As you may have heard, Jason Alexander appeared on The Howard Stern Show yesterday. There, he told a few amusing anecdotes about his days on Seinfeld, as Jason Alexander is probably forced to do at every cocktail party, PTA meeting, barber shop appointment, and supermarket check-out line he attends. One of those anecdotes was a chestnut about Heidi Swedberg, the actress who played Susan, George’s fiancee on the show who died from an overdose of toxic wedding-envelope glue. It was a dark turn for a network sitcom, leading to 15 years’ worth of people asking, “What was the deal with Susan dying?”
On Howard Stern, Alexander said basically that he had trouble playing off of Swedberg, a problem that he tried to work with over the course of the season but just couldn’t overcome. “She would do something, and I would say, ‘OK, I see what she’s doing. I’m going to adjust to her.’ I would adjust, and it would change… It was such a disaster,” he said. The writers were unsure how Susan and George’s storyline should play out, so when Jerry Seinfeld and Julia Louis-Dreyfus had similar trouble with Swedberg, Larry David decided just to kill her. “We do the week, and we [go out afterward], and they said, ‘You know what? It’s fucking impossible.’ Julia said, ‘Don’t you just want to kill her?’ and Larry went, ‘Ka-bang,’” he explains.
Alexander’s comments were nothing new—Julia Louis-Dreyfus told the same story on the Seinfeld DVD commentary years ago—but, the internet being the internet, various media outlets picked up Alexander’s anecdote and turned it into “EVERYONE ON SEINFELD HATED HEIDI SWEDBERG, SO SHE HAD TO DIE.” Thus, Alexander felt compelled to issue an apology to his former co-star on Twitter in a statement titled, “Oh dear God, leave Heidi alone.” Here’s what he said, in part:
I and the cast really liked and like Heidi. She is a kind, lovely person who undoubtedly worked really hard to create Susan and that character was clearly what Larry and Jerry wanted her to be for George. I just felt I was on uncertain ground in how to play off that character and I was always concerned that it wasn’t working.[…] Heidi would always ask if there was anything in the scenes she could do or if I had any thoughts. She was generous and gracious and I am so mad at myself for retelling this story in any way that would diminish her. 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. She surely offered. But, I didn’t have that maturity or security.[…] And now with distance, I can look at those episodes and see that there was a fun relationship there between George and Susan. It works perfectly. I simply couldn’t see it or find it at the time.
Alexander’s complete, very gracious statement can be found here.