Interview With Actress Susan Slome

By Ruth on February 20, 2017 in Interview, movie, television
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A while back, I became a acquainted with the work of the actor Rick Ravanello, and through watching his films and shows, I have met other equally talented and genuinely kind industry professionals. Susan Slome happens to be one that I noticed the moment her character appeared on screen in the Lifetime movie Dangerous Company. Recently, Susan set aside some time to answer a few questions about her path to become an actress, some of her notable roles, and even her perception of the ever-evolving acting industry. 

​RH: What inspired you to become an actress? What kind of training have you received ? 

SS: I get what you’re asking, but — it’s funny. Acting is all I’ve ever wanted to do. Ever. There was never a magic moment — a movie, or a play, or what-have-you — that inspired me to make the decision. It is just who I am and who I always have been. I asked my mother about it once on a cross-country trip to college and she confirmed it.  From the moment I could speak, I was telling her that all I wanted to do was perform.

From as early as I can remember, every chance I could,  I was putting on shows for my family with my cousins and my friends. Then, in elementary school, they started giving me the leads in all the school plays. Not because I was so very talented, but because I had this crazy, ridiculous memory! They would hand out the play, and by the next day I would have memorized not only my role, but the entire play! Like, word-for-word. And I was very happy to tell all the other actors what their lines were too, so you can imagine how popular that made me with the other kids (NOT!) — but it made the director/teacher’s job a lot easier, as they got a lead, assistant director, and script supervisor all in one. So — yeah, acting is what has made me happiest for as long as I can remember.

That said, while my parents enjoyed artistic expression and did take me to the theater at an early age, I did not come from a family that had any performers in it. So even though it is all I ever wanted, my parents didn’t quite know what to do with me. They were both English teachers and had no idea about how show business worked. And even if they had understood it, they had no time to take me around to auditions. They had real jobs and I had school. And it wasn’t like it is today, where kid actors have tons of special schools and all sorts of resources, or heck, even the internet to find information! So they put me in a bunch of after-school and/or weekend classes. Acting, singing, dance — whatever they could find locally.

Later, I got involved in a summer program for teens (TADW) {Teenage Drama Workshop} at the local University (CSUN) {California State University, Northridge}, and I started doing community theater. And then, once I was an adult, I started studying with a variety of notable teachers anywhere and everywhere I could. (I could list all the names, but it would take pages and pages.)  And my favorite thing in the world was to watch documentaries and interviews with the artists that I loved. Actors, directors, casting people —  I was a sponge soaking up as much as I could from as many people and places as I could. And I still am. I still take classes. I don’t think you ever stop learning. There are so many teachers that have influenced my technique, but the ones that changed my life? Jack Plotnick and Alexandra Billings. They are my heroes.

I understand you are also a singer and are involved in stage musicals. Please tell us about that.

Hahaha! Gotta love IMDB! I did not put that up there, just so you know. An old high school friend did. But in any case …

From a very early age, my parents would take me to whatever stage performances that they could. And I guess that straight dramatic theater was not really age-appropriate, so they took me to a lot of musicals such as Annie, The Wiz, Cats, A Chorus Line … things like that. And between the fact that the songs were so catchy and well-written, and that crazy memory of mine — I would sing the songs all the way home. And for weeks afterward. And then I would sing along with the soundtracks if my parents would buy them for me.

And so, naturally, when I was looking for ways to perform and places to do so, stage musicals were just something I got cast in. I guess because I could carry a tune and I looked so happy doing it. Some highlights would be when I, along with a kid who I considered to be a piano genius, were both about fifteen and we wrote a full score for a West Side Story-esque version of Antigone and, along with a bunch of friends, performed it on a college stage for a paying audience. And when, as an adult, I performed a lead in an eight-part A Capella musical about silent Velcro. (No, I’m not kidding.) I was even one of The Dawn in a Tony Orlando parody show. So, yeah, I love musicals. I always have. And it would be a dream come true to be cast in a Broadway musical or a film version of one. But, if I was to be honest with myself,  I am really not a singer. At best, I am an actor who sings. I would never ever make it onto American Idol or The Voice. Singing is just one more variation of performing that I love. I am a karaoke superstar in my own mind. But that’s about it.

