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[This story contains a major spoiler for Succession season four.]
Succession star Dagmara Domińczyk says that her own father died while she was filming the series’ major death scene, which made shooting it and eventually watching the scene even more emotional.
Domińczyk, who plays Karolina Novotney, head of public relations and legal team member for Waystar Royco on the HBO series, spoke to Rolling Stone about her character’s role in managing the crisis of Logan Roy’s sudden and shocking death on a plane. During the discussion, the actress revealed that while filming the scene — one of the last two days of filming the Emmy-winning series’ fourth season in New York — her father died in Poland at the age of 69.
“Two days before we shot our very last day of Succession in New York City, our very last day, two days before I showed up to set, my own father, who is, I would say, a gentler, kinder Logan Roy, in the fact that he’s been the biggest presence and force in my whole entire life for me and my sisters, this really one-of-a-kind human being, suddenly died at 69. And we found out through a phone call from a person we’d never met. He was in Poland at the time,” she recalled.
His death shared uncanny similarities to the one she had acted out on screen, with the actress adding that it made “a very strange season for me” having to film Logan’s funeral around the time of her father’s as she was miles apart from him in New Jersey.
“It just feels like the universe really — I don’t know the way it works, that the death of Succession and the death of Logan Roy coincided with the death of my fucking amazing, complicated father,” she said. “I was supposed to work the next day. And obviously the funeral — I’m not even sure if I’m supposed to tell you there is a funeral, but obviously, we’re assuming there is — we shot that a couple of days before my dad died, too.”
When it came to the plane sequence, it was already “emotional,” and saw fellow Succession actors Sarah Snook, Kieran Culkin and Jeremy Strong calling in on speakerphone as her side of the sequence was filmed. “They would call in every take we did. We were on the stage plane, very intimate, [with] their voices and every time they called in, you know, it was so moving and so fucking weird,” she recounted. It also involved director Mark Mylod having to remind her — before her father died — that while her performance choices to cry were “beautiful,” they weren’t necessarily in character.
“I’m a very emotional person. I wear my heart on my sleeve. I had a hard time not crying on that airplane. This was before my dad died, we shot the episode on the plane,” she explained. “And Mark Mylod would come up and say, ‘Dag, what you’re doing is really beautiful. But Karolina would not [cry.] She’s the voice of reason here. There’s things to do. This is a giant public figure. Please don’t cry.'”
Domińczyk added that beyond the initial experience of having to handle her father’s death around filming an already emotional storyline in the show, she also had to manage her grief again following the episode’s completion and airing. The Succession actor said that though it may “sound kooky,” in some ways it almost became therapeutic to see how her character, Karolina, handled Logan’s passing on the plane when she got an early look while watching it “alone at night with my dog on my husband’s recliner.”
“My dad died two months ago, but in terms of sudden, traumatic loss, it could have happened two days ago. That’s how I fucking feel. And I started watching the episode, and this vein started throbbing in my head. I thought I was gonna have an aneurysm,” she continued, discussing her physical reaction to screening the episode. “And of course, I cried and cried and I thought it was brilliant. The episode was so good and so tense and so amazingly orchestrated and put together, that for a moment, I was able to take myself out of my own grief and just be in the story.”
While it provided momentary relief, Domińczyk notes that it was all still “really, really, really difficult,” with those around her sending her messages of condolences as the parallels of what was happening became clearer to them. Among that group was her husband, fellow actor Patrick Wilson, as well as friends who texted about how “bizarre” it all was. Especially as someone who had “always been worried that he would die suddenly, or die with us not around, and that’s exactly what happened.”
“For reasons I can’t quite say, since I was a very little girl, I was worried my dad would suddenly die. And it happened. And so it’s just been really crazy,” she said. “But there was Karolina, no-nonsense on that plane, knowing with all his health issues and Logan’s troubles and hospital stays that this day would come, and she’s got her fancy pen and her pad ready to go.”
It was an experience the actress suddenly was quite familiar with, and so one Domińczyk says with confidence the show captured.
“With these dramatic, sudden, violent kind of deaths, the initial few days, there’s this kind of shock. You don’t believe it. And I think Succession really captured that,” she told the magazine. “You don’t see them fully break down, and of course, my reaction in real life was like a wounded fucking animal, because it was hearing something that you expected to hear your whole life, but it hasn’t happened yet, so it’s just not going to happen. And it did happen. And so, as we get into the season, that grief is going to catch up with them.”
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