Being open is the key to showing up for your scene partners and everyone you work with on a set or in a rehearsal hall. Openness and listening are the two most important things you can do as an actor.

As a part of our series about creating a successful career in theatre, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Katy Sullivan.

Katy Sullivan is an award-winning actress, producer, writer, athlete, bilateral above knee amputee and is the first actress who is an amputee to ever star on Broadway. In 2023 Katy became the first amputee to be nominated for a Tony Award for the play COST OF LIVING.

She grew up in Alabama, performing in theatre and received a BFA in acting from Webster University’s Conservatory in St. Louis. As an actress, she has performed all over the US, including in THE LONG RED ROAD at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago directed by Philip Seymour Hoffman and FINISH LINE: A Documentary Play about the 2013 Boston Marathon at the Shubert Theatre Boston.

Sullivan originated the role of Ani in the 2018 Pulitzer Prize winning play, COST OF LIVING. She has starred in 5 productions from New York to Los Angeles to London and all the way to Broadway. Her portrayal of Ani has gained her the following recognition: Champion of Change Award from the Office of the Mayor of New York City, Berkshire Theatre Critic’s Choice Best Female Performance(2016), Theatre World Award(2018), Ovation Award Best Ensemble(2020) and Nominations: Berkshire Theatre Award(2016), Lucille Lortel Award (2018), Drama League Award(2018), Outer Critic’s Circle Award(2018), Ovation Award Best Leading Actress(2020).

​She has appeared in numerous television shows and films including the award winning documentary, WALK ON. Katy has been seen on NBC’s MY NAME IS EARL, ABC’s LAST MAN STANDING and STATION 19, FX’s comedy LEGIT and CBS’ NCIS: NEW ORLEANS and plays Esther in DEXTER NEW BLOOD on Showtime.

She co-created SulliFlinn Productions with fellow Webster Graduate, Becca Flinn. They produce online comedy content, short films and are developing a comedy, LEGS, based on their life experiences. They were 2015 Fellows at the Producer’s Guild of America in their Power of Diversity program.

Katy is also a four-time US Champion in the 100m. She was among the first bilateral above the knee amputees to compete in the Paralympics in ambulatory track when she ran in the London 2012 Paralympic Games, setting a new American record of 17.33s and finishing 6th in the World. She added ‘Sports Analyst’ to her list of accomplishments recently when she covered the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games for NBC/Universal.

For more information about Katy visit

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

I was born without the lower halves of my legs so from the very start there were challenges to overcome. I had the fortune to be born to a set of parents that didn’t see my physical circumstance as something bad. They always encouraged me to push my limits and go for whatever I wanted in life. I never really focused on what I couldn’t do, I grew up adapting for the world around me.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

I knew I wanted to be an actor even before I knew what that even meant. I just loved expressing myself and performing. The first time I saw ANNIE as a kid, I was like, how are these kids doing this?!? How do they get to sing and dance and act?? I want to do that. So I started begging my parents to be able to go to auditions and after that first play I did at 12 years old, I was hook, line and sinker in love with acting.

Congratulations on your Tony Award Nomination as well as being the first amputee to star in a Broadway show “Cost of Living.” Tell us what it is like to be paving a way for other differently abled actors on Broadway and the importance of this moment is for you.

I didn’t even realize at the outset that I’m the first amputee actress to ever be on Broadway. It was a journalist that asked me about it and that’s when the reality sunk in. It’s incredibly humbling and a huge honor but at the same time, it’s nuts that it’s 2023 and no one has made it to Broadway before. I really believe that we are at a bit of a tipping point for performers with disabilities and the amount of opportunities there are for the community. And it’s time, if you look at any marginalized community in the entertainment industry, at some point they say, can we tell our own stories now? And I think we’re see much more of a desire for authentic representation.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Clearly no one gets to where they are without support. There have been a few major turning points in my life as an actor that I can point. I really have to give credit to the Conservatory of Theatre Arts at Webster University. The fact that the faculty were progress enough years ago to say, well, this actress has a major physical challenge but she’s talented, let’s try this and see how it goes. That’s really the first place where I began to strive to become the most truthful actor I could possibly be. They really provided a place for me to grow as a young actor.

You probably have a lot of fascinating experiences. Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

I have seen such a wide change in representation of performers with disabilities that’s for sure. Early on I used to say whatever gets your foot in the door, even if it’s a prosthetic foot. The range of experiences are all the way from a plane crash victim on a tv show where I was told to ‘die quieter’ to puppeteering a giant whale bodysuit in an art film. I used to say that I knew I’d made it when they could no longer do the leg ‘reveal’ on a tv show. But it seems the business is evolving and characters are being written more three dimensionally and less about a shocking reveal.

