From the moment we met Dr. Susie in 2017, we knew she was a tour de force as an artist and a human being. She’s a real doctor, has a love of life, people and her craft. In the midst of traveling the world to help others, she never loses sight of acting and continues her training and shooting projects. She will be seen in the 2019 release of the feature film “How Do You Know Chris”. Whether it be saving lives, working on her ranch tending to her horses, camels and many, many other animals, or learning her lines, Dr. Susie remains focused on her goals. We sat down with her recently and asked her how she got her start and what keeps her going.
You are affectionately referred to as Dr. Susie, even though you came to Hollywood Immersive as an actor. But you’re a real doctor. Wait…what? How did you make the decision to come to Los Angeles to follow your acting dreams?
Yes, most people know me as Dr. Susie and I am a REAL doctor, but a very bad one…so, I have decided to stop burying my mistakes and become a REAL actor. Seriously though, I have wanted to be an actor since I was little. My parents had often been pulled aside and told “get her into the movies” or “she needs to be on the stage.” They would smile politely and completely ignore the suggestions. The TWO things I was not “allowed” to do were “be an Actor or join the Military”. Needless to say I have dabbled in both and even managed to nail down a successful medical career. The decision to go to LA to follow my dream was easy because of Hollywood Immersive. Simple as that. Can’t recommend the program enough.
Back in Australia, you live on a farm with exponentially more wildlife than humans. Can you tell us about your critters, your love for horses and camels, and how you juggle that life with your professional life as actor and doctor?
I am lucky enough to have 5 horses, 3 camels and a menagerie of other animals to play with on a regular basis. Horses and camels are my favourites. Both are in my blood. I am a direct descendant of the Australian-Irish explorer, John King who was the sole survivor of the ill-fated Burke and Wills expedition in 1861. My animals are intrinsically part of my life so it is never a matter of juggling things. The silent language of the equine world feeds my soul, continues to teach me life lessons, unconditional acceptance, patience and above all, hope. As my friend and mentor, Buck Brannaman says, “Your horse is a mirror to your soul, and sometimes you may not like what you see. Sometimes, you will.” Camel psychology is a completely different ball game. This is especially the case with wild camels from the Outback that you are trying to domesticate. But if you earn the trust of a camel, you have a friend for life.
You wouldn’t be described as “dainty”. You don’t take <censored> from anyone, and you are a straight shooter. You also have an amazingly wicked sense of humor. You know exactly who you are and you’re unfiltered and unapologetic about it. Who or what inspired you to be the person that you are?
No, I definitely wouldn’t be described as dainty. I’m about as dainty as a Great White Shark! I am a straighter shooter when I need to be, and born without a fully functioning oral filter. However, I think it is important to be kind and I always try to make an effort to learn about what makes people tick and what you may have in common. Everyone has a story to tell and sometimes you have to make an extra effort to hear it.
A good sense of humour is a necessary weapon in life. You can dilute a lot of situations with well directed humour. It is the great leveler.
I was blessed with a loving but isolated and lonely childhood which allowed me to develop an overactive imagination. I have never lost that, despite becoming an adult. I think one of the best tools you can have as an actor is an unbridled imagination and the courage to use it. I am inspired by people and animals who never give up despite all odds. Everyday heroes. They are all around us if we just take the time to look.
You recently filmed a movie in Australia entitled “How Do You Know Chris?” Tell me about the experience of filming and what landing a role in this movie means to you.
Landing the role of “Amanda Black” in the recently filmed “How Do You Know Chris?” was made possible because of Hollywood Immersive. Lilly Dawson suggested I complete a self-tape and send it to the Director, Ash Harris. He liked what he saw and the next thing I knew, I was flying over to Melbourne for an audition. Got the role and then flew back over a few months ago for filming. My first feature film!! What an amazing opportunity. I was so honoured to be part of the project and thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. Wonderful cast and crew. I loved exploring the depths of my character, Amanda, and found we are quite similar in a lot of ways. This made it both easier and more challenging. I embraced the new experiences though. I am a devoted, committed and passionate actor. I will go above and beyond to better myself and further my acting career. Being in “How Do You Know Chris” has made me thirsty for more film work. I am excited about the future.
What advice would you give to older actors trying to create or continue their careers later on in life? And then, what advice would you give to young actors starting out?
