INTERVIEW BY GALAXY INTRO BY ETHAN BREHM
Marvel fans will undoubtedly recognize Susie Abromeit from her time as Pam on the hit series Jessica Jones, but with nearly a decade-and-a-half in the industry, the actress has accumulated quite the resume, including roles in Battle Los Angeles and stints on As the World Turns and Chicago Med. However, prior to her transition into Hollywood, Susie has managed to do it all.
From ranking number 6 in the United States in tennis at 16-years-old, earning her a full ride to Duke, to landing a record deal with Atlantic, the multihyphenate has had a lifetime of experiences already. She sits down with Galaxy to chat about her brief foray into music, as well as the disillusionment that made her want to leave it behind. Admittedly not easy to forgo two careers, especially after dedicating much of her life to them, her past has informed her present, allowing her to gain the perspective needed to make it in this highly competitive industry.
Gathering a novel’s worth of stories in the process, Susie speaks on her friendship with Will Smith and his influence on her life even before the two of them co-starred in the upcoming Venus and Serena Williams biopic, King Richard, as well as her late-night hangouts with Dave Chappelle and his crew, and what makes him truly one of the real ones.
With her latest film, The Forever Purge, the actress continues to set her sights to the horizon as she never shies away from evolving as a person, remembering to leave one foot on the ground, and of course, always keeping it real.
SPOILER: Everybody knows you from your breakout role on Jessica Jones. How was it working on that show?
SUSIE ABROMEIT: I read the pilot and I had actually auditioned for Krysten Ritter’s role. But the only person who should have ever played that is Krysten Ritter. So I read the script and I literally put that show up on my vision board. I was like, “I wanna be on this show.” And six months later, I ended up booking the role playing Pam and it was one of my favorite projects. It was such an amazing cast. Carrie-Anne Moss and Krysten Ritter—they were such a joy.
SPOILER: Were you into comics before that or was this something new to you?
SUSIE ABROMEIT: I never got into comics, but I really loved and appreciated the comic world. I feel like my guy friends really got me into it [laughs]. And being on Jessica Jones really opened my eyes. But I was such a big fan of the Christopher Nolan Batman films and just how well done those were. A huge fan of Batman. I’m excited for the new one with Robert Pattinson. He’ll be the perfect version of Batman for who he is. I’m definitely a huge Christopher Nolan fan, and also Star Wars. I was sick one day when I was 7 and my mom brought home the originals, and I was like, “Oh my God!” I wanted to be an Ewok. They were so cute!
SPOILER: You’re an ‘80s kid? You don’t look like an ‘80s kid.
SUSIE ABROMEIT: You’re very sweet, but I’m definitely an ‘80s kid! It’s the reason I was obsessed with Stranger Things. It was a smash of every ‘80s Spielbergesque film ever, but mixed with suspense and horror. It was so well done. I loved the first season.
SPOILER: Most people don’t realize this, but you were ranked number 6 in the US as a tennis player. That’s amazing!
SUSIE ABROMEIT: I was training full-time. I was recruited by Andy Roddick’s coach when I was 12. So then I end up going to Evert Tennis Academy, and that coach leaves and coaches Andy full-time. But I stayed at Evert and knew what I wanted to do. I had a couple goals that I wanted to achieve but didn’t know, as a 12-year-old, if they were ever going to happen. I wanted to be top 10 in the country, I wanted to be sponsored by Nike, I wanted to have a full ride to Duke University because they were a number 1 tennis team.
SPOILER: And then you ended up going to Duke.
SUSIE ABROMEIT: Yeah, I did! It was either Duke or Stanford, but Duke had a better acting program. I loved it. It was a period of my life where I was traveling the world, playing in tournaments. But I did end up hurting my back. I was on my way. I don’t know if I woulda been sixth in the world, but I was definitely beating people in the top 100 and going toe-to-toe with people in the top 10.
SPOILER: When did the acting bug come into play?
