In the most recent season of TNT’s Rizzoli & Isles, audiences said goodbye to one of their favorite characters, Senior Criminalist, Susie Chang, portrayed by Tina Huang. I recently had the pleasure of getting to speak with Tina regarding Susie, saying goodbye to her Rizzoli family and what’s up next for the actress.
Check out what she had to say below!
I have to ask the question that’s on all of our minds. Were you and the cast aware of Susie’s death going into the sixth season or did it come as a surprise later on?
“I actually did. Jan and everybody at TNT handled it so professionally. I knew pretty early on but of course I didn’t want to spoil it for the fans and that was a really difficult secret to keep under wraps. The Susie character is such a fun lovable character that Jan Nash (the show runner) is very, very sensitive about. She called me and we were all really upset to see this character go. At the same time I think the story opens the world up to interesting story lines for the other characters to go through that grieving process. I knew pretty early on. The writers and directors of the episode called me and we all spoke privately.”
As a fan of the show I love how each character really brings some dynamic to the team. What was it like working with Sasha Alexander and Angie Harmon?
“Oh my gosh, so great! Sasha and Angie are both very giving professional actors and from day one made me feel like a part of the family, brought me in, we were joking from the beginning with each other. Sasha and I would always go into dance breaks because she’s such a great dancer when the cameras weren’t rolling and sometimes when the camera was rolling. Angie’s always such great company and is always trying to crack me up. She’s always got these funny buttons at the end of the scene. It will be a very dramatic scene and she’ll have some ridiculous improv button and it will always crack me up. Sometimes when we have scenes together it’s real hard to look each other in the eye. [laughs] It’s great. I love working with Jordan and Bruce and Lorraine, it’s all been so incredible.
That sounds amazing. I heard you’re pretty into improv yourself?
“Yeah I wouldn’t say that you should come see me do improv [laughs], but I love the improv comedy world, the sketch world, I have a lot of friends in it. In fact I’m in show called Fairy Tale Theatre: 18 & Over. It’s born out of the sketch world, J. Michael Feldman is one of my close friends from college, he created it, wrote it, and stars in it. I’m one of the puppeteer actors in it. We got invited by the Edinburgh Fringe Festival to come take a slot there so we’re going to be leaving to go to Scotland all of August and perform 25 nights in a row. It’s really exciting.
We’ve been performing that show for a while. The LA Times gave it such loving reviews and we’ve had a good response to it. It’s nice to take it to an international audience and also for us to go see other international artists that we normally wouldn’t get to see.”
How do you prep for that? I know television and film are very different compared to theater.
“Yeah it’s a lot of hours of rehearsal [laughs]. It’s totally different. What’s lovely about doing television and film is that you have something captured forever. I love that, I love the process of also bonding with your actors, seeing that episode to episode develop, the characters develop because you don’t necessarily have all the information in the first script that comes out about your character. Especially with Susie, I was always finding out something new and different and weird about her, whether she’s a nudist or art major or a medical student. She went through a lot.
For theater the whole experience is super fleeting. You dig into the story a month ahead of time, a couple of weeks ahead of time rehearsing, 8-hour rehearsals, 4-hour rehearsals with your cast. You really bond that way and discover what the story is. It’s a different process and a lot of work but gratifying in a totally different way. I love being able to share that live experience in the theater with that audience that can never be recaptured, it really gives it community.”
We took to Twitter to see what some of your fans had to ask I have a few really great ones I’m excited to hear your input on. With Rizzoli and Isles being such a female-forward show, how do you feel the reputation of women in television has changed throughout the years? I know you’ve been on General Hospital, and a few other shows.
“That’s a great question and I don’t want to get overly political, but I do think that we’re moving in the right direction, for sure with women’s images and better characters for women and women that are more mature out there, so that’s great. With How to Get Away With Murder and things like having older women be, both smart, professional, tough and sexual, understanding their sexuality, that’s important too. You know what I mean? That you can be all those things, that women are more than just one dimension.
There’s this new movement in Hollywood to get more female directors attached to projects. I think things are moving in the right way. There’s more awareness of these things. Even the pay-gap between women and men, that’s getting more acknowledgement and more big movie stars or people that have a platform to speak about it are speaking about it. Patricia Arquette, Charlize Theron and a few others, Sandra Bullock, all these people are coming out and speaking about it. I think, slowly but surely, we’re making progress. I’m happy to see there are more positive images that I can look to and say, I have a role model there in Kate Winslet or Charlize Theron. It’s not just the girlfriend or the wife.
And it’s exciting and that’s what’s cool about working on Rizzoli. That it’s female heavy and the men are really awesome on the show. I don’t want to discount them and the work that they do, but it’s really great to see this lovely friendship between two women that are not competing over love or anything like that. And that’s the same with comedies, like Broad City, comedies, like Bridesmaids, you’re seeing women as more complex, interesting characters.
Amy Schumer is another one that’s really putting it out there for everyone, for women, and that’s really exciting.”
Another fan asked what the hardest part about leaving the show was?
“I think the hardest part of leaving the show is not being with that family all the time. Really having that camaraderie with the crew and it’s nice having a job, but beyond that it’s having a job with people you really, really love collaborating with. That’s going to be the hardest thing for me, personally. For me as an actor, Susie was such a compelling character, kind of like a wild ride. Finding out different things, and they kept expanding her character and her skills. I’ll miss that. I’ll miss being surprised by it. This really lovable character that I enjoyed getting to portray. I’ll miss that for sure.
And the fans. I don’t think the fans will go away, but they’ve been so supportive of me and Susie.”
Absolutely. I know one of my favorite episodes was when, I believe it was when Maura was absent and your character had to step in and take over everything. What were some of your favorite scenes or episodes to film from the show?
“That one was definitely a really exciting one for me because it was more emotionally charged for Susie. It is hard for me to pick a favorite. I love the recent ones we’ve done in Season 6, which you’ve seen, like the one with the art dealer, that was fun to do. The diorama one was really fun. The one where Susie made all those dioramas? That was fun. Oh and the most recent one was having to deal with a live animal!
The AD called me and she’s like, “Hey, I have a really random question for you.” I’m like, “Oh, yeah? What’s up? I’m ready for it.” She’s like, “How do you feel about holding a live lobster on camera?” [laughs] She’s like, “I know it sounds weird” I’m like, “What could this possibly,” cause I hadn’t gotten the script yet, but, “What could this possibly have to do with anything?” I said, “Yeah, I’m totally down. I’m always excited to do whatever you guys tell me to do.” I was kind of nervous before I met the lobster, because they’re like 25 pounds! I was afraid I was going to hurt the lobster, but they were really cool and actually they are kind of cute. Never thought I’d feel attached to a crustacean, but there you go.”
Final question, besides the comedy tour you have coming up, do you have any upcoming projects that you can share with your fans?
“Well besides going to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, which I’m going to be gone for the month of August performing there, I also have my theater company, AmmunitionTheater.com, we are announcing our first season of our full-length plays. We’re going to be playwrights. There will be a world premiere here on the west coast in October.
Also, I’m recurring on NBC’s Night Shift, so we’ll see what happens this season with that.”
You can catch new episodes of Rizzoli & Isles every Tuesday on TNT at 9/8pm central and if you’re in the UK, you can purchase tickets to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival here to see Fairy Tale Theatre: 18 & Over. Be sure to follow Tina on Twitter @TinaHuang for updates!