Above photo: Robert Foxworth and Susan Sullivan, Falcon Crest, CBS ~
Best known for her extensive television career starring in shows such as Dharma and Greg, Falcon Crest, and Castle, Susan Sullivan has wisdom to share. Due to her family’s experience with alcoholism, she’s always keen to offer advice to others, especially the 50+ crowd.
In a recent interview at her home in Los Angeles, she shared her main piece of advice: “Exercise!”
She continued: “I’m 78, and about five years ago, Connell was suffering from back issues.” Connell is Sullivan’s longtime partner. “We began a program of high-intensity interval training. A lot of our health issues were relieved. The benefits to strength, memory, balance, and overall well-being from exercise are well-known. Of course, the difficulty is staying with it, and I find the mantra, ‘Just show up,’ helps. I know this sounds simplistic, but a little self-talk is encouraging.”
Her passion for counseling was highlighted on-screen earlier this year in her production, What Friends Do (#Expendables). She wrote the play and performed in it with several longtime friends and veteran colleagues for Smartphone Theatre, a live stream digital performance platform created early in the pandemic (watch free at www.
During the 25-minute play, the characters (Sullivan, Kathryn Leigh Scott, Mitchell Ryan, and David Selby) banter back and forth with Sullivan’s art-imitates-life character, offering advice aplenty.
“I wrote this play about being a senior and getting back into life,” she said. “Like many people, I wasn’t working after the pandemic hit and was faced with two choices. Part of my brain told me to just collapse into myself — stay home, sleep late, and reread my favorite books. But another part urged me to remain engaged with friends and to keep my mind active. Fortunately, I listened to myself. And, trust me, I don’t always.”
Her experience with the Smartphone Theatre production inspired Sullivan to continue writing and delving into a personal issue many will recognize.
“My father was an alcoholic, and I’ll be doing an upcoming Zoom monologue about our relationship,” she said. “He comes back as a dog to give me advice — obviously a family trait!”
Her hope, she said, is to encourage people to explore difficult relationships they have with others, including parents.
“While we should acknowledge our parents for their positive role in our lives, very often we need to forgive a parent for what they didn’t give us,” she said. “Has the relationship enriched you, or has it created an obstacle for you? Even people in their 70s and 80s may be still unable to forgive the shortcomings of a parent, a sibling, or even a slight from a former boss. Perhaps my story will encourage others to write their own and release some resentments, the biggest killers of love. Let them go.”
With Thanksgiving approaching, I asked Susan if her holiday memories of growing up were difficult.
“Our family holidays were usually chaotic,” she said. “There aren’t a lot of good memories to share. But I will share what gets me up in the morning if you want to hear it.
Naturally, I did.
“It’s basically three things,” she said. “I need to have something to do, something to love, and something to hope for. These, and a good cup of coffee, allow me to show up and get on with the extraordinary business of being alive!”