The advice that I would give to older actors trying to create or continue their careers later in life is the same as I would give to young actors starting out. Don’t give up. I can guarantee it will be hard sometimes. You will need to have a good day job and grow a thick skin because you will inevitably have rejections. Have a rock solid work ethic of completing something you say you will do. Be polite to EVERYONE on set, no matter what their role is. You are part of a team. Practice good self-care, don’t ever turn up on set being hung over (something I have seen many a young actor do to the detriment of their career). Learn people’s names and always be on time. KNOW your character inside and out but don’t be married to your “version” of it because you may not have thought of all the possibilities! Have stamina and never complain if you have to shoot through the night or film in a situation that is outside your comfort zone. Being an actor can be exhausting, both physically and mentally but it is SO worth it in the end. If it wasn’t difficult, everyone would do it. That’s what makes it worth it. Always embrace the opportunity to keep learning your craft. Make bold choices and realize it is not just OK to make mistakes but necessary for growth. Be flexible, conscientious and take educated risks. Take your job seriously but don’t take yourself too seriously.
You have traveled internationally for your medical work. Tasmania, Chile, Antarctica. Can you tell us about that? Do you mind that we spread the word that you are a do-gooder!
I have travelled extensively with my medical work but I wouldn’t say I’m a “do-gooder”! I just love meeting different people and immersing myself into divergent cultures. The wonderful thing about medicine is that it doesn’t matter where in the world you are from, we are all the same. I don’t care what your background is, you are my patient and that is all there is to it. I try to be non-judgemental and there is not much in the world that I haven’t seen or experienced. I often have the chance to use my medical skills on my animal companions as well. No matter where I travel to, I also seem to find a sick horse, cat or dog that needs help.
You have a great attitude and outlook on life. Certainly there must be things that get you down. How do you deal with setbacks?
Cruelty to any living thing is something I find disheartening. It always gets me down but I am never one to sit back and watch. As Albert Einstein said “The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing”. I can reach a whole other level of crazy when it comes to protecting those less fortunate, especially animals.
I have learnt to have a great attitude and outlook on life. I know first hand how precious life is. I embrace setbacks because they make me reassess a situation. I get up and literally or figuratively (depending on the situation) dust myself off, grit my teeth and keep going. Life ain’t a dress rehearsal. It is right NOW. Learn to think outside the box and remember, it is sometimes easier to get forgiveness than permission
What is next for Dr. Susie? More movies? Doctoring?
What’s next for me? I would give up medicine in a heartbeat to do more acting. I have given doctoring enough years. Saying that though, a lot of my acting tools come from being a Doc for so long. There is nothing more of an incentive to learn to “act like you have everything under control” during a resuscitation when all the while you know that the patient is “circling the drain” and all the family have their eyes on you. The last thing they need to see on your face is defeat. Even when you know the chance of bringing them back is slim, you must never show you have lost hope. My raw stubbornness has actually managed to save lives. There is no feeling on this earth that compares with the feeling of having been involved in saving a life. It keeps you grounded and so very aware of how privileged one is to have the capacity to help people. It is an honour I will never take for granted.
More movies are definitely on the cards. I want to work with Viggo Mortensen, who I deeply admire as a human being. He is what I would call a life artist. He is not only a brilliant actor but an accomplished poet, painter, photographer, producer, author and musician. He is also one of the most humble people you could ever meet. He is an intuitive horseman and one of his quotes always resonates with me…”One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was from a horse master. He told me to go slow to go fast. I think that applies to everything in life. We live as though there aren’t enough hours in the day but if we do each thing calmly and carefully we will get it done quicker and with much less stress.” Wise words.
We were so happy to catch up with Ash Watson who joined Hollywood Immersive in 2013. Ash fondly remembers her HI experience and the lessons she took with her. She released her first single, broke out of her comfort zone to reach out to top music producers and continues to network while nurturing her existing contacts. She is currently taking the next steps in her journey by writing new songs to complete her EP. We hope you are as inspired as us by this very driven and talented artist.
Ash, you joined us on HI back in 2013 – what did you expect to find on HI and how did things change for you afterwards?
Before I started the Music Immersive program, I thought it was the be all and end all, that it would hand me the keys to the kingdom so to speak, but after it ended I realized that was an unrealistic expectation. What the program DID give me was guidance on how to shape my own journey. It gave me the fundamentals, so that I could go forward knowing who I am and what I want to achieve, and even opportunities to achieve those things which is more than most people ever get.
