“It really has changed my life.” Sarah Snook on playing Shiv in Succession

3 May 2023

“It really has changed my life.” Sarah Snook on playing Shiv in Succession

With 13 Emmys under its belt already, including Outstanding Drama Series in 2020 and 2022, Succession returns 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 Sarah Snook in the Succession Season 4 trailer

We spoke to Sarah Snook about the show and her Emmy-nominated role as Logan’s only daughter and would-be Roy empire heiress, Siobhan, aka Shiv.

Why is Succession ending? 

Jesse is a pretty smart guy. When he sees that something is really good and hasn’t yet faltered or slipped or failed in a dramatic way, it’s pretty bold to take it out when it’s at the top. He’s never been pressured to make commercial decisions. That’s a pretty rare experience. And I think, yeah, he’s making the right decision. 

Kieran says when you were all told about the end of the show, you were hit pretty hard…

Yeah, I was! I was really upset. I’d only just finished reading the episode in the car on the way to the read-through. And it was strange, because I felt like, “Oh, well, it’s definitely done, seeing how it ends here [on the page].” But then, when I got there, Matthew was like: “So! Sounds positive! Doesn’t seem like it’s gonna end!” Then when we got in, Jesse told us it was ending. That’s hard to hear definitively. But also it was good, because I did all my grieving, and catharsis, and crying, then, and then was able to enjoy the shooting of episode 10 more. 

How satisfied are you with the conclusion of Shiv’s story over these upcoming 10 episodes? 

As an actor, totally satisfied. Absolutely. There’s been so much complexity and interesting angles to play, and scenes and emotions. And there’s a sense, really, that the characters will go on beyond the final curtain. I really appreciate that from Jesse. 

Sarah Snook in Succession Season 4 on Showmax

In your recent interview in the LA Times, Jesse talked about how last season ended with Tom’s betrayal of Shiv by siding with Logan. How was it for you to play that – and play that wordlessly? 

Oh, great! You follow your instincts a lot with the writing being so good. It’s like a net. You definitely feel supported by it. If you just let yourself go into it, then amazing things can happen. Magic can come out of that. Yeah, the end of Season 3 is a pretty earth-shattering moment for Shiv! 

Speaking of heavy emotion: the opening episode of Season 4 features a devastating scene between Tom and Shiv in their apartment. What are your memories of filming that scene? 

That was one of our first scenes back to shoot. Shiv has such a mask up, and defences and walls. She’s so interested in being invulnerable. Even with all the statements that she puts out – “we should break up”, “we should not be together” – even though she’s saying them blandly, she’s wanting Tom to disagree with her in a way. The fact that he doesn’t each time is a little knife. It’s another shatter. There’s just such a miscommunication between them going on. There’s a desperate need for each other, but an inability to express that need. 

Compared to her brothers, how does Shiv feel towards Logan at the start of Season 4? 

I don’t think she’s particularly more or less empathetic towards her father. I think she feels just as betrayed by him as she does by her mum, and also by Tom. She feels a little bit naked in terms of her family relationships. There’s not too many people she can turn to in the family. And she’s stuck with her brothers for the first time, in a way. And that’s unfamiliar territory. 

Jeremy Strong, Sarah Snook and Kieran Culkin in Season 4 of Succession on Showmax

Does she feel a deeper hatred because she’s the only daughter, and she’s been marginalised by the patriarchy more than her brothers? 

I think for sure, definitely. She’s very similar to Logan in a lot of ways. One of those ways is that Logan comes from a background of feeling like he was the underdog. He had to fight for what he got, he had to work his way up, and scrap and get to the top in the way that he did. Because he had something to fight against. Shiv, in a similar way, has that to fight against in her family dynamic. She’s got her father, and her brothers. And being the only woman in a male-dominated industry [means] circumstances are against her. And she has ambitions, so she has to fight against all those. 

Forty episodes, 40 hours: what’s been your favourite scene to film? 

Oh, there’s a lot! Anything with Matthew or Kieran have been highlights. They’re always the most fun. And any scene where we have the four siblings together. 

What can viewers expect from this final season? 

It comes out like a bull out the gate. It’s pretty relentless. There’s high drama, high stakes. It’s a very conflict-heavy season, and [full of] their attempts to resolve those conflicts. 

Matthew Macfadyen in Succession Season 4 on Showmax
Matthew Macfadyen as Tom Wambsgans

How did you feel filming your final scene? 

We shot out of order, so the final scene that we shot on the last day of shooting was one that was quite playful and fun. It was in a kitchen. It may not make the cut, but it was the right thing to end on, because there was a silliness to it, I guess. So, at the end, it didn’t feel like the stakes were as high as they would be with a scene that might have ended with us needing to cry or anything like that. Because once the camera wrapped, once they called cut, everyone was crying anyway! You can’t escape the reality once it’s right there in front of you. It was very sad. 

If you think back to that first table read for the first episode of the first season on the day of the 2016 US presidential election, seven and a half years ago: how has being on this show changed your life? 

Enormously. Who I am now compared to who I was when I was 27, there’s been enormous changes in my own personal life as much as there have been on the show. And the show has been there the whole time. I’ve grown as an actor. I’ve grown as a person. I certainly have a different – well, hopefully! – career trajectory. I’ve had a different experience in what I’ve been challenged by in this job. And I’ve done so much travel with the job! I’ve met so many amazing actors and amazing collaborators and creatives! It really has changed my life.

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, Kieran Culkin as Roman Roy, Nicholas Braun as Greg Hirsch, and J Smith-Cameron as Gerri Kellman – all Emmy-nominated performances.

Watch Succession on Showmax – new episodes of Season 4 land every Monday.

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