Interview Done By Mike Wilkerson
MW: Please introduce yourself?
SL-B: Ok…Well for starters I am an actress, singer-songwriter, comedienne, photographer, etc…and not necessarily in that order. It just depends on the project that I’m working on at any given moment. These days, my name is Suze Lanier-Bramlett, but I was formerly known in most of my recognizable roles as Susan Lanier. I was married to the love of my life, rock legend, Delaney Bramlett (who passed in 2008), and added his name to mine years ago. I know it confuses a lot of my fans, but hopefully they’ll adjust to the change and just go with it.
MW: How did you get into the entertainment business?
SL-B: I started acting at thirteen years old. I landed a role in a Community Theater in Dallas playing Winnie, The Littlest Witch. I won “best actress” in the city park competition, and after that, I was hooked. I loved the entire theater process: learning lines, rehearsing, creating a character and then of course, performing in front of a live audience. I still, to this day, prefer working live, even though I enjoy film and television, too.
MW: Tell me about being on Electra Woman and Dyna Girl?
SL-B: Wow, nobody ever asks me about that one. Actually, recently at Long Beach Comic Con, a convention where I was signing, a fan came up and was excited about meeting “Miss Dazzle”, my character from that show. I couldn’t believe anyone would even remember that. I hardly do, myself. We shot that in the mid-70’s, and it was a kid’s show. Just before that, I had played a character named Bambi, John Travolta’s girlfriend on “Welcome Back, Kotter”. Bambi was very spacey and the audience loved it. You know, dumb blond and a little stoned on top of that. The producers of “Electra Woman & Dyna Girl” wanted that same spaciness to “Miss Dazzle”…I got a lot of work back then doing the “dumb blond” thing.
MW: How was it working with soap opera legend Deidre Hall?
SL-B: Deidre was very cool, very nice. I actually connected more to Judy Strangis, Dyna Girl. She was so much fun to work with. It was a fun set for the most part. Except for one particular day. We had some scenes with a real tiger. Most of the time the tiger was very gentle and calm. It was trained and pretty tame. But on this one day, the tiger began to act a bit agitated, particularly when I would get close to it. No one told us in advance that if anyone was having “their time of the month” they couldn’t be near the tiger. Wouldn’t you know, it was “my time of the month”…They separated me from the tiger immediately. It was pretty scary.
MW: What was your favorite TV show to do?
SL-B: My favorite show was a variety show called, “Tony Orlando & Dawn & The Rainbow Hour” on CBS. It was patterned to some degree like “Laugh In”, and I was cast in the comedy troup to do sketches with Tony Orlando, Dawn and the many guest artists that were on the show from week to week. The comedy troop consisted of me, George Carlin, Edie McClurg, Nancy Steen and a few other comedy artists. It was very cool working with George Carlin. I got to do sketches with Freddie Prinz, Alice Cooper, Steve Lawrence & of course, Tony, himself.
MW: So you were the original Chrissy Snow on Three’s Company?
SL-B: I was the original Chrissy in the first aired pilot of the show. Suzanne Somers was really the first “Chrissy” in the series. In the rehearsal process though, Chrissy, did not have a last name. “Snow” was my idea, and the producers went with it.
MW: How did that come about?
SL-B: There was actually another actress who had been cast with John Ritter & Joyce Dewitt, and after three or four days of rehearsal, I guess the powers that be decided to replace her. I remember that I had just gotten back into LA from filming “The Hills Have Eyes”, and my agent at the time called and told me to get over to ABC for a screen test for a pilot called “Three’s Company”. I was at the supermarket at the time that he called & they paged me to come to the phone. (We didn’t have cell phones back then). He told me to leave the groceries and get over there immediately. The screen test was with John & Joyce and went until about midnight. The next morning, my agent called. They had flown the tape to New York overnight, and I was on the set working the next morning.
MW: Why did you not become Chrissy Snow?
SL-B: You never know why something doesn’t work out. About that same time, I had been offered a Broadway show which I really wanted to do. I really wasn’t all that disappointed about not playing Chrissy. My first love will always be the theatre.
MW: Where can your episode be seen?
SL-B: Without my consent, they included my pilot in the DVD “Three’s Company” package. I had never even seen it until a few years ago. Frankly, I never loved the show, even my version.
MW: I’d say you would have stayed longer than Suzanne Somers did?
SL-B: Who knows why an actor leaves a show? I’m sure Suzanne had her reasons, and her team probably advised her to leave. I don’t think it hurt her in anyway. The show was never the same without her, in my opinion. The “Chrissy” replacements were all pretty lame.
MW: Did you get to work with legend John Ritter?
SL-B: Oh of course, I did. John was very talented. He had great comedic timing. I am friends with his ex-wife, Nancy Morgan Ritter, and I love their children. Nancys family is very musical. Her brother, David, his wife, Alicia, as well as their kids, play in my band. John and Nancys daughter, Carly, is launching a wonderful music career of her own. I feel like I still have a small connection to John besides just working with him on “Three’s Company” through his family. And, of course, Jason Ritter, is enormously popular these days.
