Back when she was Susan Tomalin and a 17-year-old freshman at the Catholic University, she met Chris Sarandon, a grad student. This man played a very important role in her life. He was Susan’s first boyfriend, first intimate experience, and first everything.
Seeing as they were in a Catholic college, they had to get married or face getting kicked out. They tied the knot in 1967, and Susan recalls that they would decide at the end of each year if they wanted to stay together and renew their vows. Finally, in 1979, they decided to separate, but she kept his surname.
Fighting for Her Beliefs
As we said, Sarandon’s passion for human rights and social justice started early on — at least at a much younger age than most people we know. The early 60s came along, and they brought along the US involvement in the Vietnam War, which struck a chord with young Susan.
When she was just a high school student in New Jersey, she attended several protests and rallies against the Vietnam War, being a fierce believer in civil rights. In fact, Sarandon attended so many of these events that she was arrested several times for unlawful behavior. However, these early events would be the base for a long and passionate life in activism.
Independent From a Young Age
In 1964, Sarandon graduated from high school and enrolled in the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. She obtained her B.A. in drama in 1968, all the while supporting herself with odd jobs, even after finishing her degree. We all know how hard it is to support yourself financially while being in college.
Of course, tuition back then wasn't as steep as it is today, but that doesn't belittle Sarandon's achievements. Sarandon worked in several jobs to pay for her education and lifestyle, such as cleaning houses, cutting hair, operating switchboards, and others. From a young age, Sarandon believed in being economically independent and working hard for oneself.
Her First Acting Gig
It turns out that Susan’s first and only husband, Chris Sarandon, was also an aspiring actor. This must be one of the reasons why the two were such a good match. There is nothing like a shared passion to bring people together and bond them.
And so, shortly after graduation, in 1969, she and Chris attended an audition for a dark, grimy N.Y. film called “Joe.” Chris didn’t get the part, but Susan was offered the role of Melissa Compton, a young woman with substance abuse problems whose father eventually killed her boyfriend and dealer. This role launched her acting career.
Sarandon’s Broadway Debut
While most of us know Susan from the screen, she wasn't limited to it and looked for opportunities to get parts and jobs in stage productions as well. Shortly after starring in “Joe,” Sarandon made her Broadway debut in 1972.
She was cast to play the role of Tricia Nixon, Richard Nixon’s daughter, in the play “An Evening With Richard Nixon,” based on a famous Gore Vidal book. Apart from playing Tricia, Sarandon embodied other roles as well. The play not only cemented her as a serious theater actress but was also the beginning of a lifelong friendship with Gore Vidal.