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[This story contains spoilers for Succession season four, episode three, “Connor’s Wedding.”]
In a show rife with incisive insults, so cutting that they hit beyond the bone, Connor Roy’s (Alan Ruck) reaction to news of his father’s passing stands out as one of the most pained pieces of dialogue in Succession history: “Oh, man. He never even liked me.”
You can forgive Logan Roy’s (Brian Cox) eldest son for his wounded outburst, if not for his grandiose run at the highest elected office in all the land — though even then, Connor’s next words about his dad speak to his unlikely fixation on the presidency: “I never got the chance to make him proud of me.” It’s an emotionally exhausted scene in an emotionally exhausting episode, delivered by a gaunt Alan Ruck, embodying Connor on the other side of a life-draining event.
The day was already going to contain a life-defining event. Among the cruelest jokes contained in Logan’s death episode, the name of the hour — “Connor’s Wedding” — is particularly biting. Always struggling for attention under the giant shadow of his father and the shadows of his siblings, presidential hopeful Connor was finally about to stand in the spotlight on his wedding day to Willa (Justine Lupe). Instead, it’s yet another instance of Dad dominating the day.
It’s a game-changing episode, to put it lightly — or, as Ruck himself describes it: “It was a big, fat episode with earth-shattering components.” Ahead, The Hollywood Reporter talks to Ruck about “Connor’s Wedding,” from the actual wedding to all its devastating details: Logan’s death, “looney cake” and beyond.
First of all, I’m sorry for your loss. But also, congratulations on your wedding?
Yeah … it’s a funny day that way!
How did you learn Logan would die at Connor’s wedding?
I don’t remember Jesse saying that it was going to happen on Connor’s wedding day … but of course, Jesse let Brian know first in a private meeting. Then he gathered the rest of us over Zoom and told us what was going to happen. So we knew Logan was going to die in the third episode before we started shooting the season. I think it was when we actually started shooting, and I was talking to my dresser, a wonderful guy named Danny Mura — because on a movie set, wardrobe knows everything; they know which characters are going to be discontinued and who gets more to do based on how many clothes they need to buy. (Laughs.) They tend to know! So I said, “When do I get married?” And he said, “I think it’s in three.”
Losing Logan at Connor’s wedding in an episode called “Connor’s Wedding,” clearly something of a curse for Connor, but is it something of an honor for you as an actor?
Well, the only reason it’s a curse for Connor, and a very big reason, is in the past, since we’ve started this story over the past four seasons, he was desperate to do something that would impress the old man. That’s what’s driving him. Now, the political campaign? It doesn’t really matter, because the payoff is not going to be there, not in the same way, not in the way that matters.
But for me? For Alan, to have an episode named after my character, and have it be the earth-shaking episode where all hell breaks loose, and everything is forever different? Yeah, that’s OK with me!
What do you remember most about filming this episode? Much has been made about how it was filmed almost as a one-act play with uninterrupted takes.
We did do that. Only once. After we shot everything else, we decided we would do this oner. [Executive producer and director Mark Mylod] says it was Kieran’s idea, but Kieran says he never said that, so, I don’t know, but it was a great idea. The thrill about that thing was, we had everything in the can. This was just extra. It was just for us, really. We wound up using a lot of that footage. Our crew is so amazing. Everybody is top shelf. We pulled that thing off — we actually pulled that thing off. The exhilaration among people when they finally said “cut”? There was a huge cheer that went up. It’s like it was a sporting match and we had just won. It was a wonderful thing to do. A high point of that episode.
Then there’s the scene with Willa where I ask her point blank if she’s only with me for the money. You know, Justine and I had been wanting to do a scene like that for a while now, something that was just us. Especially in this scene, we were partners. We were equals. It’s not just some sad guy begging this hot girl to be his significant other. It wasn’t her fretting about her play bombing, and me just trying to cajole her or whatever. This was a scene where we’re talking about the nature of our relationship like partners. Like equals. I loved it. It was easy. It was easy to do. It was like falling off a log.
That conversation between Connor and Willa is one of the more heartwarming moments of the series to me, let alone the episode. Even earlier in the episode, Connor’s relationship with Willa’s mom feels very breezy, like there’s maybe an actual chance at happiness and love for Connor. Is that a fair read?
You mean because everybody else is miserable in their relationships?
