“He wants to crush his siblings” – Kieran Culkin on SuccessionWatch now
Kieran Culkin plays Roman, the youngest child of the patriarch and media titan Logan Roy in HBO’s Succession.
Kieran Culkin was nominated for the 2020 Best Supporting Actor Emmy as Roman Roy in Succession, the multi-award-winning HBO drama series about four very rich siblings behaving very badly while trying to win their father’s approval – and control of his company, a global media and entertainment empire.
With the first five episodes of Succession S3 now on Showmax, we caught up with Kieran to find out more about the hit show, which is currently at #4 on IMDb’s Most Popular TV Show list and has a 98% critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
How did we leave Roman at the end of the last season?
It’s a bit complicated for Roman. There’s a not-so-healthy dose of competitiveness within the siblings. I think he wants to win – and not just win but crush his siblings.
And at the end of the last season, when he saw what was supposed to happen to Kendall, in that he was supposed to take the fall, he thought that also could have been a nice opportunity – in that he gets a promotion. He’s in a good position going forward in terms of the company, and it’s what he’s been angling for.
But equally, while Roman wanted to crush Kendall, he didn’t really want to see him crushed to that extent. So Roman couldn’t really enjoy the moment.
How would you describe Roman’s state of mind at the start of the third season?
Combat, I guess. There’s a picking-sides thing going on, but from the start it’s pretty clear what side Roman is on. It’s competition and Roman is good at that – that’s his comfy zone. Having feelings of sadness for Kendall is not a nice comfort zone for him. But now: ‘Oh good, Kendall’s the bad guy – I can fight. That’s a nice feeling. We’re back!’
Roman has had a profusion of particularly choice lines in the show, brilliant examples of the brilliant language of Succession. But as well as finely calibrated scripts, the actors are given the chance to riff and improvise as well. How rewarding, but also challenging, is it to have both great lines but also some improvisatory freedom?
It’s good. I know that the written word is great, and it works, and we do it, and that’s the show. And sometimes I’ll ask one of our directors: ‘Did we get it? Okay, we got it, it’s in the show – I can play now.’ It’s like: I know that the scene is good. Now I have the freedom to fail, because it just doesn’t matter. The show has been filmed: now you’re just going to film me doing some crap that isn’t going to make it!
The Hollywood Reporter describes Gerri as “a strange hybrid of mother figure and psychosexual foil to the deeply damaged Roman” – fair comment?
Ha ha ha! That’s a pretty good assessment there, I got to say! I don’t know how to elaborate on that one.
How are those scenes to film with J Smith-Cameron?
I love working with J. She’s one of my favourites ever to work with. She’s incredibly talented, and I’ve seen her work on stage a lot and she’s always just fantastic. We were friends for years before we started doing this. To have that bond and respect with someone is really helpful. Going in I already know it’s a safe zone, that we like each other and that we make each other laugh. So knowing I have a scene partner that I can trust, that’s a friend, who’s also incredibly talented, and likes to play, is just fantastic.
Roman has a thing where he enters a room and never just sits down. He’s hanging off the bannister, or looking out the window, or perched on the arm of the chair. What is it about the character that he has prowling physicality?
I don’t know; I try not to analyse it. I could probably give some clever answer here to make myself sound smart. But I try not to put words to it just yet because we’re still doing it. I don’t know what the hell that is. But maybe when the show is over I can start figuring it out and talking about why he has that energy.
What’s it like being on the end of, or even in the vicinity of, Brian’s volcanic rage as Logan?
God, he’s fantastic! He can be quite an intimidating presence but, when there are these outbursts that Logan has, I don’t have to make any effort to come up with some kind of reaction or wonder what Roman thinks of it. It’s just Dad shouting.
Watch Season 1-3 of Succession on Showmax now.