The hit 90s sitcom Seinfeld featured many memorable supporting characters over its 9 season run, but one of the most controversial was Susan Ross, played by Heidi Swedberg.
Susan was introduced in season 4 as George Costanza’s girlfriend and later fiancee. However, after becoming a recurring character for several seasons, Susan was abruptly killed off via licking toxic envelopes in season 7.
This shocking twist upset many fans at the time, so what led to the decision to get rid of Susan?
The Character of Susan Ross
Introduced as an executive at NBC, Susan Ross (played by Heidi Swedberg) quickly became a central figure in George Costanza’s life.
Their relationship had its ups and downs, with the couple breaking up and reuniting multiple times.
Susan’s character was unique in that she provided a counterbalance to George’s often neurotic and self-centered behavior.
She was the daughter of wealthy parents and had a stable job at NBC, which she lost due to her relationship with George.
Later, she explored a relationship with another woman named Mona but eventually returned to George, leading to their engagement.
Susan Ross appeared in a total of 29 episodes of “Seinfeld.” Her character arc spanned multiple seasons, making her one of the more prominent recurring characters on the show.
Jason Alexander’s Perspective
Jason Alexander, who played George Costanza, shed some light on the situation. He spoke highly of Heidi Swedberg, the actress who portrayed Susan, describing her as a “lovely person.”
However, he also highlighted the challenges he faced while working with her. Their comedic instincts, according to Alexander, were often misaligned. This made it difficult for him to play off of her in scenes, feeling like he was “punching into jello.”
Heidi was initially cast for her resemblance to an NBC executive rather than her comedic prowess. This casting decision led to unforeseen challenges when her role expanded from a one-off character to George’s significant other.
Alexander expressed his frustrations to the show’s creators, Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld, about the difficulty he faced in scenes with Swedberg. He felt “off-kilter” and struggled to find a rhythm with her.
The Cast’s Collective Decision
It wasn’t just Alexander who felt this way. Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who played Elaine, also expressed similar sentiments.
In a candid conversation after filming, the main cast members, including Jerry Seinfeld and Michael Richards, discussed the challenges they faced with the Susan character.
It was during one of these discussions that the idea of killing off Susan was born. The decision was not based on any animosity towards Swedberg but rather on the creative direction of the show.
In another interview on The Howard Stern Show, Alexander reiterated his respect and admiration for Swedberg as a person.
He emphasized that the decision was purely based on the dynamics of their on-screen relationship.
The character of Susan, as portrayed by Swedberg, allowed the writers to put her in situations where the audience would still side with George, no matter how poorly he treated her. This unique dynamic was both a blessing and a curse.
The departure of Susan Ross remains one of the most talked-about moments in “Seinfeld” history. While the decision to kill off the character was rooted in on-screen chemistry challenges, it’s essential to separate the character from the actress.
Both Jason Alexander and the rest of the cast have expressed their admiration for Heidi Swedberg as an individual.
The situation serves as a reminder of the complexities of television production, where off-screen dynamics can significantly influence on-screen narratives.