It was a bit of a slap in the face to realize I had perhaps been naive in thinking my dream was going to be handed to me, but I am so glad I figured it all out now, rather than 20 years down the line and I am so grateful to have been a part of the program, to learn how to take charge of my own destiny, and to have made life long friends because of it.
You worked with some pretty awesome producers when you were last in LA. Tell us about that experience and what is your plan to work with them in the future.
After I finished HI in 2013 I was inspired by the amount of opportunity in LA so I decided to email top producers in the area to see if they’d be willing to work with me. One producer was a connection I made through the program which is great, but the other was someone totally new. The reason I had the gumption to send out these emails was because I had so much confidence in my direction after HI and I knew I had to be bold. The experience was pretty full on. Sometimes they would use terms I hadn’t heard before, but I just stuck to my old mantra… ‘fake it till you make it’ haha. By that I mean, just act confident and you’ll come across confident. You also gain more respect this way.
The producers were both really excited by my voice which felt great. And hearing the finished product for the first time was a once in a lifetime high.
It’s all very fast paced and a little intimidating so you really have to know what you want, and be confident to ask for it.
I would love to work with these producers again but I am also looking into some Aussie guys, to try and cut back on travel costs.
We are still in contact though, and they’re great allies to have.
Tell us about what you have been doing since you have been back in Australia.
Since I’ve been back in Australia, I released the single I recorded in LA which is much more work than you might expect. Organizing PR and a launch party, after filming the video clip of course. It’s a very long process but I was lucky enough to have the song, ‘Little Love’, played on mainstream radio, ABC 774, and other community stations several times. During that time I also did live to air interviews which was so nerve-racking but thrilling. It was cool to have my family and friends listening in. It was a real novelty.
Since the release of ‘Little Love’ was completed, I have been working on a new EP and raising funds for it. I hope to release an Indie-Gogo campaign to help pay for the album later this year.
Tell us about your administration and what you do to regularly keep in front of the right people?
Keeping in contact with friends in the industry is important so you can keep on their radar. I also meet a lot of new people at gigs and always add them to social media right away. You have to put your ego aside here, and not be afraid of looking ‘too keen’ because that’s how you miss opportunities. I make friends, send them my material and figure out how we might be able to help one another. Helping ONE ANOTHER is also very important. Not just ‘how can they help me?’
Trying to keep my socials up to date is important, and trying to build my following too. It can seem overwhelming so I tend to focus on three key social platforms and share the one post to all three.
I’m currently looking at getting a personal manager to help me get in front of the right people because it’s so hard to know where to start.
I schedule myself a day to read my books on this matter, every week. I’m currently reading a book suggested to me during the HI program which has given me great insight into the management field.
Just making sure I always have a plan is how I like to roll. Otherwise I feel stressed and lost. So at the moment it’s a new EP, and a manager to help me release it, then a film clip and updating my website to keep it fresh, and so on.
If there was one producer you’d like to work with who would that be and why?
Mark Ronson! He was responsible for Amy Winehouse’s success and now that of Lady Gaga. Not only does he know how to release HUGELY successful tracks, but seeing as he’s worked with Amy, he understands my sound and would be able to see my vision for myself. It’s so important to work with people who get you, not just because they’re famous.
You have such a great retro style look and this very much flows through to your music as well. What artists inspire you and why?
The artists that inspire me are Amy Winehouse, Gin Wigmore, Etta James, Imelda May, Paloma Faith and more.
I’ve always wanted to emulate my voice on Etta James. I love her raspy tone.
These more modern singers inspire me because I can hear how they interpret the retro style, and make it fresh and new, which is so important. It also gives me hope that my style of music has a market, which has always worried me. A lot of people have tried to push me into a more modern style of pop for fear of the retro market not taking off, but I feel like everything is coming together at the most perfect time right now, for my style.
What’s coming up for you and when should we expect to see you back in the US?
Next on the agenda is to keep writing my EP tracks, fund the project on Indie-Gogo, which I will put up on my website www.ashleighwatsonmusic.com later this year if anyone is interested in taking a look. Getting myself a manager who can hopefully take me to the next level. I’m ready!
As for the US, I’m not sure where this journey will take me. But I’m open to anything that will help me reach my goal.
Lilly recently sat down with our friend, HI acting alum and Wushu World Champion Hussain Sadiqi. Hussain has been working hard to inspire and educate the young men and women of Afghanistan through his Shaolin School for Kung Fu. Enjoy this inspiring interview from this remarkable man.
