IN CONVERSATION WITH SUSIE ABROMEIT
Susie Abromeit, likely best known for her breakout role as ‘Pam’ in Netflix’s ‘Jessica Jones’, will star in the new romance feature ‘Love in Bloom’ for GAC Family (a network on the heels of Hallmark) premiering on 27 August. Before making her acting debut Susie was one of the top ranked tennis players, no. 6, in the US.
Susie, viewers likely know you best as ‘Pam’ from Netflix’s Marvel series ‘Jessica Jones’, which was your breakout role. Have you always known that acting is your passion and wanted to have a career in acting?
Since I was about five, I was writing stories and I was always drawing. Even though we grew up in a very creative, liberal arts kind of town, I think that it wasn’t encouraged as a profession, so you were left feeling really limited and that there wasn’t a future in it. I would write these like 60 page novels when I was 9 or 10, so I just always knew that storytelling was so important to me. That’s when my fourth grade teacher sat down with my mom and was like “Listen, you need to encourage this”, so she put me in an acting camp. Honestly, that’s when I found acting and I was like this is it, this is my calling.
Then I became a tennis player, a competitive one, and was a top ranked tennis player in the country. So at the time, I sort of had to decide if I wanna pursue acting or do I wanna pursue tennis. And tennis just came so naturally to me. It really took off and that’s when I moved to a tennis academy. But my mom would always enter me in these modeling contests or there would be some acting, and I would win them and get an agent or there would be an opportunity for an agent and then I’d have to turn everything down. At that point, I was top in the country and I had a full tennis scholarship to Duke University. Weirdly enough, I ended up doing a little thing in Sports Illustrated years later. And I really started to pursue acting in college.
Getting cast on ‘Jessica Jones’ was kind of your dream, right? How was it working on this series?
I always wanted to be part of the Marvel universe. I think I wrote that down and brought it into fruition, which was really cool. I had read the script a few months prior to auditioning for the role of Pam and I was so taken back by the character of Jessica. I was so blown away by how well written it was. There’s very few pilots where I’m like “Oh my God, this is amazing”, so I ended up putting the project on my vision board. I was like “I wanna be shooting for Netflix, I wanna be shooting in New York, I wanna be part of this pilot”. And Pam was definitely one of my favorite roles for sure. Working with the whole team on this series was just incredible.
As we spoke earlier, you had a successful career as a professional tennis player before acting. Receiving a full scholarship to Duke University, you were one of the top ranked players, No. 6 in the US and helped your team earn number one ranking and NCAA title during your freshman year. What made you decide to pursue a career in tennis? And what was behind the decision to end your professional sport carer?
I had a lot of energy as a kid and I don’t think there was enough programs for acting. And my family loved tennis. When I started playing tennis, I became really good really quickly. In my second lesson that I had, three coaches came on the court and were surprised that it was only my second time playing. They all wanted to coach me and I was encouraged by that. I had a coach, who believed that I was gonna be number one in New England within a year. He believed it so much that I started to believe it as well. Then literally a year later, all those things started to happen. When I was 12, I told everyone that I wanted to go to Duke on a full scholarship, I wanted to be top 10 in the country, I wanted to be sponsored by Nike, I wanted to win an international tournament and achieve it all. Then I hurt my back and that’s when there was this opening, where I was able to finally do some acting and music and all this other kind of stuff.
I think it was my sophomore year, where I just looked around and we were the number one team. It was a really tough experience, cause it felt like this wasn’t what I thought I had asked for. It just became even more intense, more competitive, everyone was going pro. It’s kind of like you’re in this place in your tennis career, where you’re already playing pro events and you’re a top junior.
Also in my sophomore year, my teacher saw me in this role, where we were just doing scenes and he’s like “You need to play this”. And I booked the role. At that point we were so stacked and I turned down what I wanted to be doing for me to be sitting on the bench and eating my feelings while I watch my team win. That was when I was like “I’ m done” I called it on tennis.
After tennis, you transitioned also into music and modeling. You recorded the song ‘Slow Your Roll’ with Fat Joe, which became an instant summer hit on various radio stations. What is the best feeling of writing and producing music?
It’s such a freedom of expression. They’re all sort of these ways to express yourself, communicate, be artistic and tell a story. Whether it’s being on set and playing a character or producing stuff and writing stuff. Music is the same, you get to tell a story and it’s very quick. People wanna dance to or cry to it, all these ways in which you are able to be moved and are able to feel so much.
