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Succession’s Connor Roy (Alan Ruck) has never been as cutthroat as his siblings, certainly not in his relationships or business dealings. He’s also not the brightest among the four Waystar Royco heirs. Still, Logan Roy’s (Brian Cox) outcast eldest son is equally ambitious as the rest of his family — to the point of delusion, says Ruck.
In episode six of the HBO show’s third season, Connor’s biggest delusion — his dream of a presidential run and an eventual clinching of the highest seat in the land — is, even if just fleetingly, considered a possible reality, maybe. It’s dangled by Logan, who decides to meet several potential candidates for the Republican nomination before selecting one as the eventual chosen nominee.
Logan alludes to the family dynasty of the Kennedys before throwing Connor’s hat in the ring alongside Shiv (Sarah Snook) and Roman’s (Kieran Culkin) presidential picks. And with Kendall (Jeremy Strong) out of the equation, Connor — who has spent his life being untrusted and untested — is finally offered an opportunity to not only re-situate himself in the Roy family hierarchy but inch himself closer to his presidential goals.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Ruck breaks down how Kendall’s choices have changed Connor’s game, whether his character ever really had a chance at the presidential nomination, Logan’s decision to choose a fascist over his son and how the actor ended up meeting America’s real-life president, Joe Biden, after volunteering to drive a car in his motorcade.
In episode five, Connor seemingly gets the European cable position because Logan has a UTI, and he’s experiencing delirium. Then in episode six, Connor winds up in a serious conversation about who the next Republican presidential nominee will be. Was his play in episode five to help legitimize his next move, or was there another motivation?
It’s all about leverage, and Connor has finally embraced the fact that to maintain any sort of status in the family and to get anywhere in the corporation, you have to play dirty. That means asking the old man for a favor when he’s — as they say — piss mad. That’s what you do. Seeking out a lofty position at Waystar [Royco] is a stepping stone for Connor in this plan that he has, this wild plan to become POTUS. That’s really all that’s about. He was sent to Shiv, and he was asking for some big stuff, and she wanted to get him a wine tasting show on the Food Network, which wasn’t enough. So he’s just being persistent. He doesn’t really have anything else to do, so he’s just chipping away. Now that the old man needs him to line up against Kendall, [he wants to see] if that parlays into anything substantial in terms of job, status or title.
When Logan was interviewing various potential candidates across the conservative spectrum for the nominee position, it seemed, even if just for a moment, that he might finally be taking Connor seriously. So first, if Connor was a serious candidate, how would he — and then you — pitch his platform?
This is what’s true about Connor: The planks of his platform are composed of basically anything he woke up that morning and found interesting. There’s not a long attention span here. The word libertarian doesn’t really mean anything anymore because it’s been used by so many different people with different ideologies. But on the one hand, he’s as right-wing as any other member of his family when it comes to money. It’s like, “I’ve got my money. Leave me alone.” And he is not interested in paying any taxes. He’s not interested in shouldering his burden at all. On the other hand, he’s very interested in the environment, because he has this ranch and underneath the ranch is this huge aquifer, and the aquifer is shrinking. It’s also becoming tainted with pollutants. This is something that’s directly affecting Connor, so all of a sudden, it’s important to him, and he thinks it should be important to everybody.
So Connor will pitch himself as a man of the people. You should vote for me because I come from the one percent, and I know how these people think, and I can help you navigate these treacherous waters that they dominate. That’s why you should vote for me; because I know these people. With Connor, there’s something of the Dunning-Kruger effect that’s coming into play here. I know people used to say that sometimes a person is so stupid, he’s incapable of realizing how stupid he is. Connor’s not stupid, but he is delusional, and he lives in a make-believe world that he’s constructed for many years. But he has no doubt that he’ll win. When people like Maxim Pierce say, “Do you know who the Secretary of Commerce is? Do you know this person in D.C.? Do you know anybody in D.C.?” It doesn’t faze Connor because he’s like, “Well, I’ll hire some smart people to help me get through this.” He’s very much a positive thinker when it comes to this whole political world.
But I — Alan — can’t, in good conscience, promote Connor as a legitimate candidate. (Laughs.)
Did Connor ever feel he was being taken seriously, or did he know he was a pawn?
I think the hope is that he will get his due, his just rewards, as he sees it, but he knows what’s going on. He can feel the room. He can feel what people are thinking. What they say and what they don’t say. He’s not stupid. I mean, he is a deluded man, and he’s probably got some ADHD going on, and there are different things that he struggles with, but he is not stupid. He’s experienced this treatment at the hands of the family for decades. It’s like, “You don’t really add to the luster of the family brand. Please step to the back of the photograph.” So I think the hope is that finally, the old man’s going to throw [him] a bone or — miracle of miracles — he’s going to realize that Connor’s the answer to his prayers. But he’s been through this situation many times before when it’s like, “Oh, yeah, Connor? Maybe not.”
The final shot of that scene is of Connor on the couch after being taken through the wringer. There’s a lot of emotions going on there, including potential defeat. After everything, does Connor feel like it’s over?