It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

There have been times that you get cast in something and are thrown for a loop. I was cast on an episodic tv show that shot across the country and originally there was nothing in the story about running. So I just traveled myself and when I arrived the director told me that they rewrote the script and they wanted me to get up and run off at the end of the scene, only problem, my running blades were in LA. We had to over night ship my running legs to get to us before we shot that scene. I guess what I’ve learned from experiences like this is to expect the unexpected and roll with the punches. Also, maybe bring a spare pair of legs. Lol

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working

I am beyond excited to have the opportunity to play Richard III at Chicago Shakespeare. Edward Hall is directing and we have worked together before and I can’t wait to jump into this experience with him. It’s intimidating to try to wrap your brain around one of Shakespeare’s greatest villains but I’ve always believed that if something scares you, you should probably try to take it on.

You have been blessed with success in a career path that can be challenging — especially as an actor with a disability. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of rejection, lack of support, or failure?

Working in this business is hard and there are going to be plenty of times that you hear ‘no’ but that’s when you have rely on knowing who you are and believing in yourself. I always fall back on hard work. If you are doing your absolute best, even if you meet obstacles or rejection, you can rest easy knowing that you showed up for yourself. That’s the best you can do for yourself.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in the live performance industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

This is where community has always come in for me. Gathering friends and colleagues together and working on your own projects, not waiting for permission to be creative. Produce a play, shoot a short film, make a YouTube series, there are so many avenues for you to take at this point. When you work together with like minded people, the sky is the limit.

Thank you for all that. This is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career in Broadway, Theater or Live Performances” and why? If you can, please share a story or example for each.

If I had five suggestions for success in the arts, they would have to be, openness, dedication to your craft, belief in yourself, responsibility and play.

Being open is the key to showing up for your scene partners and everyone you work with on a set or in a rehearsal hall. Openness and listening are the two most important things you can do as an actor.

Dedication to your craft is when you choose to show up and work your hardest, focus on what’s in front of you in that moment and leave everything else outside the door. That’s when you will do your best work.

You have to believe in yourself because there are going to be plenary of people who won’t life you up. You have to double down when times get hard in this business and keep the belief in you and show up for yourself.

Being a responsible actor is the kind of actor that people want to work with time and time again. If people know that you have their back and that you do the heavy lifting, you will be someone who gets hired again and again.

But let’s not forget about PLAY. The play is where your freedom and creativity comes in. Try to release the idea of ‘looking good’ or ‘performing’ and just try to let go and play.

For the benefit of our readers, could you describe how the skill-sets you need in a theater performance are different than the skill-sets you need for TV or Film?

There are things about them that are similar, for example, what do you want in a scene? What is your character fighting for? None of that changes but I think about the differences in terms of size of performance. If you’re in a theatre you have to think about reaching the person in that back row, on a film or tv set, the camera can pick up the smallest detail or whisper and it’s learning how to temper your performance to the task at hand.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

If I could be even a small part in there being more representation of performers with disabilities that would be a dream come true. We are the largest minority in this country and the least represented in our media. If you look at any marginalized group in entertainment, eventually people start to want to tell their own stories. And I believe we’re at a point where I also think people want to see authentic stories. If I could be a piece of that change, I’d be happy.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I think the biggest lesson I’ve learn is sometimes the largest obstacle standing in the way of your success is you. You have to put that belief in yourself and understand that ‘no’ is just one person’s opinion or decision and you have to pick yourself up and move forward. Don’t give up.

We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them

I feel so fortunate to have worked with so many smart and talented people. I think I’m open to just continue to surrounding myself with good people who are open to changing the conversation around disability representation in our business. I’d love to have the chance to talk to people who are champions of change for women. Michelle Obama, Oprah, Reese Witherspoon, boss women like them.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!


  • Savio P. Clemente

    TEDx Speaker, Media Journalist, Board Certified Wellness Coach, Best-Selling Author & Cancer Survivor

    Savio P. Clemente, TEDx speaker and Stage 3 cancer survivor, infuses transformative insights into every article. His journey battling cancer fuels a mission to empower survivors and industry leaders towards living a truly healthy, wealthy, and wise lifestyle. As a Board-Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), Savio guides readers to embrace self-discovery and rewrite narratives by loving their inner stranger, as outlined in his acclaimed TEDx talk: "7 Minutes to Wellness: How to Love Your Inner Stranger." Through his best-selling book and impactful work as a media journalist — covering inspirational stories of resilience and exploring wellness trends — Savio has collaborated with notable celebrities and TV personalities, bringing his insights to diverse audiences and touching countless lives. His philosophy, "to know thyself is to heal thyself," resonates in every piece.