With a total of 23 Emmy nominations and nine awards, including Outstanding Drama Series in 2020, HBO’s “Succession” has already cemented its place in television history with merely three seasons. As the series continues to captivate its expanding audience, viewers cannot help but search for the secret to the show’s triumph.
Its star-studded ensemble cast, consisting of talents such as Kieran Culkin, Sarah Snook and Jeremy Strong, has demonstrated that there is not a formulaic approach to the craft of this uniquely entrancing masterpiece.
Following the publication of a recent New Yorker profile on Strong, who plays troubled son Kendall Roy, some readers expressed uncertainty in regard to the actor’s practice. Strong was described as an incredibly intense performer, stating that he took the role as seriously as if it was his own life and did not find him funny. Within the article, Culkin, cast as Kendall’s witty younger brother Roman, recounted a conversation with Strong involving their view of the series.
“After the first season, he said something to me like, ‘I’m worried that people might think that the show is a comedy.’ And I said, ‘I think the show is a comedy.’ He thought I was kidding,” Culkin told the New Yorker.
While this may seem like a significant discrepancy, their conflicting visions contribute to the magic of their work in actuality. The series is generally referred to as a comedy-drama, meaning it necessitates elements of both genres in some capacity. With a collection of complex and versatile characters, “Succession” can execute it effortlessly.
From Strong’s perspective, one can understand the challenge of finding humor within the show. While his character still finds opportunities to amuse viewers, such as when performing a dynamic rap in celebration of his father’s anniversary, his prevailing storyline remains inherently dark.
Over the course of the show, Strong has showcased Kendall combating estrangement, substance abuse, mockery, betrayal and death. Despite Kendall’s displays of immorality, his substantial tragedy still continuously elicits the audience’s sympathy.
Similarly to Kendall, other characters follow primarily serious narratives, though with less severity. For instance, Siobhan Roy, his intelligent younger sister played by Sarah Snook, prioritizes focus on her career goals throughout the series. Although she still entertains viewers with sarcastic comments, Siobhan’s stories typically revolve around her rigorous life within work and the political scene.
Conversely, Culkin’s identification of comedy appears to be more sensible in observance of Roman Roy. He is often depicted as a scene-stealer, bringing vibrance and charisma to even the darkest of moments with jocular remarks. While his immaturity often jeopardizes him within business, Roman’s bravado is a major contributor to the humor of the series.
Cousin Greg Hirsch, portrayed by Nicholas Braun, has also delighted viewers with his amusing awkwardness. Continuously facing adversity, such as financial hardship and blackmail, Greg still manages to provide light with his bumbling, such as “Uh, if it is to be said, so it be, so it is,” within season 2, episode 10.
The exceptional cast of “Succession” has proven that a true testament to moving art is its ability to be openly interpreted, even by the creators themselves. The accomplished ensemble has received a wide range of praise for their performances, including multiple Emmy, Golden Globe and Critics Choice nominations.
As the series presents a striking blend of devastation and comedy, viewers can resonate with its complexity. When the show returns for a fourth season, I encourage readers to watch along as it continues to reveal the technique to its seemingly unyielding appeal.