Much of your work appears to be guest star work on various well-known shows. While I’m sure all your roles are memorable for various reasons, what are a couple that really stand out to you and why? 

Oh, gosh. This is a tough one. I really have been quite blessed to have not only worked on some amazing shows, but with some truly phenomenal actors: Hugh Laurie, Anthony LaPaglia, Justin Chambers — Some of the most giving and collaborative artists you could ever have the pleasure of working with. But if I had to pick just one good story …?

I probably get most publicly recognized from my role on Friends. I was a big fan of the show. I had auditioned twice previously over the years and was not cast. And then they went into their ninth season — which was supposed to be their last season — and I had pretty much given up hope of ever being on it. It was a huge hit show. Everyone wanted a role. Most roles were being “stunt cast” — meaning that they were being given to star names like Brad Pitt and Reese Witherspoon. And then I get this audition for the role of a potential nanny for Ross and Rachel’s baby. I was so excited! But here’s the thing … the role, as originally written, was kind of a Rebecca De Mornay in The Hand That Rocks The Cradle character; a creepy, sexy, psycho who implies that she may just do away with Rachel in order to try to get with Ross. And I just couldn’t seem to make it work. It didn’t feel right. I wasn’t funny. It just was not my casting. And I knew it. So after beating my head against the wall all night, I finally decided that rather than try to force myself to be something that I’m not, I was just going to put my own unique spin on it. And that evolved into me being more new-age hippie than sexy-psycho. And I went in, and I had fun and I got some laughs —which is all you can really hope for. And I walked out of the audition convinced that I wouldn’t get that role, but hoping that maybe I would be remembered by them for some other project in the future. And then …  I got the call that they wanted me to come back in! They had rewritten the role — in my humble opinion, to something much closer to what it was that I had done in my audition — and I had to go back in and audition against a whole new group of actresses, but c’mon — Nobody is going to do “me” better than me — and I inevitably got the part. And the lesson there was that, as an actor, you should never ever try to go into an audition and give them what you *think* they want. You don’t know what they want. Heck, most of the time THEY don’t even know what they want! All you can do is put yourself into the given circumstances of the script and just do what you would do within those circumstances. You may not always get the role that way– but you will always do great work. Much better work than trying to “fake it” and trying to second-guess their desires. That was a great lesson for me.

I first noticed you in Dangerous Company. How did you get connected with that role in that film? What was your filming experience like? How did you get on with your co-stars? Any special memories ? 

Ahhhh, Ricki. An old mentor of mine used to say “You don’t need every person in the world to love you, just a handful.” And Casting Director Ricki Maslar is one of the fingers on that hand o’ mine. I’d known Ricki for years; she had brought me in to audition numerous times for various other projects. And then she brought me in for Dangerous Company (which, at the time, was called A Family Legacy) for the role of Deanna, the unreliable, in-and-out of rehab sister. I was kind of a long shot. Most of the other actresses I saw auditioning for Deanna were very sexy-with-an-edge types. But Ricki believed in me, and pushed for me, and in the end, I was the director’s choice and won the role thanks to Ricki’s belief in me and my talent.

Pretty much all of the cast and crew were stellar. Just an amazing group of people. It was a low-budget production … which means that everyone there is working for love: Love for what they do, or love of the project, or as a favor for someone they love — or all of the above. I finally got to be on-screen with Adalgiza Chermont, who is a good friend of mine, so that was awesome. I got along fabulously with the gorgeous and talented, Rick Ravanello, who I know you are a huge fan of. And I had a deep connection with Alicia Leigh Willis, whose work I was not personally familiar with — but who has a huge cult following as I discovered when I started posting about the film, and all of my soap-fan friends started losing their minds! It was also the first project I shot after the death of my mom — which brings me to my favorite memory ….

