As a child, Susan Hedges loved entertaining people and making them laugh. A former Long Island High School for the Arts student, she hoped to pursue acting after graduation.
Initially, she participated in community theater events at night after working in operations during the day. But as she started a family and put in more time at the office, her time at the theater decreased.
Now, at 48, Ms. Hedges is finally living out her dream of becoming a professional actress.
She’s made multiple appearances as an extra on “Law & Order: SVU” and has now secured a leading role in a new series, “The Humanitarians.”
“I didn’t know how scary it was going to be to pursue my dream and [act] again after so many years,” the Mattituck resident said. “But it felt as if I never left. It’s a great experience.”
Ms. Hedges returned to theater when her daughter, then 5 years old, wanted to audition for North Fork Community Theatre’s 1985 production of “The Sound of Music,” but would do so only if her mom joined her.
Since then, she’s been involved, both on stage and behind the scenes, with many local theater groups, including the Riverhead Faculty and Community Theatre, where she’s an assistant director for the current production of “Catch Me If You Can.”
Although she loves the theater, Ms. Hedges also wanted to pursue opportunities for more character development, which she felt she’d find on the small screen. After seeing a casting call from a company called Central Casting seeking extras for the Netflix series “Orange is the New Black,” she signed up and began doing extra work to get a foot in the door.
Most notably, she’s worked on “Law & Order: SVU,” appearing in squad room scenes, for the past two years.
“It’s a great opportunity to see what the set life is like,” she said, adding that she recently appeared in scenes for the new Netflix series “Friends From College,” which shot last month around Southold and Riverhead. “I watch everyone on set to learn the whole process.”
Recently, she landed her first leading role in the short film “Graveyard Girl.” It was shown at numerous film festivals across the nation — including the Long Island International Film Expo, Ballston Spa Film Festival and Los Angeles Independent Film Festival Awards — and got Ms. Hedges her first IMDB credit.
In “Graveyard Girl,” she plays the mother of a girl who recently lost someone close to her and is learning to deal with death. The 12-minute film can be viewed for free on its Facebook page.
Even more recently, she finished filming the pilot for “The Humanitarians,” a comedy series about employees at a nonprofit company called Stuff We Don’t Want, or SWEDOW.
“It’s like ‘Parks and Recreation,’” she said. “It has the same antics but in a nonprofit format … I think it’s something with a future because it fills a void and people can relate, because everyone’s worked in an office.”
Ms. Hedges plays Jennifer, who has recently re-entered the work force after a divorce and years as a stay-at-home mom.
Finding a level of success fulfilling her 30-year dream, Ms. Hedges urges others to chase goals they may feel are unobtainable.
“You’re never too old to follow your dream,” she said. “Just go for it and find a way. Otherwise you’ll live your life with what-ifs and that’s not a fun thing.”
Photo: Mattituck resident Susan Hedges recently began pursuing her lifelong dream of acting. Over the past two years, she’s made recurring appearances on ‘Law & Order: SVU’ and is starring in a new series called ‘The Humanitarians.’ (Credit: Nicole Smith)