I’ve gone from terrorizing Jerry, Kramer, and Elaine to terrorizing all of Los Angeles,” says Peter Crombie, alluding to his Prozac-deprived, opera-lovin’ Seinfeldian alter ego, Crazy Joe Davola, and his latest gig, as the creature in NBC’s sweeps screamer, House of Frankenstein 1997.
It’s a career climax of sorts that after a succession of socio- and psychopathic roles on stage and screen, the Chicago-bred Yale Drama School grad has finally been cast as an actual monster — albeit a highly sentient, Froot Loops-eating, Doc Marten’s-wearing monster.
”Let’s call them tormented people,” euphemizes Crombie, who has portrayed a wide variety of loose screws, including a notorious subway vigilante in the 1988 TV movie The Trial of Bernhard Goetz, and, more recently, a serial killer on the NBC ”Thrillogy” drama Profiler. He brought a similar, if sillier menace to his twisted turn as Crazy Joe in Seinfeld‘s 1992-93 season — complete with stalking, beatings, and death threats, it was an unusually dark visitation on sitcomland. Says Crombie: ”I think all [my] previous roles, various kinds of bad guys, had sort of prepared me for it. I accessed some of that and sent it up a little bit.” Thanks to the wonders of syndication, it’s now his most resonant characterization: ”I can always tell when they’re airing it because I’ll be walking down the street and someone will go, ‘Hey, Joe!”’
The L.A.-based actor says these days he’s trying to be more selective in his choices, but that ”in Hollywood, if you do something, and you have success with it, it just translates into more work along the same lines. It becomes this little locomotive that’s chugging along.” Next stop? Hopefully, as the lead in an indie black comedy called 40’s, White Male, in which Crombie will play an ”antihero” who winds up holding a burger joint hostage.
Unfortunately for Davola fans, the reprise-happy folks at Seinfeld have yet to ask for an encore. Maybe he’ll be their secret weapon for May sweeps. ”I hope so,” says Crombie. ”I’m ready.” Are you listening, Jerry?