I am an only child. My mom was truly my best friend. And she had passed away, with me at her side, a couple months previous to this filming. I took to wearing her gold wedding band on my pinky finger, just to keep her near. So it’s the very first day of filming for me, and we’re at this fabulous mansion in the hills, and we’re going to shoot my first scene — and it is the scene where I surprise my sister who is sleeping in bed, and we talk about what’s going on with her. It is a highly emotional scene. And because this is just how the movie business works sometimes, it is my very first time ever laying eyes on my co-star, Alicia. We had never even spoken, and here we are filming this scene that is crucial to showing our relationship as sisters, which is imperative for the film to work. Yeah, no pressure there. So we do the run-through. And it’s okay. But, y’know, just okay. And we are sitting on the bed as they start setting up the cameras and lights, and Alicia and I are introducing ourselves and making small talk … and I glance down and the ring catches my eye. And I just look up at Alicia and say “Can I tell you about this ring?” And I tell her, everything. About my mom, about my last moments with her, about how much I miss her, everything. And now I’m crying and Alicia is crying, and she’s telling me deeply personal things about herself as well and — Bam! We were no longer strangers. There was a definite bond. And so then, twenty minutes later, when we shot the scene and we talked about “our” mother (meaning the mother of these two sisters) there was a real knowing and a sadness and, in my humble opinion, it is a really beautiful scene. I don’t think you would ever guess that we had just met. And I’m really proud of that. I felt my mom with me so strongly for that entire shoot. It still makes me choke up just thinking about it.

Any other upcoming or current works you can mention ? 

Well, you know — an actor’s life. I never know what’s around the corner until it happens. I am beyond thrilled that I got to return to my roots, the stage, in a six-performance run of Alice in Wonderland at the El Portal Theatre in North Hollywood, February 10th – 12th. I got to play the Mad Hatter — How fun is that??!! I did have a role in Lady Bouncer, one of the three pilots that were recently shot as part of the HBO Access project. Kelly Edwards and Kimberley Browning, along with Len Amato, have spearheaded a truly amazing and revolutionary program and are re-imagining the future of television — so that will end up on HBO in some capacity, but I am not sure as to how or when.   And this is the time of year when many of the new pilots for TV shows are cast so any number of fabulous things could be in my near future — You know I will keep you posted!

Any plans to eventually  write/produce direct? 

Absolutely. This business has really changed and I think the only way to really make a mark for yourself and be able to enjoy the process as a whole is to create your own content. So let’s just say I don’t have any specific plans to as of yet but I definitely have intentions.

One of the things I like about you is that you don’t fit the “traditional” look of women on magazine covers and even in Hollywood. While the entertainment industry still experiences various biases, how do you see that changing? 

Thank you. It took me a very long time to become comfortable with who I am. I could talk a lot about this subject … like, a lot! But the short answer is that, yes — the business has definitely changed for the better from when I first started out. It wasn’t that there was no one who looked like me on the screen — it was just that usually that character was the butt of a joke and/or had some really derogatory character name attached. I will forever be grateful to Melissa McCarthy (who, to be honest, I did not really care for after she won the role that I auditioned for on The Gilmore Girls … but who I love now!) because she has played such a huge part in changing the way America sees the bigger ladies. Between her character on Mike & Molly, and now the character Chrissy Metz plays on This Is Us … that’s a huge leap forward. Women like us as romantic leads on network shows was an impossibility a decade ago. So that’s amazing. But like so many other things in life, it’s two steps forward, one step back — because we also have Katy Mixon on American Housewife where almost every episode makes reference to how fat she is. And she is gorgeous and curvy and, I’m sorry, is definitely not the poster-child for the overweight woman. America Ferrera, too. And don’t get me wrong — I LOVE me some Rebel Wilson and “Fat Amy” … but I am looking forward to the day when people like us are on shows that explore the issues of the character’s lives without a constant reference to their size. Or ethnicity, or sexual orientation, for that matter. When people are just … people. That said, I’m five episodes into The Mick and Carla Jimenez is just killing it on that show and I don’t think there has been a single reference to her shape, or at the very least, no negative one. So there is definite progress, and definite hope.

I’d you could have a recurring role on any current TV show, which show would you pick and why? 

