In her acting career, Sullivan Hamilton has two roles that loom large. One is as 15-year-old Sam on the CBS morning kids' crime drama show The Inspectors — a role that takes her back to being a teenager Hamilton says but also one that puts her skills as an actor on display for the largest number of people. Fewer people saw the other role Hamilton sees as core to her acting career and the part also didn't have CBS money behind it. That role was as Becky in the two-person play Slowgirl put on by PURE Theater.
"At the end of the show [Becky] is on trial for being the reason this girl dies," Hamilton says. "It was a lot about growing up and coming to life and the mistakes and the choices you made throughout life. It was a nice one to be able to connect with."
In Hamilton's everyday life two roles define her as well — the part where she's an actor, and that bit called work or a job or everything else she does that isn't acting. When she's not auditioning or rehearsing for a role, Hamilton works at Stars restaurant on King Street. The schism of being a working actor that gathers the applause of theater goers while also pouring drinks for people who see her primarily as someone to serve them may seem like a demeaning divide. But Hamilton has reconciled the two. In both parts of her life, she's helping make Charleston what it is.
Hamilton began acting at the age of five — "the curse my mother's given me," she says jokingly.
When she was in her late teens, she played in the Charleston produced independent film The Wise Kids which would go on to win accolades at L.A.'s LGBTQ-centric film festival Outfest. Food and beverage work came a couple years later at the age of 19. Her first role in local theater might have been at the age of nine, but in 2017, Hamilton, now 24 years old, joined the core ensemble of Charleston's progressive, community building PURE Theater — a group founded and run by her mother and stepfather 15 years ago. Joining PURE was a step towards continuing what her mother built in Charleston.
"Being able to run PURE would be a dream of mine," Hamilton says. "And being able to run it as well as my mother would never happen. But to help my mom out on the side and be her right hand man would be fabulous."
Hamilton says working in food and beverage allows her to support the other side of her life. At times the two crossover.
"I sometimes get into the acting portion of it," when talking to restaurant customers Hamilton says, "and I tell them how we need more funding for the arts and how it's not an issue we talk about. But that's why our world is creative, it's because of arts and music and painting. Charleston needs this."
Hamilton wants bigger roles, sure. She'll take all the parts she can get in the Charleston filming scene. But if the trajectory of the acting part of life was pointed to another city, she'd rather stay in the service industry and keep her roles where she lives now.
"I focus on being an actor in Charleston and also building Charleston's arts community," she says.
That sense of being at the foundation of Charleston and remaining content as part of the intangible base of the city comes from a moment when Hamilton fell away from acting — an intermission in her life around her late teens and early twenties. When she came back to acting, she returned having learned how to bridge the two roles of art and what you do to support that art.
"It helped me in learning that I want to wake up everyday and have something to be excited about and that I'm passionate about, even if that is being a manager at a grocery store. If you find peace in it then you should do it. I don't think your job tells who you are in life."