Heidi Swedberg had a talent that no actress wants to have. She played Susan Ross, George Costanza’s ill-fated fiancee on Seinfeld, and over the course of 28 episodes across 5 seasons, George, Jerry, Elaine, and Kramer made her life miserable. And the audience cheered them on.
Jason Alexander remembers Seinfeld co-creator Larry David marveling about that.
“What [David] said was, what Heidi brought to the character is, we could do the most horrible things to her, and the audience was still on my side,” Alexander said told Howard Stern in 2015.
Part of the cruelty may have stemmed from the cast’s actual dislike for Swedberg. Alexander told Stern that working with her was “impossible.”
“I couldn’t figure out how to play off of her,” Alexander said. “Her instincts for doing a scene, where the comedy was, and mine were always misfiring. And she would do something, and I would go, ‘OK, I see what she’s going to do — I’m going to adjust to her.’ And I’d adjust, and then it would change.”
In one of the darkest turns on the show, the producers killed her off. She died after she licked dozens of cheap, poisoned envelopes George bought for their wedding invitations.
Alexander later apologized for his comments to Stern.
“(Swedberg) was generous and gracious, and I am so mad at myself for retelling this story in any way that would diminish her,” he tweeted. “If I had had more maturity or more security in my own work, I surely would have taken her query and possibly tried to adjust the scenes with her.”
Swedberg has never responded to these comments publicly. She eventually left Hollywood behind to become a ukulele performer and teacher. She’s happier now, according to Esquire.
Jason Alexander on the 2 Biggest Reasons Why ‘Seinfeld’ Ended
Every year as the cast of Seinfeld prepared to take their Christmas break, Jerry Seinfeld would gather up the other them to ask them a question. Do you want to keep doing this? They always said yes for eight seasons. But in the ninth, that changed.
The cast knew it was time to leave, Jason Alexander told Archive of American Television in 2013. Alexander said they wanted to end things before the audience got bored.
“We couldn’t imagine a scenario where we could surprise the audience anymore with these characters,” he said. “… If that isn’t a really good indication of when you’re about to jump the shark, I can’t think of a better one.”
But money was also a serious factor.
Seinfeld was a smash hit that still airs in syndication more than 20 years after the show ended. But not everyone is in on that payday. Jason Alexander, Michael Richards, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus aren’t partners in that syndication deal. They needed to find their next jobs before it was too late, Alexander said.
But there were no hard feelings between the cast. On the final day of shooting, Jerry Seinfeld gathered the cast and told them how much they meant to him.
“‘I want to say something,” Alexander remembers him saying. “For the rest of our lives, when anyone thinks of one of us, they will think of all four of us. And I can’t think of three people I’d rather have that be true of.'”