Succession cast reveals all about shooting Kendall's bonkers birthday party
Warning: This article contains spoilers for Sunday's episode of Succession.
A walk-thru vagina. A group of children performing Wu-Tang Clan covers. A performance of Billy Joel's "Honesty" which culminates in a crucifixion. Kendall Roy's 40th birthday bash on Sunday's episode of Succession had everything. Or, at least, that was the plan. And while Jeremy Strong's increasingly anxious and depressed media executive cancelled a couple of the attractions during the night, there was still more than enough one-percenter mayhem to make the show, titled "Too Much Birthday," a series highlight.
"It was just such a special episode," says director Lorene Scafaria (Hustlers), who oversaw the New York shoot. "They said they wanted me for something particularly cinematic. When I read the first draft of the script, I just felt so spoiled. [Laughs] I felt like it was my birthday to get a bottle episode that takes place in Manhattan and have all these beautiful sets designed and built by [Succession production designer] Stephen Carter. It was really fun."
The party sequence was shot at The Shed, a cultural center in midtown Manhattan.
"They have exhibitions and performances there," says Scafaria. "Lighting was an area we had a lot of fun designing, kind of taking inspiration from Kanye's Saint Pablo Tour, which felt like something that Kendall would have done himself. [We] got to make all these sort of outlandish requests based on requests that he would have made himself, so the party was extraordinary, throwing the party was so fun, so wild and outlandish and ridiculous. Yeah, just so much fun.
So what is it like for Kieran Culkin to play a character who finds himself walking through a giant representation of his mother's vagina?
"You know, there's always so much work for me to do," says Culkin, who plays Kendall's younger brother Roman. "I'm trying to figure out my lines, and I'm walking through what it is my mother's vagina, and I look up and go, holy s---, someone built this! I forgot that somebody has to go through the process of actually making this thing happen. So that was just great fun."
Strong made it his business to involve himself in the creation of his character's birthday bash.
"I think I had a hand in that episode more than most," says the actor, "because I cared so much about it and because I thought it had the potential to, in a single episode, go from being what was meant to be this sort of pinnacle of his life to being the complete nadir of his life."
Scafaria reveals that viewers almost got to see a pint-sized version of the Wu-Tang Clan, whose set was sadly cancelled by Kendall.
"We began the casting process," she says. "I remember looking at kids. I was very excited to realize that, and then the great [Succession creator] Jesse Armstrong [said] it was one of those things to pull back from, to realize that just saying it and alluding to them was probably funnier."
Watch the Succession cast talk about the episode in the video above.
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