Storytelling in any form, either writing, producing, singing, songwriting or acting, is just my calling. It’s what I’m meant to do. Every time I’m at the studio, I feel a sense of freedom that you can’t quite get anywhere else. There’s this free expression, where every single part of you is fully expressed. And it’s so cathartic. You get to put something on the page and write about what’s going on in your life or just tell a story.
You had an honor of gracing the pages of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition. What is your favorite thing about modeling and fashion in general?
Again, it’s storytelling, it’s creation. You get to work with really great photographers. I love fashion and creation and feeling feminine or just playing with different aspects of yourself and getting to explore.
Like in all forms of art, there’s this sense of freedom with your body where you’re completely letting go, there’s no part of you that’s been held back. You’re connecting to this emotional part of yourself to the deepest core, but then there’s this sense of freedom where you’re not attached to the end result, you’re just fully present and able to completely let go.
Aside from your work on-camera, you are also passionate about producing and writing own projects. You just recently completed a pilot that you wrote, produced and starred in. What is the thing that excites you the most about writing and producing?
I have a couple of projects that are moving forward right now. I love writing so much, it’s putting your soul on a page and then you have to give it up to the universe and sort of allow what’s going to happen. When you’ve written something down for the first time and you’ve worked on it for years and all of a sudden you have these amazing actors speaking your words and bringing it to life, and what they do with it is even more than what you could have imagined, it’s pretty extraordinary. You’ve created and spent so much time with certain characters and you wanna do everything justice.
On this project, we gave everyone freedom to be able to think about their character and do their thing, add whatever they want to it. And it just made it richer and better. It was so cool to be able to collaborate in that way, cause you have this idea in your head of the story that you wanna tell. The producing aspect is putting all those pieces together and bringing it to life, the writing aspect is another part, but then you have to find the actors, you have to find locations, you have to find production designer and the director and everything. You’re putting a team together, which is really cool.
Did you actually have actors in mind for the characters you wrote for this project or were you just going with the flow with the audition process and then choosing one that suited the character the best in your opinion?
For some of the characters we did, as they did feel very specific. And then some people were very much against the type, but it actually worked. Like Peter Facinelli’s character. He was someone who was supposed to be so different, older, probably in his fifties or sixties and like that agent guy with a cigar in his mouth, a hot shot used to be running the town. When Peter came in, he did his version of the agent and he made it his own. We didn’t even think of it that way, but he made it even better, he added so much flavor and so much amazing tweaks and adjustments. And we had Ethan Peck, who was playing my character Liz’s love interest. When he came in, we knew this is the character. It was a really cool process.
And then we Kellan Lutz playing himself. We wanted the celebrity element, just have him make fun of himself and he was amazing. I remember the first day and I was sitting by the monitor and just being amazed. Seeing all my friends bringing something to life was so special. They also all cared about it, which made it even more special.
You are an ambassador on the creative council for the non-partisan organization Represent.us, which is all about infiltrating the political system and educating others to reshape a corrupt institution. Why do you believe this is such an issue in the world and in the US?
At the base of things, there’s a lot of loopholes and rules where a lot of corruption is essentially legal. You can technically bribe someone in a way that there’s all these nuances to the law. And people have found these nuances. It’s like someone who has the most money to campaign, wins. It’s usually lobbying to these big companies and the big companies now have a say in what goes on with the presidential candidate. And it just feels like the system is rigged.
I was invited to represent.us by a friend and it like hit me like a light bulb. If you wanna get anything really done, you need to have laws in place to stop corruption. So I think that what they’re trying to do is for us all to agree that these presidential candidates can’t be our best options. It’s sort of a grassroots campaign to go from town to town and just create awareness of what’s happening, how corrupt some of our laws are and where the loopholes are and how do we make it better. I felt really proud to be a part of that. And there’s some incredible people that came on board. They’re trying to figure out what the next steps are, but I know that they have some anti-corruption laws in place and all of us are tired of the same old things.
Besides that you also serves as an ambassador for Not For Sale, an organization that helps survivors of human trafficking. Why is this cause so important to you and what is your goal to achieve with being an ambassador for Not For Sale?
I worked with Not For Sale back in 2017. I made a trip to Vietnam and Peru and I thought what they were trying to create is a sustainable way of life and system. What I found really interesting was finding certain companies. If let’s say you buy one shoe and then they donate the other shoe for free, with that you actually end up taking jobs away from these local villages. They thought that they were doing something really good, but they didn’t realize what the effects were. And working with this company, I think we need to create a sustainable way of life for people to create jobs.
