Bronson Pinchot Reflects on Perfect Strangers’ Global Impact and Fan Encounters

Pinchot reveals Nelson and Winnie Mandela’s love for “Perfect Strangers” and his character Balki

Bronson Pinchot, and Nelson and Winnie Mandela. (PHOTO: VIA PEOPLE, MARIO CASILLI/TV GUIDE/EVERETT; REBECCA NADEN/PA WIRE/AP)
Bronson Pinchot, and Nelson and Winnie Mandela. (PHOTO: VIA PEOPLE, MARIO CASILLI/TV GUIDE/EVERETT; REBECCA NADEN/PA WIRE/AP)

Bronson Pinchot, known for his portrayal of Balki Bartokomous on the popular ABC sitcom “Perfect Strangers,” recently shared a touching story about the show’s global reach.

Speaking with PEOPLE, Pinchot revealed that Nelson Mandela and his former wife Winnie Mandela were fans of the series during its heyday from 1986 to 1993.

“Perfect Strangers,” a comedy about an immigrant from the fictional island of Mypos who moves in with his distant cousin in Chicago, struck a chord with audiences worldwide.

Pinchot recalls attending a banquet in South Africa at the height of the show’s popularity, where he experienced an unexpected and heartwarming encounter.

“I’m not making this up,” Pinchot, now 65, said. “I was at this big dinner, and all of a sudden I get crushed from behind by this embrace, like your long-lost relative. And I turn around and it’s Winnie Mandela.” Winnie Mandela expressed her admiration for Pinchot’s character, saying, “If you only had any idea how much we love Balki here.”

Pinchot, taken aback by the compliment, responded with genuine surprise. “My goodness, really?” he recalled saying. During the same event, he received a note from Nelson Mandela, delivered by an assistant. The note read, “If I start going up to individual tables… then I’ll have to go to every table and I can’t do that. But I wanted you to know that I know my cousin is here.”

Bronson Pinchot and Mark Linn-Baker in Perfect Strangers. (PHOTO: VIA PEOPLE, ABC PHOTO ARCHIVES/DISNEY GENERAL ENTERTAINMENT CONTENT VIA GETTY)
Bronson Pinchot and Mark Linn-Baker in Perfect Strangers. (PHOTO: VIA PEOPLE, ABC PHOTO ARCHIVES/DISNEY GENERAL ENTERTAINMENT CONTENT VIA GETTY)

Reflecting on these moments, Pinchot’s voice filled with emotion. The experience highlighted the far-reaching impact of “Perfect Strangers,” a show that brought laughter and joy to diverse audiences, including those living under the shadow of apartheid in South Africa.

Pinchot first gained widespread recognition for his role as the flamboyant gallery worker Serge in the 1984 film “Beverly Hills Cop.” While he enjoyed the acclaim, the sudden attention from fans was sometimes overwhelming.

Shortly after the film’s release, he recalled an incident near his Los Angeles apartment where a car of teenagers excitedly jumped out to greet him. “They jumped out and started to make a fuss,” he said. “I went from poverty to people driving up on the sidewalk. I wasn’t ready. Who’s ready for that?”

The attention was not always positive. Pinchot shared that it could sometimes be frightening, with fans making unsettling demands. “Everybody’s staring at you. And people sometimes will even make a death threat.

They’ll say, ‘Do the character for my girlfriend.’ And you say, ‘I think I’ll just have my fruit salad, thank you.’ And then they say, ‘I’ll have to kill you now.’ I mean, that’s a real thing,” he explained.

Despite these challenges, Pinchot has grown more comfortable with his place in the spotlight over the years. However, he still doesn’t actively seek it out.

Bronson Pinchot as Serge in 'Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F'. (PHOTO: VIA PEOPLE, COURTESY OF NETFLIX)
Bronson Pinchot as Serge in ‘Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F’. (PHOTO: VIA PEOPLE, COURTESY OF NETFLIX)

Recently, he reprised his role as Serge in the new film “Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F,” now streaming on Netflix.

Pinchot admitted he was initially reluctant to attend the June 20 Los Angeles premiere of the movie, but was persuaded by his team. “I got covertly threatening emails and texts from my manager saying, ‘You will be on the red carpet,’” he joked.

Looking back on his career, Pinchot appreciates the unexpected connections and profound impact his work has had.

The story of Nelson and Winnie Mandela’s admiration for Balki Bartokomous is a testament to the power of television and its ability to transcend borders and cultures, bringing people together through shared laughter and humanity. 

For more insights into Bronson Pinchot’s experiences and reflections, readers can pick up the new issue of PEOPLE.

Sharing Is Caring:

Leave a Comment