Susan Sullivan is an Emmy-nominated actress who has proved equally adept at drama or comedy. She is best known for her eight years portraying Maggie Gioberti on the television series Falcon Crest, a prime-time network soap opera in a vein similar to that of Dallas and Dynasty, but she has also shown her comedic skills on sitcoms such as It's a Living and The George Carlin Show. Born Susan Michaela Sullivan in New York City in 1942 (some sources say 1944), she put herself through college by working as a Playboy bunny in the early '60s. Indeed, Sullivan was among the first Playboy bunnies employed by the newly opened Playboy Club in New York; as she has recalled in interviews, this was a most intellectually impressive and ambitious array of women, somewhat different from what the Playboy bunnies subsequently became, many of them aspiring to careers in law and other professions, and financing their educations by working at the club. Her television career began when she joined the cast of the daytime drama Another World in the role of Lenore Curtin, who she portrayed for four seasons. Sullivan based her career in New York, and was appearing in an off-Broadway play when she was spotted by an agent who offered to represent her if she moved to Hollywood. She accepted and thus began her career in prime-time television. Sullivan (who was sometimes billed as Susan J. Sullivan early in her career to distinguish her from another late-'60s actress named Susan Sullivan) appeared on television series such as Medical Center, McMillan & Wife, Kojak, and Petrocelli during the early '70s before landing the role that would establish her acting credentials, as Peter Strauss' lover in Rich Man, Poor Man--Book II (1976), which earned her an Emmy nomination. That same year, she moved into feature films, playing opposite Charlton Heston in Jack Smight's feature film Midway; she only had ten minutes of screen time in the movie, but hers were some of the best and most dramatically involving scenes in a movie that was otherwise largely devoid of character development or depth. Her sequences were used exclusively for the two-part television version of the movie, which means that theatrical audiences never saw her; Sullivan's scenes were missing from every home video version of the film until the October 2001 DVD reissue of Midway, which contained her footage. She spent most of the rest of the '70s in good guest-starring roles on series such as Taxi (where, in the episode "What Price Bobby," she proved herself capable of getting laughs and being sexually provocative at the same time, portraying an amorously predatory theatrical agent), and she turned in an exceptional dramatic performance in the pilot film for The Incredible Hulk, portraying a research scientist and friend of stricken hero David Banner (Bill Bixby). Her star continued to rise when she was cast in the lead role, as a gynecologist, in the made-for-television feature Having Babies and a sequel, which led to Sullivan playing the lead role in the subsequent ABC network series of the same name. From there, she was cast in the sitcom It's a Living, playing the most mature and sensible member of a group of waitresses at an upscale restaurant. It was after leaving It's a Living in 1981 that Sullivan earned the lead role of Maggie Gioberti on the drama Falcon Crest, which she played for eight seasons. Since leaving that series in 1989, a year before the end of its run, Sullivan has continued to act in both comedy and drama, and appeared on television on behalf of various charitable causes, as well as serving as the commercial spokesperson for Tylenol. She was a co-star on the George Carlin Show and has appeared on sitcoms such as Dharma & Greg. In the 2st century she found a regular gig voicing Hippolyta on the animated Justice League series, and enjoyed recurring roles on both The Drew Carey Show and Castle.
Biography by Bruce Eder
- Put herself through college working as a Playboy Bunny at the Playboy Club in New York during the early 1960s. She recited Shakespeare while serving drinks.
- Apprenticed at the Cleveland Playhouse, the Hartford Stage Company and the National Repertory Theatre before making her Broadway debut alongside Dustin Hoffman in Jimmy Shine in 1968.
- Was introduced to her longtime partner, psychologist and author Connell Cowan, by her Falcon Crest costar Dana Sparks.
- Has acted professionally since graduating from college in 1964, but did not make her film debut until 1997's My Best Friend's Wedding.
- Reunited with her Dharma & Greg daughter-in-law Jenna Elfman in a 2007 episode of Brothers & Sisters in which the two guest starred as a mother-daughter duo.