Globe and Mail (Canada)
April 25, 1986
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
''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
''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
''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
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.'''