- Share this article on Facebook
- Share this article on Twitter
- Share this article on Email
- Show additional share options
- Share this article on Print
- Share this article on Comment
- Share this article on Whatsapp
- Share this article on Linkedin
- Share this article on Reddit
- Share this article on Pinit
- Share this article on Tumblr
[This story contains spoilers from the finale of Succession season three.]
Conversations leading up to Succession‘s Dec. 12 season finale seemed to focus almost exclusively on actor Jeremy Strong and the long-term prospects of alter ego Kendall Roy. In the episode’s wake, however, the individual subject to the most tumult is arguably Sarah Snook. The actress, who plays Shiv Roy, wrapped the third season getting screwed over by her mother, her father and, most notably, her husband. Before a cut to the credits (and a hiatus of unknown duration) viewers are left with a glimpse of Snook’s inscrutable, albeit shaken, face.
Snook spoke with THR over Zoom on Tuesday about the various attempts to find that final shot, the ongoing debate over whether her show is a drama or a comedy — hint: It doesn’t matter! — and if anybody really needs to like the Roys in order to root from them.
You’re in Australia at the moment. Was there as much speculation there between episode eight and the finale as there was in America? Because it felt like everyone was talking about Succession last week.
Yeah, everyone thought that Kendall [Jeremy Strong] was going to die or something! There was a lot of, “How are they going to wrap this up? What can they possibly do in that episode?” There was so much going on. That’s a fun thing when you get a show being released week by week. You get that time in between for those conversations and that speculation.
I do wonder how the show would exist differently in the culture if the episodes dropped all at once.
There’s something about the density of the language and all that happens — the sort of fleeting, really funny lines — that I think you’d miss. It’s like digesting a good meal, not a protein shake you have and then just run on.
One of the longer, most eventful scenes in the finale is with you, Jeremy and Kieran Culkin outside of the wedding, when they start to realize they’re getting played by their dad. Can you tell me a little bit about filming that?
It was a long one. We did it over one day in Italy, and it actually was near to where we were shooting the wedding — in the back dumpster area. I love that about what Mark [Mylod] does as a director. He likes putting the Roys in base, primal areas. Just because you’re a billionaire doesn’t mean you can escape rubbish being tipped out, or the seafood being scraped into the bin in the second season. That scene, particularly, was quite difficult to shoot. That was a 100-degree day with full overhead sun reflecting off the white dust. I was in high heels, on an incline, wearing Spanx and a tight dress. The wind was blowing so much dust in my eyes that, at one point, I had to go and sit in a cold dark room with a cold compress on my face. I couldn’t see anymore. (Laughs.)
Even rich people sweat at summer weddings.
No matter the wealth, you still schvitz. You can see that we’re all dying. And it was so damn hot in that tiny little chapel with the lighting and all of the people. But it’s also where I got my favorite bit in episode nine, in terms of lines, when Shiv leans behind Roman and tells him that their mother is the only one who “makes her son’s pee pee go boom boom.” Like … what the fuck is she saying? I love that.
Doing the show for three seasons now, have you found that Jesse Armstrong and the writers now write to your talents or taste?
I don’t know. I think they have. I know that they write to Kieran’s strengths. It’s a “chicken or the egg” kind of scenario. Reading the scripts, I’ve always been struck by how much I can hear how Kieran is going to say that line, or how Matthew [Macfadyen] will sound doing this. There is so much of the voice of each of these characters and the actors who portray them in the writing. I guess that would be the same for me.
Were you bummed to see anything get lost in the edit this season?
There was a really good scene between Marcia [Hiam Abbass] and Shiv in the finale where Marcia is just … brilliant. She has this backstory bit and talks about how spoiled the kids are. I understand that it was probably cut because of momentum, but it was just great. I love any scene that I get to do with Hiam or J. Smith-Cameron or any of the other women in the show.
So much is said about “likability” in TV characters, particularly on this show where everyone is so morally bankrupt. In your experience, do actors even talk about that the way that audiences do?
I mean, it’s always nice to have the audience root for your character — but it’s more interesting when you can make them root for a character that is morally questionable. That’s the more fun thing to play. I think for Shiv, it’s fun because she’s grown up in this family where you are programmed to reach for or align yourself with power — to be constantly jockeying for position. Previously, it was more powerful for her to go like, “Well, I’m going to create my own career outside of the family business. I’m going to have a successful marriage. I’m going to do all this stuff to set a boundary and be powerful on my own terms.” But they’re all so seduced by being dad’s favorite.
This season, working with her husband and being inside the family business, it’s too much. Then having to choose between her brother and her dad, when her brother is more aligned with her values and beliefs … But, is he even? Isn’t he just being narcissistic? Probably. Then she’s with her dad, this dinosaur. It’s a poison chalice that she’s drunk, and so I don’t know whether she has the ability or the courage to be able to stand outside it.
Some of the scenes between you and Matthew this season were … excruciating to watch. What’s your rapport like between takes when you’re spitting all this vitriol at him?
To be honest with you, most of the time we’re laughing because it is so excruciating. When Shiv’s come home drunk after that conversation with her mom, every time we played that scene it would be like, “Ha ha ha.” It leaves a really bad taste in your mouth because you’re saying these things which are so hurtful, but the joy of it is just to go, “Can we say this and have it be believed?” You just double down on the truth and whatever internal reasons there are for saying these things, and it works.
Another thing that pops up a lot when people discuss Succession is this debate over whether it’s a comedy or a drama and how the different actors play it. Do you play it with one or the other in mind?
No. On either side of things, you have to play it with a level of truth and commitment. The reason Parks and Recreation is funny is because they’re committed to their characters. They’re committed to the moment that their characters are in. That’s why it works. I think it’s the same thing with Succession. The writing is there. It gives us funny lines to say, but they’re comedic moments because you’re doubling down on who the character is.
Yours is the last face we see at the end of the season finale. Can you talk a little bit about how you were told to play it?
The script goes something like … “Logan leaves. We see the kids turn around. Shiv sees Tom, and then she crumbles emotionally. Tom comes in and says, ‘Shiv, you OK?'” Once Tom enters the room, it was improvised. There were multiple different endings. There was a version where Roman was supplicating with the top tier again. There was one with Kendall getting really angry and going out to confront Logan a bit more. Shiv is just in this shock of what has just happened. Her mom has abandoned them. Her dad has done the dirty on them and then she sees her husband do the same thing. It’s like, “Fuck me. I can’t trust a single person.” So as the proximity of Tom closed in, I had to play with, like, “What do I show?” We all have private and public masks. What do I show Tom in terms of the knowledge he thinks that I have? Seems wise to hide that I know that he did that. Also, it’s scripted that I don’t say anything.
So when we did that take, I remember Mark coming up afterwards, like, “Yeah, I think we found the ending of the season.” It’s always fun when you get trusted by a director to organically create. I love how they do this so often with Succession. The scene may be finished, but it doesn’t end until the director calls “cut.” So keep being your character, invent, do something else, live in it until you hear “cut.” Some really interesting magic can come out of that.
I speak with a lot of writers and actors and, when asked if they could work on another show for a few episodes, the answer is almost always Succession. So, as someone who’s on that show, what would your answer be?
Hacks. Jean Smart is amazing. Maybe I just want to be her when I grow up.
Interview edited for length and clarity.
Sign up for THR news straight to your inbox every day