No Matter How Many People Play the Role, This Is the OG Gomez Addams You Probably Didn’t Know
John Astin, the 93-year-old actor most well-known for playing Gomez Addams in the original “Addams Family” TV show, celebrated his birthday this week and people are celebrating the occasion by remembering his tenure as the iconic character from 1964 to 1966.
Born in 1930, Astin started acting in 1954 after graduating with a drama degree from Johns Hopkins. Following a brief role in 1961’s “West Side Story” and a short-lived starring role in a sitcom called “I’m Dickens, He’s Fenster” from 1962 to 1963. However, his next role would be the one that solidified him as a Hollywood legend.
John Astin didn’t see himself as Gomez Addams at first
Astin originally auditioned for the role of Lurch, the Addams family’s butler. However, the show’s creator, David Levy, liked Astin better as Gomez, the family’s patriarch. The rest, as they say, is history. Alongside his on-screen wife Morticia Addams (played by Carolyn Jones), Astin became a TV dad nobody would ever forget.
However, the history of the Addams’ goes farther back than the TV show. The creepy, kooky, mysterious, spooky, and altogether ooky family first appeared as a comic strip from creator Charles Addams. The comic debuted in 1938 and Addams would go on to write more than 150 Addams Family comics in total.
The origin of each character is still widely-debated. Many people thought Charles’ first wife, Barbara Jean Day, inspired Morticia. However, that theory has been debunked. In fact, it seems like the inverse is true. Morticia closely resembles the three women Charles would go on to marry at various points in his life.
It’s very possible Charles imbued certain aspects of his own personality into Gomez. However, many people compared Charles’ sense of humor to Uncle Fester, instead. Charles’ larger-than-life personality is crucial to his story and his Hollywood stories are some of the wildest you’ll ever hear.
The character is, in a lot of ways, the heart and soul of “The Addams Family”
Now, the Addams family is everywhere. There are movies, more comics, even a video game. However, a lot of that success rests not on the comic but on the TV show inspired by it. Every cast member was invaluable, to be sure, but John Astin’s turn as Gomez is one of the more underrated characters in the original cast.
Characters like Morticia, Wednesday, and Cousin Itt are popular outside the canon of the show and subsequent adaptations, but Gomez is someone who still exists firmly within the bounds of the show. He doesn’t have his own spin-offs and he isn’t someone most people would dress up as for Halloween without an accompanying Morticia.
But Gomez is crucial to the show’s more heartfelt moments. His love for Morticia is unparalleled in the modern family sitcom. Opposite the other, more outlandish characters in the show, Gomez often acts as the voice of reason. He’s a good man, dependable, and loves his family.
Not to say that he doesn’t get into hijinks of his own. Gomez, Morticia’s “mad Castillian,” is no stranger to chaos. Charles Addams himself described Gomez as “a crafty schemer, but also a jolly man in his own way” and that pretty much sums it up. He is, in so many ways, the average American father. And that’s part of why we love him so much.
Astin’s career extends far beyond his performance as Gomez Addams
Although his role as Gomez often eclipses his prolific body of work, Astin continued to be a working actor for decades after the show went off the air. He even has an Oscar nomination for “Prelude,” a short film from 1968. To date, Astin has nearly 160 acting credits over eight decades.
He even returned to Johns Hopkins in 2001 as a professor. The university credits him with reviving their theater program. His accomplishments are innumerable. But for many of his fans, he’ll always be Gomez Addams. And he doesn’t seem to mind that too much, either.