30 May 2023
Jeremy Strong on how Succession will end for Kendall Roy
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 Jeremy Strong in the trailer for Succession Season 4
We spoke to Jeremy Strong about the show and his Emmy-winning role as Logan’s second-eldest son and heir-apparent, Kendall Roy.
Why is Succession ending?
I think that’s really a question for Jesse Armstrong. But I think that Jesse feels that it’s run its course. I feel the same way about my character’s journey. Of course, these brilliant writers could have extended the show and found infinite riches in terms of the terrain and the material that they could have mined. But I think he felt that this was the right place to land. The journey, when I think back for me, of getting in that car and listening to the Beastie Boys rap, to where we’ve ended: it’s really just a tremendous, incomprehensibly big journey that I’ve been on.
In the opening episode of the new season, we meet an ebullient Kendall. He, Shiv and Roman are “the new-gen Roys [and they] have a f*cking song to sing”. What, for the siblings, is that song?
I love that – I think Kendall is ebullient at the beginning of this season. We last saw him in the dirt, on the ground of a parking lot in Italy, blown into a million pieces. And so he’s put those pieces back together in whatever precarious way he’s able to. I think he’s been living in LA and driving around Mulholland, singing Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and popping sunflower seeds. And he’s ready to find a new anthem to sing with his siblings. I think the “new-gen Roys and [having] a song to sing” is about the triumvirate. It’s about the three of them together, in opposition to their father. In that counterpoint that they’ve always been in. And about how they’re going to make their mark in the world, individually and as a trio.
As Roman says in that scene: he’s the only one who wants to start a business for business reasons. Shiv is doing it to “f*ck Tom”, Kendall to “f*ck dad”. Why is Kendall still so gripped by this desire to, to paraphrase Roman, f*ck his dad?
Well, I don’t think that’s entirely true. I think, as ever, Kendall’s motivation is complex. I think he sees a really good opportunity on the deal front. He’s got the same nose as his father does. Part of what we see in this season, I think, is whether or not Kendall has Logan in his DNA. And whether or not he will become his father. That question has been hanging over the writing all four seasons. But having [this deal] in Kendall’s laser sights, is something that makes sense to me on a business level. With the added bonus – and I think there’s a moment about it [in the episode] – that it’s pretty f*cking funny to screw dad over his lifelong white whale obsession.
You referenced the scene from the last episode of the last series, when Kendall breaks down out by the trash cans. You had that great line: “There’s something really wrong with me. I don’t know what the f*ck is wrong with me.” What is, or was, wrong with Kendall?
[Pause] I don’t know. I think when he says, “I don’t know,” I don’t know either. I mean: don’t we all sort of feel like that sometimes? [Laughs] Something is out of alignment with him, in his life. He has a Grand Canyon-sized hole to fill, that he’s been trying to fill. First through addiction, and now through ambition.
He thinks that if he becomes CEO, if he becomes the alpha, if he becomes the dominant person in this family drama, maybe that will do the trick. But with Kendall, we’ve seen him so desperately try to hold things together, and to cling to whatever positivity and buoyancy he might be able to cling to, like a life-raft. If he lets go of that positivity, and self-belief, he’ll drown.
Kendall is always straddling that razor-sharp line. So when he says, “There’s something wrong with me,” part of it, of course, has to do with the accident, and the death of the boy in England, and the pain he’s been carrying around. But I would say there’s more wrong than that. And the feeling of unease, or dis-ease, is what they talk about in [the recovery] programme, of course. That feeling that something is wrong, and something is out of joint.
There’s been much discussion of your all-or-nothing commitment to this part. How did knowing this was the final series impact on the rigour with which you approach Kendall for one last time?
It’s a really interesting question. But the honest answer is: “not at all”.
On the one hand: I didn’t know if it would be the final season. We didn’t know until we were close to shooting the final episode. On the other hand: I also believed, and felt ready, for it to be done for my character. So I’ve always had that in my mind – because he also felt that way. There’s only so many more moves he has left.
We’ve seen Kendall essentially lose everything. We’ve seen him at the highest altitude, at these summit moments. And we’ve seen him in the ninth circle of hell. And dramatically, an arc can only go so far [with] moments of incredible catharsis, and moments of incredible transformation, and road-to-Damascus moments along the way. So I felt… not surprised when Jesse decided to call it.
I guess, when we filmed the final scene, and the last take of the final scene, I became acutely aware of what that meant, and the momentousness of it. Which, to be honest, has no place in a take. You can’t put that onus on anything. So it probably wasn’t the best take!
But, yeah, no, the rigour is the same, no matter what.
Season 4’s returning cast also includes Matthew Macfadyen in his Emmy-winning role as Tom Wambsgans, alongside Brian Cox as Logan Roy, Sarah Snook and Kieran Culkin as Roy siblings Shiv and Roman, Nicholas Braun as Greg Hirsch, and J Smith-Cameron as Gerri Kellman – all Emmy-nominated performances.
Binge the first two episodes of Succession Season 4 on Showmax now, with new episodes on Mondays:
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