Well, there’s certainly that! But it almost feels like with this new family he’s forging, maybe there’s something of a release for Connor. Did you feel that all?
I do think that the old man’s death is going to catch up with him at some point. But I do also think it’s true that Connor, being how old he is and how long this has been going on, has accepted the fact that his father is incapable of expressing the kind of affection Connor wants and needs. He knows that’s true about his brothers and his sister, too. It’s just not available. It’s just not a thing.
There’s a great old movie called I Never Sang for My Father with Gene Hackman, Melvyn Douglas and Estelle Parsons, and it’s about this guy who has a very difficult father. The father’s nearing the end of his life. Nothing has ever worked out between the son and the father the way he had hoped. There’s some line like, “When someone dies, the relationship struggles on in the survivor’s mind.” And I think that’s true. I think that’s going to be true for all of us. It’s true for all of us as humans. When somebody passes, whatever you didn’t do or whatever you did do that you regret, that stuff is going to be with us, and we have to make peace with it.
I think that’s a big piece of why this has been such a resonant episode, the way in which it evokes the ongoing struggles we have with the ones we’ve lost.
The golden trio of Kendall, Roman and Siobhan … they really knocked it out of the park, the sequences they had when they found out the old man is, at least, dying, if not already dead. It was brilliant. Brilliantly done. I wasn’t involved in those scenes and I wasn’t in video village watching on the monitor. I may not have even been called on one of those days. So I just watched it now, and it’s stunning. Their reaction, to me, is the heart of the episode. It’s the way they’re dealing with this, or not dealing with it.
The siblings seek solace in each other, but Connor seeks solace in Willa, and they go through with the wedding. What’s fueling him through that choice?
He tells Willa: “I’m afraid you’re going to walk and you won’t come back.” The funny thing about Connor is he knows his siblings aren’t capable of treating him the way he wants to be treated. But he always comes back to them, because he doesn’t have any friends. At the end of season three, he says, “I’m the oldest. I’m the eldest!” Nobody congratulated him on getting engaged. In episode two [of this season], he says, “I’m a plant that lives on rocks! It’s OK to live without love! You learn that you don’t need it.” But he always comes back to them. He has no friends, and he actually loves them. But if he ever lost Willa? He would never recover from that.
We learn about the “looney cake” in this episode, and hear more about Connor’s mom. How much of that backstory have you been privy to with Connor? How much has what happened to Connor’s mom, and specifically Logan’s role in what happened to his mom, informed your work as the character?
The “looney cake” was a recent discovery, but I had been working with this idea of a mentally ill mother and a really unpleasant boyhood. My father, who I adored, was suddenly absent. My mom is in and out of institutions and I’m in and out of boarding schools. I think Connor was very lonely and scared a lot, but there was a ton of money around, and he could create any kind of diversion and fantasy world he wanted. That’s informed me from the beginning. This is who this guy is: He’s created his own reality for decades. There have been hints along the way. But the looney cake? That was a delightfully specific and brilliant touch.
The Victorian sponge of it all …
Our writers are very specific. They’re all about the details.
Your work this season has been so good, and our very own Dan Fienberg wrote that it’s time “to stage some sort of revolt” if you’re not nominated for an Emmy this year. What’s it been like to watch the Succession community go full Con-Head this season?
Well, that’s very nice to know. (Laughs.) About the Emmy thing. Look, on my show alone, we’ve got Matthew Macfadyen, Nicky Braun, Kieran Culkin, who all do a lot. They chop a lot of wood. They carry a lot of story. They do more than I do. My job has been kind of a license to steal. I drop into an episode, I say some insane shit and hopefully people find it amusing. Then I go home, and they pay me well! It’s a good job! But on my show alone, there are three guys who are Emmy-worthy. Then let’s talk about all the other shows out there and all these other guys doing amazing work, where they chop a lot of wood and carry a lot of water. I’m glad that people are saying these nice things, but I’m not counting on it. I think there are too many horses in the race for that to happen.
For whatever it’s worth, there’s more than 1 percent of us rooting for it.
(Laughs.) I’ll take an honorable mention!
Interview edited for length and clarity.
The final season of Succession releases Sundays at 9 p.m. on HBO and HBO Max. Read THR‘s deep dive analysis and critic’s notebook on the episode.
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