“If you’re gonna break up with me, just do it already”: Kieran Culkin on Season 4 of Succession

12 April 2023

“If you’re gonna break up with me, just do it already”: Kieran Culkin on Season 4 of Succession

With 13 Emmys under its belt already, including Outstanding Drama Series in 2020 and 2022, Succession is back for its fourth season, first on Showmax, with media billionaire Logan Roy’s sale of Waystar Royco to tech visionary Lukas Matsson (Alexander Skarsgård) looming ever closer. It’s a prospect that provokes existential angst and familial division among the Roy children as they anticipate their diminished cultural and political influence once the deal is completed.

Created by Oscar nominee Jesse Armstrong (Veep), Succession is the 69th highest-rated show of all time on IMDb. Season 4 has a rare 100% critics’ ratings on Rotten Tomatoes, with Vulture calling Succession “a shining example of the best qualities of TV” and Indiewire hailing it as “the end all, be all of TV.” 

Watch Kieran Culkin in Succession Season 4 trailer

We spoke to Kieran Culkin about the acclaimed show and his Emmy-nominated role as Roman Roy. 

Did you know this would be the final season while filming?

There was that feeling all the way through when we were doing four. We had a meeting at the start where Jesse told me that he thought it’s the end, but he wasn’t sure. And then he just explained to me the entire season. When he finished, I said: “Well, that to me sort of sounds like the end.” And he goes: “It could be, but the story can go like this…” 

And he threw out three different ideas – that he said was off the top of his head – that were [each] a brilliant season five idea. And he said: “I don’t know; we’ll just have to see.” So as we went along, there was sort of a “will he, won’t he?” feeling. 

So doing the read for [episode] 10 felt like this could be a good [ending], or there could be more. Then when he made that announcement, I actually kind of felt a sense of relief in a way. A closure. Just like: “Good. If you’re gonna break up with me, just do it already. Don’t leave me hanging.” 

So that’s what I felt. But people had very different reactions. 

At the start of this new season, Roman says he is the only one who wants to start a new business for business reasons. Why is that? 

[Unlike Kendall or Shiv] he doesn’t want to f*ck anyone. Um, they accuse him of being afraid of dad, which would be… legit. Because I think, as Tom says in the last season: “I’ve never seen him eat shit once”, or something like that. Like, Logan never loses. So there is that. 

Kieran Culkin plays Roman Roy in Succession

But I don’t think that that’s Roman’s fear. I think there’s something very exciting to him about working with his siblings. Because outside of there being some sort of business to talk about, there really isn’t any reason for them to get together. And Roman doesn’t really have much else – or anyone else – in his life. 

I don’t think he has a tonne of friends. I don’t think he really has the capacity, based on his childhood and the way he was raised, to just be able to express himself emotionally and say: “Hey, I kind of miss you, can we hang out?” I don’t think that would happen. He even tries to approach that at one point and says: “Can we talk to each other normally?” And they just make fun of him. They just don’t know how to communicate. 

So I think when they got cut out [by Logan], it’s like: “Oh, no, what are we going to do? What am I going to do? I don’t have any family. I don’t have friends. I got you guys, and I don’t know how to communicate with you.” So the idea of starting a business together is great. 

And now taking that [idea] and going in this direction shows that we can lose – and we can lose everything. And dad’s very good at pitting us against each other. So I think there’s a lot of fears like that for Roman. 

Brian Cox is of the opinion that Roman is the most business-minded, and has the most potential. But his potty mouth gets in the way. 

Well, I mean, Logan has the biggest potty mouth! Worse than Roman, I would say. And look at how far that got him. 

This is true. Does that potential make Roman, of all the children, the most likely successor at this point? 

I would say so. And I have been saying it for a couple of years. If it had to be given to one of his children, I do think Roman is in the best position for it. 

It’s funny that Brian said the most “business-minded”. Maybe that’s right. I don’t think he has a firm grasp on how all business works. But he’s seen the way that dad handles business. And if Roman tried to work through the ranks, the way that some people do in the company, I don’t think that would work. He would have to do it the way Logan did it, [which is] start the company. 

I think if he were handed that [opportunity], I think he could do it. Because he’s the most like his father, in terms of having a lot of bluster, blagging things and making hard decisions. And having a clear vision on what you want, without trying to reinvent the wheel. Which I think is what his other kids would try to do. Which is where they fail. 

Why, though, currently, is Logan seeming to favour Matsson over any of his kids? 

Ha! Why? I don’t think he even particularly likes Matsson, or even fully understands him. But he understands Matsson’s nature and [his] trying to take over, and [his experience] running his own business and things like that. But that’s why he needs Roman – he needs a buffer and a translator to understand Mattson. 

Kieran Culkin as Roman Roy in Succession

My guess, given the way season three ended, was a little more like: “I can’t give it to any of my children. They’re not willing… and it should be me. But I guess, if I’m getting on in years, and it needs to end, then it ends with me. I’m done. I’ll let this guy buy it.” In other words: “I’m done.” 

But who succeeds? Who gets the company? My guess from the beginning has always been: fucking Logan. And season three ends with dad confirming… my idea. “Nobody gets it. It’s me.” 

In this upcoming series, is there more mileage in the Roman/Gerri so-called relationship? 

Tune in, motherf*cker! You’ll have to see! 

I love sparring with J! What’s great about it is, this show in general never does a heavy lean into anything. It sort of leans away a bit. So when there’s something like that – when there’s something happening with these two characters – they like to play with it a little. There’s never a full lean in or away. There’s never a full relationship. Nor is there a big blow-out. It’s nice to play in that area, without defining it. 

Finally: do you come away from this show liking Roman? 

I don’t know. Yeah. I mean… I don’t know. No. Do you like yourself? No, see? It’s sort of that. You get to sort of be him a bit, and then it’s not that nice. But I don’t know. He is who he is. I’ll miss him, I guess…

Season 4’s returning cast also includes Matthew Macfadyen and Jeremy Strong in their Emmy-winning roles as Tom Wambsgans and Kendall Roy respectively, alongside Brian Cox as Logan Roy, Sarah Snook as Shiv Roy, Nicholas Braun as Greg Hirsch, and J Smith-Cameron as Gerri Kellman – all Emmy-nominated performances.

Binge the first two episodes of Succession on Showmax now, with new episodes on Mondays.  

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