I feel like more and more has been coming out about human trafficking. I did this lecture series conference thing, and I was talking to this lady who had been trafficked. She is now so powerful and so successful, she is such a boss. I remember sitting down with her one day and she was telling me that there’s a huge hub in Houston, there’s a huge hub in LA. It blew my mind that she was a victim of that. And that was back in 2013, before there was really so many mentions of that. I don’t think I could wrap my head around it and it took me some time until I was ready to to do anything I could and to help in any way. Now the lid has been opened and we’re just starting to scratch the surface. It’s just so horrible, cause how can we be in today’s world and have that still happen. I want to live in a world where we can bring awareness and we can somehow create a support system, where people have opportunities and things like this just doesn’t happen.
What is the most important thing an individual should focus on in their life? Especially with the rising mental health issues we are facing lately.
You don’t realize there’s so many elements to what constitutes to being healthy, mentally. I went through a really tumultuous time in the last 15 years. And so only recently it hasn’t been terrible. If you think of your brain as this organ, and if there’s all this inflammation, you’re not existing how you should, cause everything’s angry and activated. I think the first step is acknowledging it. Being in nature, finding a practice of workout that works for you, commuting with nature, it helps, at least for me. And for me, what I did in order to get to where I am, I worked with a relationship coach, a life coach, a therapist, different modalities of therapy and neurofeedback.
I was just watching Joe Dispenza talk about neurofeedback recently, where we’re so conditioned to be in a state of fear, that we’re addicted to adrenaline. I was a former emotional adrenaline junkie, so I needed this chaos in my. And that was something that I needed to calm in my nervous system. That’s the way our brain works, we’re constantly looking for fear-based things. I feel a lot of the media has kind of hacked that part of our brain, where it knows that if we’re not having some sensationalized news and something that’s fear based and crazy, we’re not gonna pay attention because that’s just how our biological setup is.
Moving through life and moving through a lot of situational trauma, you have to change patterns and create awareness for yourself. And therapy can help do that. By creating awareness, you can make better decisions. If you have lots of trauma, you’re not able to take in as much information as you possibly could. So for me, when I started doing neurofeedback, that’s when everything changed, literally my life changed. Prior to that I was reading this book, ‘The Body Keeps The Score’, and it said that neurofeedback had a 95 % cure rate. And if it didn’t have a 95 % cure rate, then you just needed to do neurofeedback longer. I’m not even kidding, after the first session I was able to recognize how I wasn’t being present.
When you’re able to calm your nervous system, you’re able to bring in and call in things, like the ‘Jessica Jones’ role, or you’re able to kind of align yourself with the universe in a way that is beautiful and mystical and magical. Somehow everything starts to line up again and that was sort of what happened for me. I was able to be present. I was able to be great at my job again, I was able to fully be myself and not having these voices constantly talking and being like “Something’s gonna happen”. So ultimately with the neurofeedback, it just retrains your brain. It’s also a whole brain mapping, where they can actually map every single year where trauma was.
This Saturday (27 August), we’ll be seeing you in the romance feature film ‘Love in Bloom’. What can you tell us about this film?
My co-star Julian Haig has become a dear friend, I had the best time filming with him. The film is about a woman, Amelia Hart, who is in this relationship that she’s kind of unhappy with and her sister’s getting married in Australia, so she journeys to Australia to be the maid of honor. Her sister and the groom get stuck in an island through a huge storm and so me and the best man are forced to plan this wedding, but everything goes awry because we don’t get along. We don’t like each other at first, but then slowly, but surely we start to understand one another. He’s this rogue Australian guy and I’m this American who’s very well put together. We become better people by being in each other’s lives and so the romance unfolds.
Susie, what are some of your other upcoming projects that you can tell us about? And what are some of your dream projects that you would love to work on?
There’s a couple of projects I have in the works. There’s this tennis movie with potentially GAC and we’re trying to figure out when we can film that and I’m trying to figure out the other actors involved and everything. I love working with GAC and they’ve just been a dream company to work with.
I would love to be in ‘Doctor Strange’. I want to work with Benedict Cumberbatch, I think he’s so amazing. I love and respect Adam McKay and everything he does, I think he’s a genius and ‘Succession’ is one of my favorite shows. So working with Adam is the dream. There’s so many people that I would absolutely love to work with and I want to work with some of the best minds. I would also love to be in the Marvel universe again, playing some sort of superhero or maybe a really fun, crazy villain.
Interview by JANA LETONJA
Photography STORM SANTOS