Succession stars Matthew Macfadyen, Nicholas Braun reflect on HBO hit ahead of final season
Looking back on the early days of filming, Succession star Nicholas Braun couldn't have predicted that the hit series would have found the rapturous audience that it has.
But four seasons and nearly seven years later, it's a jewel in HBO's crown — a piercing satire about the power struggle between a withholding father and his entitled children for control of the family media empire. The final season will premiere on Sunday.
"When you're making something and it's that early on and no one's seen it and none of us have seen it — we don't know what the episodes are like, we haven't heard the theme song, we don't know the vibe of it — it's tough to think anything but, like, 'that was fun,'" Braun told Q host Tom Power in an interview that will air on April 13.
Braun plays Greg Hirsch, a bumbling, blank-slate cousin of the main Roy family — father Logan (Brian Cox), sons Kendall (Jeremy Strong), Roman (Kieran Culkin), Connor (Alan Ruck), and daughter Shiv (Sarah Snook) — who finds himself on the payroll of their conglomerate and is quickly corrupted by the lifestyle of the ultra-rich.
Braun's main scene partner is British actor Matthew Macfadyen, playing Shiv's husband Tom Wambsgans, a nouveau riche sleazebag who's thrilled to have Greg beneath him on the familial food chain. During the new season, the two continue to be inseparable — and Greg dives headfirst into full evil doofus mode, eager to be taken in by Tom's influence.
"On paper, you think they're all so revolting, they're so venal and just shallow and awful," said Macfadyen during a February interview on CBC's Q. "But of course, if the writing's good — and in our case it is — it's full of humanity and interest and wit and pathos and all the rest of it."
Listen: Matthew Macfadyen talks to CBC's Q about the success of Succession:
'It was a big chapter of our lives'
Part prestige drama, part family soap opera, Succession is also bitingly funny (though it's the incumbent Emmy award winner for outstanding drama series). Macfadyen and Braun in particular form one of the series most delightfully awful pairings: two people who will do just about anything to stay in proximity to power.
Their scenes are dialed-up to the point that neither can get through a line reading together without laughing: One memorable scene has Tom testifying in front of the U.S. Congress, Greg sitting just behind him, when a senator reads out a beautifully menacing subpoenaed text that Tom has sent to Greg: "You can't make a Tomelette without breaking some Greggs."
Another scene forced Macfadyen and Braun to take desperate measures. "When we got the script we were like, 'We have to meet before this to rehearse this privately because we'll just waste everyone's time.' I couldn't even read it without sort of weeping of laughter on my own. Because I just imagined his face — oh, God," said Macfadyen of his co-star.
The cast of Succession found out that the show would be ending with its fourth season after creator Jesse Armstrong, the man behind British shows Peep Show and Fresh Meat, delivered the news over Zoom. Armstrong felt that the story would be best served by ending it early, with "10 monster episodes to bring us out," Braun said.
"It was sad," added Braun. "The last day was really hard. And there were some times during the season that felt like, OK, that's the last time we'll be on this set. Last time I'll work with that actor, last time I'll do a scene with Matthew."
"You know, those are tough moments. But I do think we did a great job and we did it for 6½ years from the start of the pilot till now, so it was a big chapter of our lives."