Alexander Skarsgård on his Emmy-nominated role in Succession

30 May 2023

Alexander Skarsgård on his Emmy-nominated role in Succession

All four seasons of Succession are now available to binge on Showmax, after last night’s brilliant 83-minute finale, which “confirms it as one of the greatest shows ever made,” according to Empire. 

Created by Oscar nominee Jesse Armstrong (Veep), Succession has already won 13 Emmys, including Outstanding Drama Series in 2020 and 2022, but Season 4 may just be its most loved yet: it’s currently the most popular show in the world on IMDb, with Indiewire hailing it as “the end all, be all of TV.” 

Watch the trailer for Succession Season 4

We spoke to Alexander Skarsgård (Big Little Lies, The Northman, True Blood) about his Emmy-nominated role as tech visionary Lukas Matsson, the Roy siblings’ main rival for control of the media and entertainment conglomerate Waystar Royco this season. 

Lukas Matsson has a way of er … standing out at the Roy gatherings. How did you arrive at his look?

There was something about the juxtaposition between the Roys’ immaculately dressed, understated, classy wealth, nothing ostentatious – that world that Succession exists in. And not only of the Roys, but all their sycophants, everyone around them. Because they obviously dress like the Roys because they want to look like their idols. I thought it’d be refreshing and interesting if Matsson comes in with a completely different energy. 

Alexander Skarsgard as Lukas Matsson in Succession S4

We started a little bit last season when, in the big negotiation scene with Logan, Matsson rolls up in flip-flops and an old worn T-shirt and sweatpants. That set the tone for the character. That outfit was actually my personal clothes that I came to base camp in that morning. I really wanted something casual, because I thought it’d be funny if Matsson went into a big, massive negotiation between two media companies with bare feet, basically. 

And we didn’t really find anything on the truck. Everything looked a bit like a costume. So I asked Jonathan Schwartz, the [assistant] costume designer, if I could just wear my own clothes that I came to set with that morning. And we showed Jesse and he quite enjoyed it. So that’s how I ended up in my own clothes… And that’s how we ended up with that golden bomber jacket [in episode 7 of this season].

Let’s talk about episode five, Kill List. Having Kieran Culkin tear into you: how was that moment to film? 

Oh, it was thoroughly enjoyable. Matsson enjoys it so much because Roman’s unhinged. It’s a tense moment [while] they’re negotiating and Roman’s revealing too much. That’s why Matsson keeps pushing those buttons because he knows that if he can get Roman unhinged, he will admit to the fact that he’s trying to tank the deal. And Roman does. 

What’s your take on the death of Logan so early in the series? 

We’re accustomed to a certain narrative approach to killing off the main character – it’s a build-up, and it’s a climactic moment, and you can almost sense it coming. This is so unexpected, and it happens off-camera. 

I’m not in that episode, so I was watching it as an audience member. And I think I can say that, in my opinion, it’s one of the greatest hours of television ever made. It’s absolutely extraordinary. Because it felt so confusing. You felt like it really happened for real and you were there with the siblings. It had a very almost mundane quality to it, which was so eerie and uncomfortable and scary. 

I think that also made it feel real, because that’s often how you find out about a very traumatic event that will haunt you for the rest of your life. It’s sometimes very trivial, the way you find out, and confusing, and you hear it when you’re just going about your day, and it’s out of the blue. Then you have a hard time comprehending the information you just received. And what do you do with that? 

But he’s extraordinary, Jesse, the fact that, again, he kills off his protagonist that way, and then he ends this show after four years instead of just lingering and milking it and overstaying your welcome. I have a tremendous amount of respect for that decision. 

There’s obviously been a delicious dance between yours and Sarah Snook’s character over this final season. What do you think a Shiv and Lucas future together would look like? 

I’ve really enjoyed exploring that with Sarah this season, because it’s also so beautifully written, and it’s so open to interpretation. I’ve heard some people say that there’s a lot of sexual tension and sexual energy – they think at some point they’re going to end up in bed together. And some people feel like Matsson is just playing her and taking advantage of her. Some people feel like it’s the opposite, that she has no respect for Matsson and is just using him. Others have got a bazillion different thoughts and ideas of where this relationship will end. It’s always more fun when a relationship on screen is open to interpretation, because that makes the audience lean in and engage, and have their own interpretation of it. I obviously can’t, or want to, speak to where that is actually going or where it’s heading. But, again, it excites me that people are interpreting it differently. Because then, if they do that, we’ve done something right.

What is Matsson really in this for? 

I kinda want to say the thrill of it all. He’s definitely not in it for the money. He’s a gambler. The higher the stakes, the more exciting for him. Hence, this whole merger, this whole deal, this whole acquisition: the thought of buying such a legacy, family-owned company, like Waystar Royco, is so juicy and so lovely for him. The fact that we can just buy them and pull them into GoJo. The financial incentive is not even top 10 for Matsson. 

Again, it’s high stakes gambling, and that’s what drives him forward and moves him. He’ll always try to do the impossible, and push boundaries, and do something people say can’t be done, or shouldn’t be done. Because he is an agent of chaos and can flirt with that disaster. So it’s exciting for him. 

Watch Succession on Showmax. 

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