“Trust me, it’s gonna be great.” Kieran Culkin talks Succession
In Succession, Kieran Culkin comes into his own. He gives us some insight into the role.
Roman Roy, the character Kieran Culkin inhabits in Succession, couldn’t be further from the role that first made him famous: Kevin’s adorable little cousin in Home Alone. But that was nearly 30 years ago, and the actor – and the world – has come a long way.
Succession, which is currently #3 on Rotten Tomatoes’ list of the Best TV Shows of 2019 So Far, is very much of the moment, immersed as it is in today’s political quagmire. It’s relevant, it’s bitingly funny, and it’s got critics and audiences applauding.
The HBO drama, which is streaming First on Showmax, follows the dysfunctional Roy family, who control one of the biggest media and entertainment conglomerates in the world. With patriarch Logan Roy ageing and ailing, his four adult children jockeyed for position throughout Season 1. As Season 2 picks up, the Roys are struggling to retain control of their empire in a rapidly changing media landscape.
Kieran Culkin plays Romulus “Roman” Roy, Logan’s youngest son, and an irresponsible schemer. The extreme wealth he’s been surrounded by his entire life hasn’t served him well, and he’s spoiled and immature.
He was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Golden Globe for his role, and he’s not alone. His castmate Matthew Macfadyen (aka Mr Darcy in Pride & Prejudice) was up for a Critics’ Choice Award as his brother-in-law-to-be, Tom.
The cast of Succession is rounded out by the likes of Golden Globe nominee Brian Cox (Adaptation, X-Men 2, Deadwood) as Logan, Screen Actors Guild nominee Jeremy Strong (The Big Short) as Kendall, and multi-award winners like Hiam Abbas (Ramy, Blade Runner 2049) and Sarah Snook (The Dressmaker), not to mention Nicholas Braun (10 Things I Hate About You, The Perks Of Being a Wallflower) as the scene-stealing Cousin Greg and Oscar winner Holly Hunter, who joins the cast in Season 2 as Rhea Jarrell, the CEO of a rival media giant.
Earlier this year, the HBO drama won Best International Series at the BAFTAs and TV Program of the Year at AFI, on the way to winning Emmys for Jesse Armstrong’s screenwriting and Nicholas Britell’s main title theme music.
We recently caught up with Kieran to find out more.
How would you describe Roman?
Early on, the one character choice I made was that Roman’s the kind of guy who walks into any room and feels comfortable in it. He’ll make himself comfortable even if he’s being made to feel otherwise.
Is Roman the funniest character?
There’s an underlying comedy to most of the show. He might get more jokey things because he’s the kind of guy who will just say what comes to his mind, no matter how repulsive or offensive it might be. Most of the time he starts his sentences without having any idea where it’s gonna go.
People think he’s kind of a dum-dum. Maybe he doesn’t quite know all the stuff. But he can take a beating, take a good lashing and just bounce right back and he’s fine…Kieran Culkin on Roman Roy
Is Roman ambitious?
He is. He’s driven to a certain degree, and really wants that job – but he doesn’t know what the job is! He doesn’t even know how to learn how to do that job. He thinks he can blag it. ‘If you give me the job, trust me, it’s gonna be great.’ He’s lived his whole life like that. To a certain degree, I think that’s a good quality, to run a business this way. I mean, not really, it would be a disaster. But in a few years, after a few steps, I think he could. As he says in the first season, ‘I’m dumb but I’m smart. I know there are problems but I don’t know how to fix it – but somebody can fix it.’
How does Roman evolve in Season 2?
What I’ve learned about him, and he’s learned about himself a little bit, is how actually resilient he is. People think he’s kind of a dum-dum. Maybe he doesn’t quite know all the stuff. But he can take a beating, take a good lashing and just bounce right back and he’s fine… without it having to be a great big drama. ‘Nothing’s too serious, nothing really matters, nothing really has consequences – so, fuck it, I’m just gonna keep going!’ Which is a lot of fun to play.
Why is Succession such a success?
It really all starts with the writers, what they come up with and their brilliant dialogue. Jesse [Armstrong, the creator] has a really good bullshit-ometer: it’s really sensitive and really on-point. He can’t help but be funny, but it has to make sense – be a real thing that they would say. Sometimes we’ll do things in rehearsals that’re funny but he says, no, that’s not what would happen. He’s got the right sensibility.
The socio, cultural and political resonances help?
It sure can. There is something about this that feels right for now…