Succession got off to something of a slow start reception-wise when the show debuted on HBO last June. But by the end of the initial season’s 10-episodes, this tale of a Rupert Murdoch-esque media magnate named Logan Roy (Brian Cox) and his four plotting, squabbling adult children (played by Jeremy Strong, Kieran Culkin, Sarah Snook, and Alan Ruck) had become must-see TV for many.
“I’m really curious how a show is being received, but there’s a bit of self-care as well, because not everything goes brilliantly,” says Succession creator Jesse Armstrong, whose previous credits include co-creating the cult British sitcom, Peep Show. “I lie and I say I don’t read the reviews. I sort of get my wife to read them, squint at them, check with my collaborators. I didn’t follow the reception [to Succession] closely but I did definitely notice that there was a sort of growing appreciation of it.”
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Given the show’s ultimately positive reception, have you been approaching season 2 (which premieres Sunday, Aug. 11 on HBO) differently?
JESSE ARMSTRONG: If the show has got an audience, or a bit of an audience, and people seem to have responded, you have a bump of confidence, and then, on the downside, you have that sense of, Have we done all our best stories? I remember this very well from writing previous shows like Peep Show. The first couple of drafts of the script feel a bit like fan fiction and self-parody. If you are a normal writer, you have a little bit of an anxiety attack. But we grew into our characters as we got to know their strengths in the first season and so you have that very warm feeling. I think our ensemble cast is one of our great strengths and knowing their voices more intimately to write towards is just a nice thing. In the writers’ room you start to feel the storylines that are going to fit earlier.
What can you tell us about season 2?
We left [the show] poised with the beginnings of a takeover battle, which are heralded by the delivery of a ‘bear hug’ letter. So, obviously, there’s a frantic desire on behalf of Logan and the company to fend that off.
We go to some cool places. We go off on a corporate retreat-style event to Hungary, we get to see the Hamptons spread of Logan, which we’ve not been to before, where they kind of hunker down in the first episode to think about what to do in the face of this bear hug attack. And then we visit a kind of Davos-slash-Sun Valley kind of media conference in one of the later episodes. Yeah, there’s some geographical variety. It’s still rightly named Succession, and that’s still a concern of the group. I guess I won’t go into too much of the specifics of what happens to keep it fresh for people who do enjoy the show.
In the season 1 finale, Jeremy Strong’s character Kendall was involved in the death of a waiter while attending the wedding of Tom (Matthew Macfadyn) and Shiv (Sarah Snook). Will you be dealing with the repercussions of that?
That would be getting into [spoilers]. All I’d say is something annoyingly gnomic like, “Yes, it has repercussions.”
I assume Tom and Shiv live happily after?
[Laughs] Their relationship continues to be interesting.
The last time we saw Alan Ruck’s character Connor he had started to talk about running for U.S. President. Was that just a joke on the writers’ part?
Well, you know, I think the family has the same question — I don’t think he sees himself as a joke. I think you’ll be intrigued to see where he goes.
What about the maybe-not-so-dim Cousin Greg (Nicholas Braun)?
You saw him in the finale episode playing his cards that he’s accumulated, and that was a fun thing for us to talk about in the writers’ room. I think we have good stuff for him.
I’m guessing it’s going to be a long time before you run out of disagreements for the characters to have.
I think it’s not the sort of show which should go on forever, because there’s a question set up in the title of the show and I think it’s a question you eventually want answered. So, I wouldn’t say that it should go on forever, but we certainly haven’t run out of ideas when we’ve met in the writers’ room so far.
Watch the teaser trailer for season 2 of Succession above.
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