Susan Was Killed Off Seinfeld Because the Cast Couldn't Work With Her

Illustration for article titled Susan Was Killed Off iSeinfeld/i Because the Cast Couldnt Work With Her

During a recent appearance on Howard Stern, Seinfeld alum Jason Alexander divulged the reason why Susan, the fiancée of his character George Costanza, was killed off by in a freak envelope poisoning incident before she and George could get married.

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Rumor has it that the actress who played Susan, Heidi Swedberg, was killed off the show because Jason Alexander, in Howard Stern’s words, “couldn’t stand working with her.”

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Alexander assures Stern that he liked Swedberg very much (“I love her. She’s a terrific girl. I love her!”), but struggled to work with her:

“I couldn’t figure out how to play off of her...Her instincts for doing a scene, where the comedy was, and mine were always misfiring. And she would do something, and I would go, ‘Okay, I see what she’s going to do — I’m going to adjust to her.’ And I’d adjust, and then it would change.”

And then there’s this little backhanded compliment:

“But what [Larry David] said was what Heidi brought to the character is that we could do the most terrible things to her and the audience was still on my side. She wasn’t playing a bitchy character or anything, but they knew it wasn’t a good fit.”

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But even a good bad fit can’t last forever:

“I kept saying, ‘I’m going out of my mind, you guys. I can’t figure out how to play off of this girl. This stuff is not working. It can’t be.’ And they’re going, ‘It works great. You don’t know what you’re talking about. Blah blah blah.’

“I was the only actor doing scenes with her and then finally—and they didn’t know how the season was going to end. Was George gonna marry her? Was she gonna leave him? What was going to happen?

“And finally they do an episode where Elaine and Jerry have a lot of material with her. And they do the week and we get to the restaurant afterward and they go, ‘You know what? It’s fucking impossible.’ It’s impossible. And Julia [Louis-Dreyfus] actually said, ‘I know. Don’t you want to just kill her?’ And Larry went BA-BANG, ‘Now we gotta kill her!’”

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Poor Susan.


Contact the author at madeleine@jezebel.com.

Image via NBC.

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to his credit, George Jason Alexander posted this on twitter

Ok folks, I feel officially awful. Yesterday on @Sternshow, I retold a story I had told years ago about my personal difficulties and insecurities in playing George against the Susan that Heidi Swedberg created. The impetus for telling this story was that Howard said, “Julia Louis Dreyfuss told me you all wanted to kill her”. So I told the story to try and clarify that no one wanted to kill Heidi.

And again I say, I and the cast really liked and like Heidi. She is a kind, lovely person who undoubtedly worked really hard to create Susan and that character was clearly what Larry and Jerry wanted her to be for George. I just felt I was on uncertain ground in how to play off that character and I was always concerned that it wasn’t working. And that’s what I would voice concern about. But because the scenes were playing the way they were, the relationship with George and Susan sustained a whole season. People clearly liked the interplay even though I believed I was “off”.

Larry and Jerry were not sure how that relationship would end. They didn’t really want George married but all the alternatives seemed predictable. They were always looking for an inventive end to the engagement. So when the comment was made about “killing”, no one was talking about the actress - they were talking about the character. And that made a creative lightbulb go off apparently.

But in telling this story, it sounds like we are putting a heavy burden on Heidi. I, personally, am not. Heidi would always ask if there was anything in the scenes she could do or if I had any thoughts. She was generous and gracious and I am so mad at myself for retelling this story in any way that would diminish her. If I had had more maturity or more security in my own work, I surely would have taken her query and possibly tried to adjust the scenes with her. She surely offered. But, I didn’t have that maturity or security. And, Larry and Jerry would probably have killed me as it was all playing exactly as they wanted. Clearly Susan and George were coming off just the way they wanted.

So, to all the press that is now running wild with this 15 year old story, please don’t pervert it. No one told Heidi to do anything different - and she surely would have, if asked. And no one that I am aware of, including myself, didn’t like her. And now with distance, I can look at those episodes and see that there was a fun relationship there between George and Susan. It works perfectly. I simply couldn’t see it or find it at the time.

To Heidi, I personally apologize. You are a sweetheart. I actually launched into this on Stern to defend you. But this is why I’m not a lawyer. Now everybody, calm down and just enjoy the reruns and think, “why did he think this wasn’t working? This is great.”

JA