The Emmy-winning HBO series that on the Roy dynasty is back! Succession, now in its fourth season, is an epic satire about power, wealth and family. The cast is headed by Shakespearean actor Brian Cox, who plays fearsome Scottish-American patriarch Logan Roy.
Roy is an aging media mogul and the founder, owner and CEO of global conglomerate Waystar RoyCo. He has four grown-up children: the eldest, Connor, has an American mother; the three younger siblings, Kendall, Siobhan and her twin, Roman, are the product of Logan’s marriage to frosty English aristocrat Caroline. These three work for Roy, and compete for prominence when their father’s health takes a turn for the worse.
AMERICAN & BRITISH
The series is set in Manhattan, New York and is executively produced by US comic actors Adam McKay and Will Ferrell. It was created by British showrunner Jesse Armstrong, who previously worked with Britons Armando Iannucci (creator of Veep) and Charlie Brooker (creator of Black Mirror). Succession employs a variety of directors and ten staff writers, half British and half American, with a roughly equal proportion of men to women. As such, gendered experiences are carefully covered, and the Roys display both American and British characteristics.
Succession is particularly acclaimed for its writing: the dialogue is defined by linguistic sparring, especially that of trading elaborate insults — a peculiarly British tradition. However the Roy’s love of money and their bombastic competitivity is more typically associated with US corporate culture. As Armstrong explains in a presentation for season four, Succession is a show about business dynamics in an increasingly unpredictable age, but it is also about family, which explains its universal appeal.
Jesse Armstrong (English accent): The business dynamics are a big engine of the show, and in the writing room we talk a lot about families, and the stuff of this family is not alien to families. It’s not like they’re plumbing some devilish depths of depravity that have never been known to humanity. They’re pretty normal, it’s their level of power and influence that is abnormal.
Both McKay and Mark Mylod direct a number of the episodes across all seasons. As Mylod explains, unlike many series, a conscious decision was made to undermine the positive effects of wealth. He uses the final scene of season three as an example.
Mark Mylod (English accent): We do have a very specific policy to try not to fetishize the wealth. You’ll notice that the characters rarely, if ever, acknowledge their surroundings in any positive way. With that particular finale scene… that was carefully chosen, we’d looked at a lot more impressive and beautiful rooms. That one felt like a mausoleum, it felt like a tomb. And that just felt right.
AS GOOD AS IT GETS
The cast give brilliant performances: Australian actor Sarah Snook plays Shiv, Logan’s cruel if competent daughter. US actors Jeremy Strong and Kieran Culkin play her spoilt deeply-insecure brothers, Kendall and brattish Roman. Alan Ruck plays Connor, who while seeminglylaid back is as entitled as the rest of them. Kendall spends much of seasons one to three in conflict with his father. Strong spoke about the pressure of doing justice to the script.
Jeremy Strong (American accent): All of us often feel when we open these scripts that we’re reading the best material we might ever get to work on. And then I think you feel a tremendous responsibility to not fuck it up. As an actor, whatever you might be able to do is entirely dependent on the person you’re in the scene with. So when you get to be in a scene with Brian, it’s ... it’s as good as it gets.
SECOND TO NONE
Both Cox and Strong won Golden Globes for their performances. Cox praised the writing team and the directors for making Succession the success that it has been. He says it has set a high standard for future seasons and future series.
Brian Cox (Scottish accent): It is impeccably written and impeccably directed. The writing team are second to none and he (Mylod) understands, without being theatrical, the theatrical nature of a scene. And he shoots it in such a way that he has as much variation as possible, but the actual line of the scene is always on the nail every time.It’s a brilliant piece of work.
ROYS IN REAL LIFE
Supporting roles in Succession are equally enticing. Logan’s middle-aged second-in-command, Gerry, is entangled with the family, and has a disturbing relationship with Roman. Tom is Shiv’s passive-aggressive husband, and Greg is Logan’s opportunistic great-nephew. Martia is Logan’s third wife, a seemingly loyal woman, who only Logan trusts. There is also Willa, an aspiring playwright who Connor has paid to go out with him. Her fictional Broadway play Sands, a flop in the series, was brought to the New York stage in real life! In fact, the contemporary relevance of Succession has been much discussed by present-day publications grappling with the uncertain future of the old media industry in light of the social media revolution. The Atlantic, The New Yorker and the UK’s The Guardian, as well as press worldwide, all delight in analysing the show’s twisted storylines. Real-life figures Rupert Murdoch, the ninety-two-year-old Australian-American head of News Corp (the company behind Fox News), the late Robert Maxwell (father to convicted sex offender Ghislaine), and South African business magnate Elon Musk have all been cited as sources of inspiration for the Roys.