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While many see HBO’s Succession as a critique of wealth and power, the show’s cast made a case for money not being at the root of the Roy family’s dysfunction.
What’s really the problem, agreed several castmembers during the acclaimed drama’s Television Critics Association press tour panel on Wednesday, is a lack of an element that’s even more fundamental: Love.
“I almost never consider the fact they’re wealthy, it’s never something that pops in my mind,” says Kieran Culkin, who plays Roman Roy. “I think that’s because Roman’s always known and I’m only seeing it from his [perspective].”
“Is money the corrosive thing, or is it the lack of love and affection?” said Matthew Macfadyen, who plays Tom Wambsgans in the show.
“I agree with Kieran, it’s not something I find I ever think about — the wealth feels incidental to me and window-dressing in a way,” added Jeremy Strong, who stars as the Roy family heir apparent Kendall Roy. “[Psychoanalyst Carl] Jung had said that where love is absent, power fills the vacuum. I think about love and power, and where they are on the indexes. But power not in the monetary sense, but as something that compensates for love that drives us in different directions sometimes, which feels quite Shakespearean to me, actually.”
“I don’t think it’s different from any family,” chimed in Brian Cox, who stars as patriarch Logan Roy in the series. “It’s very much a reflection on how human beings live, of how we shift and how we dance.”
“Whether we’re in Croatia or Tuscany, or in these fabulous hotels, [the characters] are always miserable,” pointed out J. Smith-Cameron, who plays the Roy family’s general counsel, Gerri Killman. “All these people have everything money could buy, and they’re just struggling and scrapping and miserable.”
Showrunner Jesse Armstrong largely declined to answer the question, and suggested he doesn’t like to publicly interpret the show’s meaning and themes. That said, he did tackle a question of whether Succession was feeling some pressure after the success of its first two seasons to ratchet up the drama for its third round.
“No, I don’t think it’s like we’re an action movie and we’ve blown this up and, can we blow up something bigger?” Armstrong said. “The good thing is … the longer people are [watching] … the relationships become more like a family you’ve known. The longer you’ve known them, the more terrible and fascinating it is when they get divorced or they’re happy when they have a child. We have pressure to not repeat ourselves, which is a pressure you think about, but the feeling of ‘how do we top that?’ we don’t feel so much.”
The satirical corporate drama launched in 2018 to immediate critical acclaim, and its second season won the Emmy for best drama series in 2020.
Succession stars Cox as an aging media mogul and Strong, Culkin, Sarah Snook and Alan Ruck as his dysfunctional heirs.
Season three of Succession premieres Oct. 17 on HBO Max.
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