Bronson Pinchot, in 1986 (left) and more recently
Bob D'Amico/ABC; Ryan Miller/Getty
03/15/2012 at 07:30 PM EDT
He's been a perfect stranger ever since he left Hollywood
a decade ago. But Bronson Pinchot couldn't be happier in his new life as a home-restoration specialist in rural Harford, Pa.
"I was in New York City and I was doing a Broadway show, and I was on a computer and I happened to see country houses with land around them that were the cost of half a New York City studio apartment," the former Perfect Strangers
actor, 52, tells ABC's Good Morning America
"I just got it into my head that I had to have one, and then I got another one and another one."
Pinchot now owns five houses in Harford and restored them all using only only salvaged objects – a process documented in The Bronson Pinchot Project
, a new series on the DIY Network.
Does he miss the hustle and bustle of the acting life? Hardly.
"I never did love Hollywood, I just loved the work," he says. "In California you say to somebody, 'Could you help me carry this heavy thing?' 'No, 'cause it's bicep day at the gym and I don't want to pre-exhaust the muscle.' "
Having first proved himself a scene-stealer opposite Eddie Murphy in 1984's Beverly Hills Cop
, Pinchot says playing Balki on ABC's Perfect Strangers
from 1986 to 1993 was a wonderful opportunity, but not without its downsides.
"There is a potentially awkward disconnect when someone expects you to be a character and you're not," he says. "You can see the disappointment and even offense that they take."
His new passion is giving him new fans, though. "What happens now is people will sit next to me on the plane [and] they'll go, 'So, Bronson, I've got this crud, like, in between my tiles,' and I'm like, 'Muriatic acid, but make sure you wear a mask,' " he says.
Pinchot says he's still close with Mark Linn-Baker, his costar on Perfect Strangers
. And he'd love do a Perfect Strangers
reunion, he adds, but only if he can lose enough weight to fit into Balki's old clothes.