The Globe and Mail (Canada)
April 25, 1986

Pinchot's Winning Way with Those Funny Accents
Written by: Jerry Buck

And here he is, once again mangling the English language, this time as a Mediterranean goat herder in the new ABC series Perfect Strangers.  Pinchot plays Balki Bartokomous, who left the tiny island nation of Nipos [sic] to barge in on his American cousin Larry Appleton (Mark Linn-Baker), and take up residence in what Larry thought was going to be his bachelor pad.

Pinchot was first approached about the series two years ago, when he had a supporting role in the NBC comedy Sara, which starred Geena Davis.  He signed for Sara after he'd completed Beverly Hills Cop.  That was before the movie was released and his portrayal of Serge, the gay art clerk, created a sensation.

Afterward, people began coming to him.  ''Everyone was saying to me, 'You ought to do a series,' and there I was stuck in a little part,'' he says.  ''Film crews and magazine people were running around my apartment.  I was chomping at the bit but I had to hold it in.

''The producers of Perfect Strangers came to me when I was doing Sara.  I was afraid I wouldn't be able to do the show.

''They didn't tell me he would be a goat herder,'' he says.  ''They said they wanted to do something about an immigrant who has an incredibly positive, upbeat attitude about America.  The show at that time was called Greenhorn.

''I said they were thinking of Beverly Hills Cop, in which I did a mangled Israeli accent.  I said I didn't want to do the accent again.

''Serge was very snotty and it was a kind of joke on Beverly Hills.  But later I spent two months in Greece and talked to a lot of people there and listened to their accents and came back enthusiastic about it.''

When Pinchot was hired for Beverly Hills Cop, the character had been called Jacques.  ''The year before I was so desperate I went to a seminar on catering run by a man named Serge,'' he says.  ''He told us to call him Serge, like the cloth, not Sir-gay.

''Everybody else in the class looked like a male model.  I was taking notes and he pointed at me and said, 'Look at that boy taking notes.  How can he expect to learn to be a waiter if he doesn't look at me.'

''I was so humiliated.  So when I got the part in Beverly Hills Cop I changed the name to Serge and used his accent.''

The actor was 3 when his father had a yen to see California.  ''He gave away all the furniture and moved his wife and four children to South Pasadena,'' Pinchot says.  ''As soon as we got here he disappeared.  My mother went to work cleaning houses, then worked as a typist.

''For a while she made bread dough Christmas tree ornaments.  We were also on welfare a lot.''

Despite his penurious condition, Pinchot made it to Yale University.  ''I got the best grades that anyone had ever heard of in high school,'' he says.  ''My girl friend and I tied for valedictorian.

''Isn't that tacky?''

He enrolled in a fine arts course, but was soon into acting.  ''I auditioned for a play and was accepted,'' he says.  ''I was very bad in it.  The chairman of the theatre department came to see the play and asked me if I'd like to learn how to act.

''He said he thought I could become good.''

Pinchot may have had a premonition of that.  He checked out a copy of the script of The Three Sisters from the Yale Library.  The librarian warned him to be careful, it was signed by Henry Winkler, who had also studied there.

''So I quickly signed it and said 'it now has both our signatures.'''