Seinfeld was never shy about going dark for a laugh. This is a series that had its main character make out during Schindler’s List and that tackled date rape through a plot about Jerry and George essentially drugging a woman to play with her toys. But the show’s bleakest joke had to be what Jason Alexander has called “the single coldest moment in the history of television,” a plot twist that ended both the seventh season and the whole George-gets-engaged arc: Poisoned by the glue on the cheap envelopes George purchases for their wedding invitations, Susan drops dead—a development that inspires indifference from all the main characters, and a touch of subdued glee from her suddenly single fiancée. Even for a show whose guiding principle was “no hugging, no learning,” this was a hilariously, shockingly heartless move.
Last summer, Alexander, who played George for nine uproarious seasons, revealed the truth behind the controversial twist on The Howard Stern Show: They killed Susan off because the regular cast—and especially Alexander—had trouble acting against Heidi Swedberg, who played Susan. In a very un-Constanza show of graciousness, Alexander then publicly apologized to Swedberg, taking responsibility for what he felt at the time was unnatural chemistry. His account, though, apparently wasn’t off the mark. Yesterday, Vulture posted an excerpt from Seinfeldia, Jennifer Keishin Armstrong’s recently released deep dive into the series, that gives the whole story behind the untimely demise of Susan Ross. Apparently, it was cooked up during a lunch with co-creator Larry David and several of the actors. The conversation sounds an awful lot like one of the Monk’s Café scenes from Seinfeld.
About halfway through the next season, an episode required Jerry and Elaine to hang out with Susan, the first time either Seinfeld or Louis-Dreyfus had to work extensively with Swedberg. After the taping, the four lead actors gathered with David at Jerry’s Famous Deli in Studio City, as usual.
“You know, it’s hard to figure out where to go with what she gives you,” Seinfeld said.
“Don’t even talk to me,” Alexander snapped. “I don’t want to hear your bullshit.”
Louis-Dreyfus added, “I just want to kill her.”
And David said, “Wait a minute.”
Head over to Vulture for more on the decision, including a couple of backhanded compliments about poor, dead Susan, like the pretty convincing case David made to Alexander that she was the perfect foil for George, because, “You’ve practically shit on her, and nobody feels bad for her. They’re all on your side.”