MW: Can you give me a story?
SL-B: I think I just did! I wasn’t work long enough on it to have a cool story.
MW: How did you get the part in The Hills Have Eyes 1977?
SL-B: I auditioned for it through the normal auditioning process; first with the casting director, then a meeting with Wes Craven. I read from the script; then we did a bit of improvisation. I think I remember meeting with Wes and the producer, Peter Locke twice before finally being cast as Brenda.
MW: What did you think of the script when you read it?
SL-B: I thought it was great, but I’ve always liked scary movies. My agent hated it though. He did NOT want me to do the movie. At the time, I had mostly done TV and live theatre…and was really wanting to do feature films. I was thrilled to be cast.
MW: Tell me about working with Wes Craven?
SL-B: Wes was great. “Hills” was only his 2nd film. I remember him being very sweet, soft-spoken, but very definite about what he wanted. I loved working with him.
MW: Give me a story from the set.
SL-B: Both Michael Berryman and I were feeling a bit shy about the rape scene which was filmed early on. I whispered to him, “when Wes calls action, let’s be making out, instead of you raping me.” We did, and everyone laughed and it really broke the ice for the rest of the shoot.
Michael, his wife, Patty and I are very very close friends. He stars in my music video and we’re going to be making more together very soon.
MW: You were also in The Hills Have Eyes II in 1984 tell me about playing Brenda for a second time?
SL-B: I’m listed in the cast. I never filmed Part II; they just used old footage of me from Part I.
MW: What made you come back to do part II?
SL-B: I didn’t return. The producer who was controlling the budget had tried to cheat the cast out of our “overtime” money. (We were already working for SAG minimum.) We had had to return to Victorville, CA, where we filmed the entire movie, to do some retakes, and that took them over-budget. My agent reported it to SAG and the production company was forced to pay us what they owed us before they were allowed to release the movie in theaters. That created a few hard feelings, I think.
MW: Did you think both movies would be as big today as they are?
SL-B: No. I thought it was just another horror movie. I’m delighted that Part I had such fabulous success. It was even put into the Museum of Modern Art as a “terror classic”. I don’t think Part II made that much of a splash…the reviews weren’t great, but I never saw it.
MW: What did you think of the remakes?
SL-B: I hate to answer that question. It only sounds like sour grapes. I thought the remake was contrived and much too violent. The feasibility of it really happening was lacking. Compassion for the characters was totally missing. I liked Emilie DeRavin as Brenda, though. I thought she did a great job.
MW: Tell me about your new movie Cut!?
SL-B: OK…I’ve heard through the grapevine that it will be released soon. I adore the director, David Rountree and the other actor, writer, producer, David Banks. I play Susan Lanier, my character from “The Hills Have Eyes”…now grown (you know, mature) and have become a horror film director. My lead ingenue is Gabrielle Stone (Dee Wallaces real life daughter). I don’t know what will end up in the final version, but there are a few moments of my ‘real-life’ band (cabaret show) in the film, as well. That’s all I can say until I see a screening. One never knows what makes it in the final cut.
MW: What else are you doing?
SL-B: I just released my first music video on YouTube. Suze Lanier-Bramlett, “What What You Ask For”. I wrote the song with another musician, Ron Finn. It stars myself, Michael Berryman and Brooke Lewis…all of us known in “horror”. I directed it with my friend, Christophe McWhorter who did the photography. I call it a horror-comedy. It’s fun and has a definite message.
I recently released a CD, “Swamp Cabaret” in 2011, and I’m now working on my next one. So I spend tons of time writing music and recording it. I love to write music, and have started on a film script of my own.
I’m penned to do two new films to be shot in 2013; a martial arts film, and another horror movie with the working title, “G.O.T.H.” playing a shrink from Eastern Europe. We start filming this coming Saturday. I love to do accents…so that should be really fun to shoot.
MW: What conventions will you be signing at this year?
SL-B: Most definitely Cinema Wasteland in October. It’s a “Hills Have Eyes” revival and one in 2014 called Twisted Terror which will be held in Sacramento in early 2014.
I’m new to the convention scene. I love meeting the fans, but I still have issues with “selling” pictures of myself. I feel honored when someone wants a photograph or autograph. That’s enough reward for me; to sell them seems weird. But that’s why actors are guesting at the conventions, I guess, to meet fans and to make money. My first convention was last year, and I was signing and giving photos away. The other actors were not at all happy with me. Times are hard enough these days…with the economy still weak. People are struggling, and I feel if they want my autograph, I’m honored to give it to them.
MW: What would you like to say in closing?
SL-B: I feel I have been very blessed. Not everyone who starts out in this very very difficult business can become Meryl Streep or Robert De Niro. To still be working and doing what I love to do is such a gift. I knew when I was 13 exactly what I wanted to do with my life, and all the successes and failures are just part of my journey. I have grown from them all. Talent, training and hard work are all necessary to have success in this business. So is luck and having wonderful friends. I thank God for my journey, so far, and whatever lies before me.