This past week should also be noted as the moment when actress Susan Heyward took off. In one hour of prime television programming, her character Cece went from an attentive secretary to a lavish, deal-striking muse. Heyward’s presence brings benevolent harmonizing to the series. Things were churning along alright, but her warm flirtation adds the right notes.
Susan! I’m catching you at your big break! Tell me what your audition with Scorsese was like?
When I heard what the project was, I thought, I obviously won’t get it! It was an excuse to get dolled up and pretend I was living in the 1970s. I had this brown cat jumpsuit and a white fur coat that I’d had since my college days. I cornrowed my hair in long braids, put on big earrings and big eyelashes and big lips. I just went all out. It was just fun! It wasn’t serious work. I didn’t delve deep into this character. It was bling it out. I really was born in the wrong decade.
And the seventies feels like it’s the decade for you?
The seventies has always been a time period I would desperately love to live in. For me, it was the clothes and the revolution. I’m a black woman and black women at the time were so sick and tired so staying quiet. It was this amazing time of saying, We’re going to live our lives unapologetically. Loud! The clothes, the music, the sense of revolution that we could do anything.
What seventies music were you really into before you started working on Vinyl?
I’m naturally drawn to funk. Anything with a great bass line and that saucy sense of humor they all had. I just like talking really frankly about sex. We’re so much more prudish now than we were then. All the frank, fun openness about sex was just fun to dance to get down to. And going roller-skating on Friday nights to some really good funk music. Roller-skating was one of my favorite things to do as a kid. Just getting out there and trying to do tricks and one up each other.
The show has a really immersive quality. What helped you feel embedded into this era?
I love rehearsal. It’s a place of potential. Anything is still possible. If you approach working on set like a rehearsal, the camera can catch that potential. I love when something doesn’t work in rehearsal. When you commit and it’s terrible, then now you know. It’s a whole other territory you don’t have to worry about. In the back of your brain, you could think, oh what would have happened if I had tried this? Failure frees you up to go into a completely different direction. Lately, I’ve become more comfortable with failure. It’s just more information. For the longest time I needed to be perfect and say that right thing. You can do that in drama because someone wrote the script.
So you’re pretty into the craft of drama. What are some acting school tricks that you like to work with?
I like thinking of characters like elements. It’s just imagining, if I were water and you were fire, our characters would create steam when they met. It’s about chemical reactions. Cece is earth. I’m air. I’m bubbly! I think too much, I get caught in my head. Cece is very practical and caught in a world where everyone is a rock star and living the high life. She’s making sure everything can happen. It’s still really powerful to look at something so sexy and realize where you belong. To realize, I don’t belong in it, I belong behind the scenes.