I think that Louie is the greatest comedy currently on television. And Mr. Robot is the finest drama. I also love the shows Man Seeking Woman, You’re The Worst, Orange Is The New Black … But … you didn’t ask me about my favorite shows. You asked me what I’d like to recur on. And Louie doesn’t really have recurring characters. And I don’t know that I would fit into the world of Mr. Robot. So my answer would have to be a show filled with actors who inspire me and who I would want to create with, plus a showrunner and team of directors and writers that I would want to work with on a regular basis, that has an already established world with a tone and style that I think would have room for someone like me in it … (and that’s a lot of criteria) … so based on all that …  I would have to say …  (drumroll, please) … Transparent. I really, really love me some Jill Soloway and I heard that the atmosphere she has created for her show is a once-in-a-lifetime on-set experience. So … yeah. I’d love to spend a good chunk of my time there, and be associated with that show. A close runner-up though, would be American Horror Story. I think the concept that they use this exceptional pool of actors who get to play different characters with each season is so innovative and fantastic. I actually was lucky enough to film an episode in the Hotel season with Denis O’Hare  — but as it sometimes happens, my role ended up on the cutting room floor. But I would love it if Ryan Murphy brought me back and made me a member of his rotating cast. That would be a dream come true.

If you could spend a day with one person living or dead, whom would you choose and why? 

Can I choose the Lord Almighty? Because I have a whole lot of questions I’d like to ask…! But I suppose God is a deity and not a person per se ….And here’s the thing — I remember being very influenced by this story I once heard about Juliette Lewis. Supposedly, Juliette Lewis had just finished filming Cape Fear and was getting all of this buzz, and her talent agency decided to throw this big, fancy party to introduce her to any and all of the actors and personalities that she most wanted to meet. And I always thought — Wow! That’s a lot of pressure, to come up with a list like that off the top of your head! So just in case I was ever put in that position, I started making a list of my own. And while I am VERY particular as to who goes on that list, and who gets to stay on that list — there is far more than one name and in no particular order. And that list, along with the caveat that you made that the person could be living or dead, all that combined  with my innate inability to narrow things down and to be able to limit myself and choose just one of any thing — that makes this a very difficult question to answer!  Philip Seymour Hoffman. Freddy Mercury. Maya Angelou. Tom Hanks. Ellen Burstyn. Helen Mirren. John Cazale. Judd Apatow. Donald Glover. Jenji Kohan. Marion Dougherty. There are so many amazing artists whose brains I would love to pick! I don’t think I could choose just one. I just couldn’t. And, now that I think about it,  not to end on too somber of a note here — but, in all honesty, if I had twenty-four hours to spend with absolutely anyone, any and all of those celebrities would be beat out by  — my mom. I would give anything if I could spend just one more day with my mom.

Coming from a family of overweight people and as a formerly obese woman myself, I am quite sensitive to those who may not have the ideal shape when it comes to societal standards and norms. What Susan has overcome to be where she is–a working actress (who is not necessarily typecast) and a woman who is comfortable in her own skin–that is a true triumph in of itself. In an age where Hollywood is beginning to discard their stereotypical images of gender, religion, weight, ethnicity, and more, it is a delectable delight to see a woman like Susan, who is gifted and determined to accomplish her dreams no matter what obstacles are propelled in her way. When I look at Susan, I notice the beauty of her face, her radiant smile, and the kindness and generosity shining from her soul. Every day, Susan effectively debunks the flawed system that has been crammed into the heads of impressionable, young women that if they are not this or that, they are not beautiful nor worthy of someone’s love. No doubt, Susan is a natural-born performer, and she is careful to give credit to all who have helped her on her journey to become the best entertainer and person that she can be. While Susan may never become a household name, her fierce devotion to her craft and her comfort with who she is as a woman is quietly making inroads every day to change this world. Many might doubt that one woman can make a difference, or doubts may arise about how far-reaching one individual’s influence might be. It’s a good thing that Susan doesn’t think like that. She is content–no, ecstatic– to be able to do what she loves for a living, and in so doing, she is impacting more lives than she will ever realize on this earth. But I can tell her that she has made a difference in the way I perceive Hollywood, and she has inspired me to not give up on my dreams either even when life attempts to drag me down. Be sure that you check out all of Susan’s links below and consider following her on social media so that you may be kept abreast of each step on Susan’s exciting path to fulfill every dream and goal within her heart.

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About the Author

RuthView all posts by Ruth

43-year-old single mother of an active 14-year-old girl
Born in Tacoma, WA; lives in Yelm, WA
Entertainment Writer
Available For Interviews and Reviews
Substitute Teacher

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