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[This story contains major spoilers from the fourth episode of Succession season three.]
Succession‘s newest character debuted in a big way during the latest episode of the corporate comedy-drama.
Played by The French Dispatch and The Pianist star Adrien Brody, activist investor Josh Aaronson over the course of the episode not only pressures the show’s Lear-esque patriarch, Logan Roy (Brian Cox), and son Kendall (Jeremy Strong) into a meeting, forcing the pair into the same room for the first time since Kendall betrayed his father in last season’s finale, he also compels the Roys to take that meeting on his own private island, where he subsequently attempts to leverage his 4 percent holding in Waystar Royco to bring father and son back together and gain “a little EPS juicing” and stock buyback in the process.
“He’s someone who is both completely conscious and aware of his environs,” Brody tells THR about his character. “But he’s also very cunning and definitely plays a good game of cat and mouse with these guys.”
Brody, a longtime fan of the series, came on board as a guest star after he worked on HBO’s 1980s Los Angeles Lakers series with Succession executive producer Adam McKay. Brody then ended up bringing some ideas to the character in what he calls a “collaborative” process. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Brody discusses that creative progression, as well as where Aaronson’s allegiance lies at the end of the episode, what that long walk was all about and whether Aaronson will reappear in the series.
First of all, how did you end up coming to this role in Succession?
Luck. It was luck and timing. I had been in talks with Adam McKay and his team about his Lakers show that he was setting up at the time for HBO and we subsequently went and shot. And they had an opportunity to come and play in Succession, they had a role that they felt that I would be right for. I love the show, it’s probably one of the best shows on TV, and I said, “Wow, that would be amazing.” They pitched me this character and Jesse Armstrong was so wonderfully inviting and collaborative. And the writers, and we had a whole thing with this: They just built it, it was amazing, and it came about just before I was starting the Lakers show. So I was really grateful. McKay is doing such enormous work and Jesse’s doing such a wonderful job with Succession and it was a blessing to be asked to participate in something that was such great material.
When they asked you if you would be open to this role, was the character already somewhat set in stone or did you contribute to building the character?
Yeah. They had a version of Josh that was quite good. And we had many conversations about aspects that I felt would add value, both a strength that I wanted to convey and certain other subtle qualities that I felt Josh should own. And those stem from personalities of people that I know in my lifetime and a bit of imagination on their part. And I feel like they created something really special. They definitely brought a ton of nuance and richness to the character, based on our collective ideas. They made something really special and I’m really grateful for it.
Succession famously draws on the stories of certain media moguls in its portrayal of the Roy family, and you mentioned thinking about people you know as you were putting this character together. Were there any real-life figures or storylines that inspired Josh that you’d be open to talking about?
It was more personality than structural: Initially I had a much more streamlined idea of how I would portray Josh and then that didn’t quite gel with their original vision. It’s an amalgamation of several personalities that I know and, again, like I said, some left to imagination. But [Josh is] someone who is both completely conscious and aware of his environs, and that I feel we conveyed very well, but he’s also very cunning and definitely plays a good game of cat and mouse with these guys.
What’s your interpretation of the reasons behind the song-and-dance that Josh is making Logan and Kendall do in this episode?
Well, everyone loves a bit of drama. And I think it’s a moment [when] Josh is aware that there is this rift and he wants to see it for himself and make some determinations. He takes [Kendall and Logan] out of their comfort zone and forces them to face each other and then he slowly strips away additional comforts and security and really tries to, I think, see if this father-son dynamic is so fractured that it’s irreparable. And along the way, it’s very interesting, he exposes quite a bit about all of their personality traits and uses them for his advantage. I think that’s what they all have in common, is their ability to sniff out weakness and use it for their advantage. [Josh is] not different in that respect; he definitely has more heart and I think he’s just more present. I think poor Kendall is reeling and desperate for his own success to overcome his issues and Logan is clearly the old guard and retaining and exuding strength and power and a little closed off, obviously. I think Josh is just happy to play the game right now — he’s energized and outspoken and strong in his own right and not intimidated, and so he puts it to them.
When it comes to this long walk that Josh takes Kendall and Logan on, is that part of the stripping away of the comfort and security that you were talking about?
Yeah, that is an aspect of it. The physical challenge leads to a psychological and emotional opening, or break. When you get too exerted physically, it distracts you from being guarded emotionally and psychologically, and [Logan and Kendall] start revealing deep flaws and a lack of strength and unity and, really, I think Josh’s objective is to understand if this is reparable and if unity can be achieved and, if not, what are his options to proceed.
By the end of the episode, after Logan’s medical issue, Josh appears to flip his position and side with Sandy and Stewy. The way it was framed in the episode was that Logan’s health issues were behind Josh’s decision — was there something more at play?
I think [the Roys] showed their hand. Josh has everything available to him, at his disposal, and the concept of that meeting with Stewy says a lot: It doesn’t mean anything as far as a decision to be made, it just means that he’s taking his meetings. He can do whatever he wants in that meeting and from that information that he gains. And so it shows his cunningness and preparedness, but it doesn’t necessarily imply that he has a specific game plan. He has options and he’s exploring his options. And this prior meeting, it’s actually the crux of the episode, is going to determine his next move.
The episode is called “Lion in the Meadow” — do you have a take on what that title refers to?
It is a reference. Additionally, obviously Josh refers to Logan as the “lion in the meadow,” this grandeur of the king of the jungle out there. And [Josh is] gauging the young cub’s reaction to that reference as well, [where] I think Kendall reveals something somewhat dismissive or getting off the subject. [He’s] not entirely comfortable with the reference.
Was there anything unique for you about the acting experience in Succession as opposed to past projects you’ve worked on?
Yeah, it was unique. First of all, it was such a thrill because here I had two brilliant actors who were so steeped in their characters and their character work. And I was the interloper, I had to come in and swim with the sharks. It’s exciting. I like the thrill of that. Like I said, the writers just really gave me wonderful material as well. There was room for improvisation and I’m sure you’re aware of, if you follow the story, that they shoot in a way that is unpredictable so that the camera department can follow different leads and make certain decisions, and that dictates certain things and everybody has their moment to run off-book and embellish certain aspects, which I think adds a level of excitement and also reality to it because they’re all listening very closely and engaged and responding to new information. I love to work in that way. I really love it, it was really great.
Are we going to see Josh in the series again?
Well, I sure hope so, I would love that. I’m not really at liberty to say, but I sure would love that.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
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