Jeremy Strong talks Kendall Roy on SuccessionWatch full episodes now
In Succession, Jeremy Strong embodies the contradictions of Kendall Roy, the ruthless yet powerless heir apparent.
HBO satirical drama series Succession (2018-current, stream seasons 1 and 2 on Showmax here, with Season 3 coming to Showmax soon) is a very visceral (and very entertaining) look at the dysfunctional Roy family – and it’s a metaphor for society, explains Brian Cox, who plays ailing business magnate and patriarch Logan Roy. Jeremy Strong plays his son Kendall, the heir apparent and desperate for his father’s approval.
Where to stream Succession
Update: Succession S3 is streaming first on Showmax express from the US from 18 October 2021, with new episodes weekly until 13 December. Binge S1-2 in the meantime.
Kendall Roy snapshot: His wife, son and daughter, personal life and family
- Kendall Roy is Logan Roy’s second-oldest son, after Connor and before Shiv and Roman.
- He went to Harvard University. He has long struggled with addiction.
- His estranged wife is Rava, with whom he has two children, Iverson and Sophie.
- He has other relationships, including with Jennifer – who he dumps for saying awesome too often – and Wayster Royco exec Naomi.
Jeremy Strong on Kendall Roy
Although he can be calculating and heartless, actor Jeremy Strong feels sorry for Kendall Roy, his character on the hit HBO show Succession.
Do you feel sorry for Kendall?
The way I’ve experienced Kendall’s struggle is with a lot of… yeah, when I read these episodes when they come in, I certainly feel a sense of how difficult it is for him. He has not had an easy time. And I think he’s been very damaged and tossed – he’s really been put through the wringer, and he doesn’t know how to cope. I think he has the capacity to be as ruthless as his father is, once his father is out of the way.
But in the laser beam of his father’s withering scrutiny, Kendall has a hard time standing in his own power. But I think he will. I also think he’s a much more sensitive and introspective person than his father – not that any of us in the Roy family are all that introspective. But I do think Kendall is sensitive. He didn’t really have a mother to raise or nurture him, and his father speaks only the language of strength and dominance. I certainly feel for that person.
Has it been difficult portraying all the nuances of the character?
That, in a way, is the great joy of it. As an actor, you’re always looking for material that is going to take you across the gamut of experiences and emotions… So yes, it’s been incredibly challenging. But there has been a progression – when we first see [Kendall] rapping in the car, trying to puff himself up, he’s quite fatuous, half-authentic, if that. Then he gets spun around so many times and put through the spin cycle, that his identity becomes forged in that adversity. But, yeah, that’s been the gift of this show for me, and also the great challenge. Because you don’t want to short-change any of it.
But I can relate to him. I’m very different, and I come from nothing like what Kendall comes from. But I see this story as the archetypal story of ambition, and I can relate to that – and frustrated ambition, and having heroes, and having a desire to prove oneself, but not feel good enough or have doubt.
I read an interview with Lachlan Murdoch where he said: ‘It’s not easy to wake up and be me, to go to work and to summon a confidence that might not actually be there. But you have to have it. You have to live up the role that you’ve been assigned.’ So that’s something I can relate to – cause I have to live up to this.
To what do you ascribe the success of the show?
Jesse Armstrong, the show’s creator, writer and executive producer. It’s not really a quantifiable thing but it’s Jesse’s heart and soul, in a way. When you talk to him you get a sense of that.
He has such a moral centre and a decency, but also such a great sense of humour. And he has such keen insight into people. Jesse has real depth. So I ascribe it to him. Also, I think audiences are starved for something that makes a real sound, as opposed to noise. And I’d like to think that with this show, we’re committed to and striving to make a genuine sound.
To try and tell a story really honestly about these people. It’s set in this rarefied world, but I think it’s very much a story about individuation and family struggle. The two great drives in life are love or power. And this show is about both of those, in the way they intersect and sometimes collide with each other.
And also when power becomes the greater drive, that can create a toxic thing. And in the nucleus of a family like this, which is so powerful in the world, that toxicity can become very dangerous. Like some very powerful families that are in the world right now …
Is it difficult to control yourself in the more improvised scenes?
Well, at least right now, my character is less volatile and not as jokey as Roman. I think Kendall is pretty serious. I don’t think he’s humourless, but I think he errs on the side of seriousness.
I read a detail in one of the books about how James Murdoch ties his shoelaces very tightly. It’s just one of those [little] things that gives you a whole lot. There’s an aggression that Kendall has, a sense of control. You know, he’s an addict, and one of the ways that manifests itself so he doesn’t go into total chaos is he needs to keep a real handle on things, and be in control. Because he could spin off into chaos very, very quickly. So his addiction, in a sense, has become an addiction for power, and control.
Are we seeing new things from Kendall in Season 2?
I think so. This is really the only thing that can be redemptive in terms of the rung on the ladder that might bring a person back to life, but I think we see some love stories which we didn’t see [before]. That was certainly something I felt happy about when it started happening. Because at the end of the first season, Kendall lost anything that was essential to him – his drive, his sense of integrity… So to regain something again positive, love might be the only thing that would bring a person back.