HBO’s “Succession” delves into the inner workings of a fictional media empire owned by the Roys, New York City’s newest dysfunctional television family.
Emmy-winning actor Brian Cox stars in the leading role as patriarch Logan Roy who’s looking to step down as CEO of the thriving Waystar Royko digital media company. His four children — Shiv (Sarah Snook), Roman (Kieran Culkin), Connor (Alan Ruck) and Kendall (Jeremy Strong) — are all up for consideration as his replacement, causing massive amounts of drama among a clan vying for dad’s affection, and the company’s top spot.
A few minutes into the series, you’ll probably make a mental comparison to media mogul Rupert Murdoch, but the cast insists no connection is intentional. The Roys may also remind you of an intense version of the Bluths (“Arrested Development”), though they offer a unique money-hungry sense of privilege that darkens the series’ drama sending them into a league of their own.
We sat down with the actors who portray two of the Roy brothers, “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” actor Alan Ruck and “Home Alone’s” Kieran Culkin, to discuss the new series’ arc.
“Succession” airs new episodes Sundays at 10 p.m. on HBO.
What makes the Roy family so dysfunctional?
Kieran Culkin: What isn’t a dysfunctional family? A functional family.
Alan Ruck: It’s a family that owns everything and they’re horrid bastards. It’s pretty much true. I mean, we own motion picture studios. We own newspapers, radio stations, studios, magazines, theme parks. We’ve got a lot of money and we’re pretty miserable.
Everyone has their eyes on the prize. Let’s talk about the power dynamic struggle that seems to be tearing this family apart.
A.R.: Kendall is supposed to take over the company and then the old man (Logan) has second thoughts. Part of that is that he doesn’t have complete confidence in Kendall, but also it’s that he doesn’t want to give it up. He’s 80 years old, but he’s like, “what else am I going to do?” Connor has no interest in the family business other than receiving the checks. Connor is very interested in the money and has no aptitude for business. He just isn’t capable.
K.C.: Whereas, I think Roman does have an interest in taking over the company, but just doesn’t feel the need to work for it or even know what that means. He has no idea what having that type of job entails, but I think he’d love that position.
Kieran, as you’re making your TV debut with “Succession,” what attracted you to the role?
K.C.: I don’t ever really know why I like something or why I feel like I can play a certain character and not others. There have been times when I’ve been approached by people to pursue a character and I’m like, I can’t, I don’t know what the thing is. I can’t play that guy. And this, I just read it. Well, this pilot was actually sent to me to play another character and I didn’t click with it at all. But I said, “I’d like to read for Roman.”
Which character were you originally asked to play?
K.C.: Greg, (played by Nicholas Braun) which I was already, I was too old for in the first place and it just didn’t feel right at all. There was no part of me that felt I can do it. Whereas Roman, now that I’ve done it for like a year or whatever, I might be able to have some perspective and it’s actually really fun to play somebody who can say whatever they’re thinking, no matter how inappropriate and be able to get away with it and not have to suffer any consequences. It’s kind of fun. Although it’s weird to like go home and be like, wait, no, don’t say that because that’s me, not Roman. But I can still do it in the privacy of my own home.
Your character definitely adds that bit of needed comic relief to an otherwise dark script.
K.C.: I would say it’s more that he can’t deal with anything being too serious, which is why he does it. That’s what I think about anybody who makes inappropriate jokes. I have a friend who’s always the first guy to bring something up. If there’s any tension in the room, he’ll make a joke about like September 11th because nobody likes it. It’s to break the tension because he doesn’t know how to deal with them on the being serious. I saw Roman a bit like that … life has been no consequences. It’s all life has been for him. He’s a billionaire. He takes this job, sucks at it and it doesn’t matter. Say whatever you want, be really inappropriate, say sexist things and he gets away with it.
Setting this series in New York City gives the representation of the business world a cutthroat vibe. Do you think the location adds to the script?
A.R.: This is the seat of financial power, at least for the United States, if not the Western world. I mean, where else is? My mother is supposed to be from a New York family, an old money New York family. The old man married her and he was a brash young guy making money in the ‘60s. I think it’s that kind of power marriage, that didn’t work out well. There’s something to that, an old East Coast money mentality that makes it interesting.