SUSIE ABROMEIT: I was about 9. I was a really good athlete, and the first to be picked—boy, girl, it didn’t matter—we’re talking before puberty [laughs]. But then I was also an artist—writer and painter. I was really encouraged by my mom and my art teacher and my other teachers, who would go to my mom and say, “She’s a really great artist. You need to encourage this.” I always thought I was gonna be a cartoonist or something. And she took me to a camp in Middlesex. Chris Evans actually went to this camp—I think we were there at the same time. It was a big acting place, but they had everything. You were doing woodwork, making things out of clay, doing all sorts of arts and crafts,
but they were preparing you for the industry. It was really cool! And so that’s where I was put on stage and had to do some acting exercises and went, “Oh my God, I love this!” But at the same time, I was already playing tennis, which took up more of my time.
There were a couple other instances, like when I was 11, 12, when my mom entered me in a Macy’s modeling contest and I won. That’s when I could have gotten an agent, but tennis again took up so much of my time. And then the 7th or 8th grade play, we were putting on Oliver Twist, and I had listened to one of the songs to learn it and did it in a Cockney accent [laughs]. And I auditioned with [that song] and the teacher was so impressed, but it didn’t work out because of tennis. So during senior year of high school, I kept coming back to wanting to act, realizing it was really my calling. At some tennis camps there would be skit days, and I remember people losing their s**t being like, “You need to do this! You’re hilarious!” There was one time I was at Evert and I was just doing impersonations of all the other kids and one of my coaches said, “What are you doing? You should quit tennis and really pursue this acting thing because this is what you were meant to do.” I just remember feeling so high after that. So that’s when I was really encouraged by some of the coaches I really respected. And that’s when I went to college and really got to explore it.
SPOILER: You had a song called “Slow Your Roll” with Fat Joe. How was that experience?
SUSIE ABROMEIT: When I was 18, I had the opportunity to work with an Atlantic Records producer. Celine Dion just had a huge album and he had done one of her songs off the album, and he wanted to work with me. I was like, “Well, this isn’t really the right music.” But the A&R at Atlantic said we should work together, but I was like, “I hafta go to college. My mom will kill me. I’ve wanted this since I was 12, I have a full ride. I’m not putting it aside.” So my sophomore year in college I was on the tennis team. We were ranked number 1 in NCAAs, and it was a really tough schedule; being a student athlete, that’s basically your life. And I would get these opportunities for music.
I ended up booking the lead in a play, but when I had to turn it down because of tennis, yet again, that’s when I was like, “Okay, I’ve had enough!” And I quit. And that’s when I was able to focus on acting and singing. So, I called that A&R and was like, “Hey, I no longer have tennis.” And he’s like, “Actually there’s this song with Fat Joe I want you to sing on. The girl we were pushing ended up not working out.” And I was like, “Hell yeah!” So he ends up flying me out to New York and I stayed in this really amazing hotel, first class everything. Obviously Fat Joe wasn’t there, he pre-recorded his vocals. But I ended up seeing him at some club at some point and I was like, “Hey! We have a song together!” And he’s like, “I know! Come roll with me!” [laughs] He was so sweet. He didn’t say much, but I guess you don’t really talk much in a club, like “HEY! HOW ARE YOU?!” And then we took it to radio stations.
SPOILER: Why don’t you pursue singing more?
SUSIE ABROMEIT: With the watershed moment of MeToo, I wanna say the music industry is the mafia. It is legit very dark, and I managed to avoid a lot of stuff. Every time I would go work with a producer, they were trying to sleep with me. I was like, “I don’t wanna do that! This is annoying! Please go away!” I think if you’re a band you can go on tour and build up a following that way, but if you’re a pop artist you require a lot more money. It’s a little bit trickier. We would go to a meeting and the VP would be like, “Come see me,” and then he would show up in a robe at his house.
