, "Torchwood: Miracle Day" (BBC One/Starz, 2011).
By Shawn Dwyer
Cast (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Made his Broadway debut in the long-running "Gemini"
Moved back to his native New York
US TV acting debut, "For Lovers Only"
Feature acting debut, "The Sex O'Clock News"
Returned to Broadway in Larry Gelbart's "Mastergate"
Cast as an ensemble member on the series, "The Edge"
Signed three-year deal with Carsey-Werner Prods. estimated to be worth $2 million
Co-starred on Broadway in the Tony-winning play "Art"