The name Susie Oliver may not be familiar in the world of entertainment at this time, but that profile could be very different 18 months from now.
The Canadian actress recently signed a three-picture deal with two of Hollywood’s top film-production companies and is slated as host of a weekly TV, musical-variety show. All this could make 2013 a breakout year for Oliver.
“I always knew I wanted to be an actress,” says the 36-year-old performer. “But, you can’t just go out and be an actress.”
While that may be very true, it seems Oliver’s whole life has been building up to being in that profession. A number of jobs in a variety of fields were all part of the “journey,” according to Oliver.
On the phone from her home in California, she takes time to talk about her past and her future. She sounds relaxed, which is a good thing because her schedule is about to get very hectic. Within the next few months, Oliver will start shooting three movies, two of which she also shares the screen writing credit. All three are due for release in the second half of 2013.
“All three are real women,” Oliver says of her roles. “My priority is pay homage (to these women) and to pay respect to their message and their part in history.”
Most notable among the roles Oliver will be playing, at least in terms of notoriety, will be her portrayal of screen siren Lana Turner in The Crowning Glory. The movie is an adaptation of the book The Private Diary of My Life with Lana that was written by hairdresser to the stars Eric Root, a close friend of Turner.
Oliver says she strives to find the “real person” inside every role she takes. But playing a screen legend like Turner is always more challenging.
“With Lana Turner, you have to be exact (in how you portray her), how she moves, how you smoke a cigarette,” says Oliver. She adds “fortunately, I am also writing the script” and that allowed her to closely study the famed actress. “It’s all about capturing the real life of the person. It’s all part of the craft (of acting).”
In Heat on the Delta, Oliver plays Primrose, an English-born New Yorker who stands up to prejudice and bigotry in a small town in Mississippi, where two boys, a son of a wealthy plantation owner and a son of sharecropper, fight against the odds that threaten to destroy their friendship.
“Primrose is a firecracker,” says Oliver. “She stood up to the evils going on. Mississippi, at that time, was a different place. Primrose disregarded segregation and prejudice (of the era).”
The third film, The Bangkok 6, is the story of Dr. Shirley McGreal, the founder of the International Primate Protection League. The movie, being written by Oliver and Kevin Bernhardt, tells the story of the woman who battled to stop a corrupt and vicious animal trader with the ultimate hope of saving animals and lives around the world.
All three movies, produced by Kris Lamans Productions and Filmworks, are scheduled to start principal photography in the months ahead and due for release between August and November of 2013.
Playing roles as different as a screen goddess and a humanitarian requires a degree of talent. It also requires a love for acting. For Oliver, it all started in earnest at the age of 12 and a role in the Northumberland Players’ production of Hello, Dolly. The time since then has simply been part of the journey that has brought her to where she now sits – on the verge of something really special in her career of choice.
“I always knew where I wanted to go,” says Oliver. “It was just a matter of when and how to get there.”
Oliver’s journey certainly took an interesting path… a number of them in fact. She was born in Cobourg, on the shore of Lake Ontario and about two hours east of Toronto. By the time she was into her teens, Oliver was feeling a calling. She tired modeling, which led her to acting, but there were many other things she tried. She opened a restaurant at 19. She enrolled in Police College. She worked in a funeral home. She’s a certified hypnotist.
“I think it’s natural to go through self discovery,” she says when asked if she entered all the different fields out necessity. “When you mention the word necessity it would relate more to studying my craft. No different than it’s necessary for the passion of a violinist to need to study the violin. I prepared my craft in art schools and studios as well as business and, once developed, it’s a matter of opportunity and becoming.”
When asked if she dabbled in all those things out of boredom, Oliver responds, “To be bored means to have nothing to do. I can truly say that I am never bored.”
If shooting three motion pictures wasn’t enough to keep Oliver busy, she is also slated to be a co-host on Soul of American Music, a weekly TV program that will look at the development of American music and its impact on the rest of the world. The pilot, which has already been shot, showcases Sam Cooke and future episodes will feature the likes of Bessy Smith, Aretha Franklin and Gladys Knight.
When you get right down to it, Oliver’s journey seems to be all about enjoying the ride.
“I live for the moment,” she says. “I see myself as an artist and I can only aspire to take my art and do good things. If I inspire other people and they get something out of what I do, I am happy.”