“She’s pretty cold. I don’t think she’s cold to the core.” – Sarah Snook talks Shiv and Succession
What it takes to play Shiv Roy, the only daughter of Logan Roy in HBO’s Succession.
HBO’s award-winning drama series Succession, now in its second season, follows the insanely wealthy Roy family, owners of Waystar Royco, one of the biggest media businesses in the world. Lead by ageing patriarch Logan Roy (Brain Cox), the series is filled with back-stabbing power games as his offspring jostle for power.
Season 2 starts off with Logan firmly on top, but his iron-clad grip on control may not be as strong as he thinks it is.
We recently caught up with multi-award-winning Australian actress Sarah Snook (The Dressmaker) to find out more about her role as Logan’s only daughter Siobhan “Shiv” Roy.
How is your relationship with Shiv?
I certainly have a lot of empathy for her. As the actor playing her, you have to love her and her many flaws, but she’s a lot of fun to play and I’ve learnt a lot from her.
What was hard for you playing her?
Just to be as confident as she is! Just as direct, straight down the line, no-nonsense: that I found fun to play, and difficult at first.
Do you think Shiv is cold?
She’s pretty cold. I don’t think she’s cold to the core; she’s probably quite troubled and complex. And she has a lot of fear of being vulnerable. So that’s a mask in between.
She’s always scheming…
Yeah, she’s always trying to find the upper hand, in any way she can.
“She’s always trying to find the upper hand, in any way she can.”
She seems to be on a political trajectory in Season 1 but is she also attracted to the family business?
Yeah – if one [sibling] is succeeding in some area of the family business, the others are envious and will try to get in on that as well. Shiv, for a very long time, kept herself busy in politics because it’s safer to succeed and fail outside because it’s on her own terms.
It’s scarier to do that within the family, so she’s been reluctant to do that for a while.
What drove her to her marriage with Tom [Matthew Macfadyen in a Critics Choice-nominated role]?
Yeah, a lot of people get confused by this union! I think it’s kinda great, in that it’s such an unusual partnership, but there’s some deep need between them. Without each other they’d probably fall apart in some kind of way. With Shiv it’s less obvious that she needs him, but actually really deep down she does.
We see that more in the second season; we see how he’s the only person she can actually be vulnerable in front of. He’s probably the only person who sees her off-kilter and a little bit out of control.
Is Shiv connected to one brother more than another?
Yes and no. In different ways. On a business level she’s probably more connected to Kendall [Screen Actors Guild nominee Jeremy Strong from The Big Short].
Then on maybe a friendship, silliness, sibling trust level, she’s probably more connected to Roman [Kieran Culkin in a Golden Globe-nominated performance].
And in some ways she probably had Connor [Alan Ruck from Speed and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off] raising her as a father figure, to a point, when she was younger. So she has uses or needs from each of the brothers, for different reasons.
Why do you think Succession has resonated so well?
I think partly because of the divide at the moment, between the uber-wealthy and people on the poverty line, struggling to get by. This show particularly doesn’t paint wealth as aspirational.
It paints it as: “We all have universal problems – the love of a parent or the validation of a spouse – and wealth to that is inconsequential.” You can be extremely wealthy and have that problem, or you can be very poor and have that same problem.
Have you had to learn about American wealth to make this show?
Oh yeah – and just wealth, full-stop. It certainly doesn’t make you happy. You get to a certain point where you’ve got enough for your food, shelter and basic necessities, the prosperity of your children… That’s probably all you need, but we humans are specifically driven to more and more accumulation of whatever it is you’re pursuing.
For them, it seems to be wealth – or, at least, power. It seems that once you have enough wealth, the real commodity is power.