Family & Companions
Susan Sullivan's striking statuesque blonde beauty and sophisticated persona often finds her cast in roles that require intelligence and authority. Although born in New York City, she was raised on Long Island and became interested in acting as a youngster, appearing locally as an actress and model. At the age of 16, she was a student at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and when it came time for college, she was offered three scholarships. Sullivan chose to attend Hofstra University, bypassing offers from Carnegie-Mellon and New York University. She did apprentice work at the Cleveland Playhouse, the Hartford Stage Company and the National Repertory Theatre before making her Broadway debut alongside Dustin Hoffman in "Jimmy Shine."
Sullivan's first TV appearance was in 1969 in a syndicated version of Shakespeare's "Macbeth." She was a regular on two soaps: "A World Apart" (ABC, 1970) and "Another World" (ABC, 1971), also finding time to appear on the New York stage in "The Beauty Part" and "A Late Snow." Encouraged to move to L.A., Sullivan didn't find success in films, but her TV career took off. She became a frequent guest actor on several top-rated TV dramas and sitcoms, such as "Medical Center," "McMillan and Wife," "Petrocelli," "Barnaby Jones," "The Love Boat" and "Taxi." Sullivan's first spot as a regular was in the one-season drama, "Rich Man, Poor Man, Book II" (ABC, 1976), a sequel to the enormously successful miniseries. She starred as a doctor helping patients with childbirth in the popular TV-movies "Having Babies II" (ABC, 1978) and "Having Babies III" (ABC, 1978). Eventually, the network slotted the series "Julie Farr, M.D.," but audiences seemingly preferred to see the character on a more infrequent basis. The show's brief run, however, did earn Sullivan an Emmy nomination.
The actress tried to segue to the big screen in the little-seen "Killer's Delight" (1978), but other roles were not forthcoming. Instead, the 1970s found Sullivan in a plethora of TV-movies, some of which were pilots for series, like the popular action fantasy, "The Incredible Hulk" (CBS, 1977), although Sullivan did not appear as a series regular. Equally adept at comedy, she was one of five sexy waitresses in the slightly naughty ABC sitcom "It's a Living," but only during its first season in 1980. Before returning to series TV, Sullivan made three telefilms in 1980, with perhaps the most significant the fact-based "The Ordeal of Dr. Mudd" (CBS), in which she played the long-suffering wife of the unfortunate Mudd (Dennis Weaver).
Sullivan returned to episodic TV as a regular on the long-running, CBS primetime soap "Falcon Crest," portraying Maggie Gioberti, the New York City innocent transplanted to the fictitious Tuscany Valley in California where the atmospherically tranquil wine country proved to be a smoldering hotbed for rich and greedy vintners. Suffering through eight-and-a-half seasons (1981-89) as a model wife and mother, sister of the town's hooker, amnesia victim, widow, parent of a kidnapped child, and killer, her character was finally done in by drowning, at the bottom of a pool when her diamond ring got caught in the drain. During the run of "Falcon Crest," Sullivan's TV appearances were in non-acting roles, such as the "All-Star Party for 'Dutch' Reagan" (CBS, 1985) and as a host for several celebrated parades on CBS.
Between 1991 and 1996, the veteran TV actress made over a half-dozen TV movies, mostly lurid potboilers like the Sidney Sheldon inspired "Rage of Angels: The Story Continues" (NBC, 1986), "Danielle Steel's 'A Perfect Stranger'" (NBC, 1994) and "Judith Kranz's 'Dazzle'" (CBS, 1995). Sullivan was also a regular in two failed series. In the first, "The George Carlin Show" (Fox, 1994), she played a pet-store owner and the title character's prospective love interest; it did not last beyond its initial season. She was then the wisecracking matriarch of a politically powerful family in the highly-touted Kennedyesque drama, "The Monroes" (ABC, 1995), which apparently had nothing new to say about political shenanigans, sex and greed, as it expired before midseason. Back on series TV, Sullivan landed the regular role as the uptight mother of Thomas Gibson's Greg in the ABC sitcom "Dharma and Greg" (1997- ). The role was not unlike her first major film appearance in nearly two decades. In "My Best Friend's Wedding" (1997), she was cast as the old-moneyed, witty mother of Cameron Diaz.
In addition to her many telefilms and TV guest appearances, Sullivan has periodically returned to the stage. She performed in West Coast productions of "Fifth of July," "Last Summer at Blue Fish Cove" and "Dangerous Corner," as well as in touring and regional productions of "Uncle Vanya," "Poor Bitos," "Mourning Becomes Electra" and "Mary, Mary."
Cast (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Worked as a Playboy bunny in NYC while attending collge
Broadway debut as Elizabeth in "Jimmy Shine", starring Dustin Hoffman
TV debut in "Macbeth" (syndicated)
Played Nancy Condon in the ABC daytime drama "A World Apart"
Played Lenore Moore on the NBC soap "Another World"
Relocated from New York City to Los Angeles
Primetime series debut as co-star of "Rich Man, Poor Man--Book II" (ABC)
Feature debut, "Killer's Delight"
Portrayed the matriarch on the short-lived ABC drama series "The Monroes"
Had featured role as Cameron Diaz's mother in P J Hogan's "My Best Friend's Wedding"
Returned to series TV as co-star in the sitcom "Dharma and Greg" (ABC)
Starred in a Pasadena Playhouse production of "The Glass Menagerie"