No, the war is still going on. He just happened to lose one skirmish, one battle, but that doesn’t mean it’s the war. Connor will just not be denied. He has a minuscule percentage of the electorate, the coneheads, behind him, but he sees that as the beginning. You have to remember in the world of Succession, we’ve been at this for a number of years now, but in the actual timeline of the story, it’s only been a little over a year or so since Logan’s birthday. There’s a way to go before the election. It’s not like it’s going to happen next month, and Connor’s screwed. There’s some time, and he is a ridiculous optimist. He’s like, “Well, the old man said no again, but we’ll see how he feels tomorrow.” I think Connor has finally accepted that with all the stuff that Kendall has pulled — because he’s so crazy, I mean, even Connor can tell how off the beam Kendall is — at this point, he’s no longer viable. He’s over. He’s done. It’s not going to happen. The old man is always going to win. So I think Conor feels when push comes to shove, lineup with the old man because, you know, he’s always two or three steps ahead of Kendall, ahead of everybody. Then, as I said, Connor has finally accepted that the only way to get ahead is to play dirty and use whatever you have.
It feels safe to say not many people would vote for a candidate like Connor, but that could also easily change in light of who Logan ends up picking over his son, which is an actual fascist. Like many things on Succession, Logan’s decision feels timely and purposeful in the context of our current political climate. But might it have an impact on where Connor goes politically?
I think our writers really have their fingers on the pulse of how the world is, how the world works and how it’s working right now. We live in scary times when people are unabashedly saying, “Yeah, I’m a fascist. This is what I believe in. It’s all about me, my friends and our money.” But it’s no surprise that a great capitalist like Logan Roy would be interested in a fascist because the fascist will protect the money above all else. He’s going to protect the wealthy few above all else because that’s going to be a fascist’s power base. That makes perfect sense. But I would vote for Connor, too, if it was between a fascist and Connor Roy, there was no other choice, and it’s like you have to vote. You can’t sit this one out. You have to vote.
But in terms of ideology, I think at this point, Connor feels it’s a popularity contest. If it should ever come into play for him, if he should be a player at the convention or in his wildest dreams that he was nominated, I think he feels that the ideology will come. He’ll pick it up along the way into one cohesive ball of ideas. But right now, it’s whatever’s interesting to him at the moment. It’s like, “I don’t want to pay taxes.” Who does? So run on that. Have every family in America become a corporation. Just write off everything. Write off your rent, write off your grocery bills — you’re in the business of raising your family. You should be able to write all that off — with no plan in how to fund anything. All he wants to do is get elected and then see what happens.
Beyond his political ambitions and trying to re-situate himself within the family power hierarchy, Connor also deals with a relationship that started transactionally, like every relationship within the Roy family. But this thing with Willa (Justine Lupe) is starting to feel a little less transactional and that maybe she’s beginning to legitimately care about him.
I think that’s true. Maybe even against her better judgment, she’s developed some feelings for Connor — a thing that started, especially from her point of view, as a business arrangement. She’s got some conflicts, and she still has some questions about everything. Over these couple of seasons, there’s been a few scenes where he’s been a little bit needy, like, “Can we make this an exclusive thing? I don’t like how these people treat you.” He’s been needy with her different times, but I also think it never occurs to him that she might leave, you know? He’s like, “Yeah, we’re a thing, me and Willa.” The truth is maybe she will leave, but I don’t think, at this point, Connor even believes that’s a remote possibility.
I think Connor has always been crazy about her. He’s like, “You’re great. You need money. I have a lot of money. I need a girlfriend. This is great.” Different things happen, like the play was a disaster, so he doesn’t always do it gracefully, but he tries to take care of her. When he gets scared about money, he tries to weasel out of it, but he basically winds up trying to take care of her in this lumpy Connor fashion. But I do think that she has developed some feelings for him, and he’s completely sold on her. I mean, he’s in love with her. But it’s a sad comment on the show that they’re the most successful couple on Succession.
During President Joe Biden’s September recall campaign event for California Governor Gavin Newsom, it was tweeted that you were driving a press van in the president’s motorcade. Was that you? And if so, how did you end up doing that?
One Friday [my friend] just said, “What are you doing Monday? Are you working?” I said, “No, why?” She said, “Would you like to drive in the presidential motorcade?” I immediately said yes, and then I said, “Why?” Well, as it turns out, they fly Secret Service and military people all over the country, but the president might make three different stops in three different cities in a day and in each city, there’ll be a motorcade. So they depend on volunteers — every administration does — to help drive, for example, people in the press. So I said, “Yeah, sure, I’d do that.” I went through some vetting and did a COVID test and all that stuff. I was told to report down in Long Beach, and I did. It was a lot like being on a movie set. There was a lot of sitting around, and then all of a sudden, it was like, “Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go, let’s go!”
I enjoyed just driving along and not having to stop for any red lights with the cops flying by on motorcycles. It was very exciting. (Laughs.) Then the next morning, we all got a little photo op with the president. It was very brief. We had masks on; we didn’t shake hands. He didn’t know who I was, but he walked up, and he said, “Good to see you, pal!” I said, “Well, good to see you,” then click. As they’re pushing me away, he says, “Thanks for your service,” and over my shoulder, I said, “Thanks for all you do.” And that was it. It was pretty quick. I have a picture of me with [Biden], but I’m not allowed to show it to anybody until the White House Press Office says it’s OK. So I guess I would have to write for permission and ask can I show this anywhere. The answer might be no. (Laughs.)
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