We were very lucky we never had to do any shady stuff, but there’s all these loopholes in payola. You find out how things are really done. It’s not like you just have a great song and it gets played. It was kinda dark, man. As an 18- or 20-year-old, it was just not a place where I wanted to be. Billie Eilish has kind of spoken out about it. It’s just how the industry is run. With music, you can immediately move people. Because ther ’s so much money and power in it, I think a lot of people who run it, back then at least—it was kind of dark. Now the industry has changed a bit. Back then, there were no rules or regulations. It was literally like dealing with the mafia. When I see Britney and Justin Bieber, it’s a real thing—from someone who’s dabbled in that and managed to say, “I don’t wanna be a part of this. I’m not gonna come out with my soul intact. This isn’t about the music.” But now you can make your own way [a little easier].
SPOILER: How do you like the actor lifestyle?
SUSIE ABROMEIT: Honestly, I wanna be living in nature and have a farm that to me is so cool; that makes my heart sing. Being able to do art and create the stories I want to tell and working with amazingly talented people, that’s the dream. But as for the lifestyle, I’m not interested in that. I don’t like it. The Hollywood parties are fun, but you get to a certain age and you know what it is. But like, Edgar Wright throws this really cool New Year’s party And Edgar is a wonderful human, so naturally you have wonderful people at the party. Really down-to-earth people. And then you have, you know, some other parties [laughs]: There’s too many people, no one really cares about anybody, and everyone is just walking around pretending to be cool. There’s no real conversation. I’m like, “Get me outta here!” But if it’s genuine people, I have time for that.
I mean, if it’s a big Oscar party, those things can be fun. But generally, I’m not holding my breath. And “clock strikes 12” is always my rule. Because after 12 is when people get really drunk, they start saying weird things. I’m like, “This isn’t my vibe.” It also depends on who you’re with. I’ve hung out with Dave Chappelle and his crew, and s**t never gets weird. He’s just Dave all the time. He does his sets at 2 in the morning and then people go out for drinks afterwards, and that actually never got weird, which I really appreciate. Dave Chappelle is one of the coolest cats on the planet. He’s a real person. He lives in Ohio. That’s exactly how I see it. He’s kind of the same, where he can dip in and dip out. What a beautiful existence.
SPOILER: So, tell me about your latest film. How was it working on The Forever Purge?
SUSIE ABROMEIT: It’s a wild ride! It’s very gruesome. I got to work with guns and do stunts. I had the best time. It was all Michael Bay’s team, because he’s producing, and it was the coolest experience I’ve ever had on set, and with this big of a scope. Michael Bay knows what he’s doing. The most incredible team of people I’ve ever worked with.
SPOILER: You’re also starring in King Richard. What was it like working with Will Smith?
SUSIE ABROMEIT: Working with Will Smith was a bucket list highlight. He’s the best. He’s my favorite. Basically, he’s been a voice in my head, just in terms of how he lives his life, how he treats his career, how he treats people. I was working with this bodyguard on a modeling shoot, and I asked him who’s the best he ever worked with, and he said, “Hands down, Will Smith. Anytime somebody would come up to him and I’d say, ‘No no no,’ Will would correct me and say, ‘No, these are the people who go see my movies and buy my albums, so I will always be grateful for them.’” And that really stuck with me. And I’ve talked to other people
and heard how Will would bring donuts to the set in the middle of the night to rally the crew. “Be like Will Smith.” And I shared that with him, and he was so moved by that. And we’ve kept in touch, and it’s been really cool to have Will Smith as a friend!
SPOILER: Marvel or DC?
SUSIE ABROMEIT: Well, considering I’ve already done Marvel… Actually, I don’t think I can choose. I love Batman and I also love Jessica Jones and the Avengers. I’m totally that nerd who’s like, “I have to go see The Avengers!”
SPOILER: Have you been to a Con yet?
SUSIE ABROMEIT: I have! I did a panel for San Antonio and it was so cool! I love everyone’s cosplay. I was so into it! Those are my people.
SPOILER: Is there anything you wanna tell other fans out there before you head out?
SUSIE ABROMEIT: “Get your Purge on!” The running joke for all the makers of the movie was that it’s a documentary [laughs]. But I’m so excited for this film and it was such a joy to work with everyone. “Please go see it! It’s gonna be a fun ride!”