Hussain, I have known you now for many years. Whatever you turn your hand to you seem to achieve. You are a world champion in Kung Fu, you have opened a Shaolin School in Afghanistan for young men and women giving them so much joy and hope and you are also doing everything in your power to make sure the people of Afghanistan have a bright future. Where does this drive and determination come from?
My father was a blacksmith, and as a child and teenager I worked in his shop. Within his tiny small poor shop he taught me to make a sharp, steel knife. You have to put the piece of iron into a very high temperature fire and then hammer it many, many times to turn that iron into steel, and then shave it into a nice sharp knife. My father in his tiny small blacksmith shop, shaped my inner strength and my personality. In my life I went through many hardships since my childhood and I learned everything the hard way and that’s why I don’t take things for granted.
It’s no secret that you love Bruce Lee – how much has he inspired you to live the life you are living now?
Bruce Lee for sure was one of my great heroes and idols. As a child in the remote mountain area of Afghanistan, just by seeing his picture I entered into the world of Martial Arts. Martial Arts formed my goals and achievements in my life. However later on in my life, I learned that I have to be myself rather than somebody else like Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan. They are my role models and I admire them, but they are not me.
You joined us on HI right back when we first started in 2010. Tell us what that experience meant to you and what you gained from it?
As Martial Arts set the goals and dreams in my early life, HI opened a new gate of dreams on a greater stage of my life where I could use everything I learned in the past with all my dreams and turn them to reality. I wish I stayed in LA to pursue my acting dreams but there were bigger plans for me.
It’s so inspiring and huge what you are doing for the young men and of course the women of Afghanistan. I can imagine it’s also very risky for you. Can you explain how you feel about this and what it means to you?
This past few years here in Afghanistan were so challenging for me in so many different ways but I stayed and faced all those challenges. It was so hard to deal with many difficulties such as security as the main problem, in which 3 times I was 15 seconds to 1 minute away from the suicide explosion with over 50 people killed in each of them. Here people are very tight with their old culture and in many families girls are not even allowed to study at school. But with hard work and persistence I was successful to make those families send their girls to school to get education, and attend my academy to learn martial arts.
What is one piece of advice you would give to young people striving for their dreams today?
Set a goal and a big goal for their future, and work towards it with hard work and persistence and never listen to when people say NO, as NO for me was always Next Opportunity.
What has been the highlight of your life so far?
Firstly, when I was 6 years old one morning I saw other kids we used to play amongst each other and they were wearing their nice clothes with their nice bags and they were ready to go somewhere. I went with them too but with my pyjamas and an old shirt I had on. That day we all went to school and they were enrolling at school with their parents amongst them but I was alone – and when the person who enrolled the kids asked me why I was there I replied, “I want to be in school too.”
So he asked me what my family name was and I said, “I don’t know.” Until that time I didn’t know I had a family name. I told that person my name is just Hussain. That night I asked my father what our family name was. My father asked me why I am asking about my family name? I replied that I enrolled into a school.
My father just looked at me with silence. Many years later I found out what it meant, that look and silence meant I’ve done the first big, good and unexpected work in my life.
My father was very against my martial arts but he was very supportive of my education. I actually hid my martial arts training for 6 years from him until I got into the National Team and then he found out. That’s why in 2012 when I won the International Gold medal the first thing I did was call my father and told him that I have become the World Champion. To earn my father’s satisfaction was worth more than the gold medal I got.
Going to L.A with Hollywood Immersive was great for me every moment of it. From the time I was selected to the team, traveling, studying, living and learning and meeting the stars all was magnificent memories and experience in my life. HI opened a new gate of my dreams in the highest acting industry anybody could dream of.
What is your ultimate dream for the future?
I have a few dreams to fulfill:
First, I want to build a school – 2700 meters above the sea level village.
As a small boy from that village who recognize an international level I owe them. Especially when I returned to my village there many kids who came to see me with my posters in their hands and they study in ruins under the sun, I was ashamed.
Secondly, I would love to expand Shaolin School to the National institute of Martial Arts (NIMA) and gather sponsorship to help so all the boys and girls who have a dream in martial arts. Then NIMA could produce the top International martial artists from Afghanistan.
What is one piece of advice you would give to a 19 year old Hussain Sadiqi?
In this case I always remember what my father was telling me to do was to continue my studies and get my degree.