Actor says his character has "attained enlightenment and a clarity of vision."
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Jeremy Strong attends the HBO's "Succession" Season 3 Premiere at American Museum of Natural History on October 12, 2021 in New York City.
Credit: Arturo Holmes/WireImage

Kendall Roy seemed headed to jail towards the end of Succession season 2, a scapegoat for assorted crimes committed by media company Waystar Royco. Then, in the closing moments of the finale, Jeremy Strong's character instead publicly accused his father, Brian Cox's business titan Logan Roy, of covering up corporate malfeasance. What prompted Kendall's change of heart?

"I think I saw into the heart of darkness that is my father and I saw something final and evil," says Strong over Zoom. "I've always known he's a monster and he's an asshole but I think this was of a different character. I saw that he, in a way, had no soul."

Wow. Speak your mind!

Below, Strong talks about what we can expect from Kendall in season 3 (which premieres on HBO, Sunday night), shooting the new episodes during the pandemic, and his upcoming onscreen collaboration with Anthony Hopkins.

Succession
Jeremy Strong and Nicholas Braun in 'Succession'
| Credit: David Russell/HBO

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Where is Kendall at the start of season 3?
JEREMY STRONG: To me, I always saw the beginning of this season as if I had sat under a tree, and attained enlightenment, and a kind of preternatural clarity of purpose and vision. He goes from being in this state of inner collapse and blind fealty to his father into [being] kind reborn, I feel like the character is reborn, with the conviction of a convert in a sense and on a moral crusade. I see myself as a savior of this company and there's a kind of airborne quality to the character, like a very positive 'air Kendall,' is where it starts.

What was it like shooting during the pandemic?
You have to kind of block that out. There wasn't the pandemic happening in the narrative so you have to forget all that. I will say HBO and our producers and our COVID supervisor were miracle workers in that they enabled us to do this in the middle of a pandemic. It was difficult. I hated having to wear shields and masks and all these things that put distance between you and the other actors, because acting is about connecting and listening. I hated having table reads over Zoom. It's impossible, it's impossible. Acting is not about saying words. It's hard for me to really be able to look you in the eyes right now. It made it very difficult to work in an intimate honest way, all of those layers that were put between us. And it was difficult for the crew. There's a certain joylessness, having to be in those things all the time. But I think we all care so much and believe so much in what we're doing that it was okay. But it had nothing to do with the actual work and it was necessary to block that out.

Did you shoot in any memorably swanky places this time around?
Yeah. I mean, I think it's necessary that the rarified world that these characters live in, that we are in that world in the show, and the show has that wingspan and that grandeur. It was limited by the pandemic in terms of where we could go and what we could do but I think they really pulled it off. My apartment this year was at the penthouse at Hudson Yards [in Manhattan] which is a really spectacular piece of real estate. We shot in Italy and Tuscany. But the thing is, for these characters, for me at least, [these places] are just so much nothing. It's as if you are taking the subway somewhere. The private jets and the places have no luster. I think people like seeing these places and it's fun, but Jesse (Armstrong, show creator) is actually saying something about the way in which these external things are so much window dressing and they don't help, or that the richness doesn't translate into an inner wealth. They're still impoverished people.

It was announced this week that you're making a film with Anthony Hopkins called Armageddon Time. What can you tell us about that?
Yes, I'm working on a film with the great director James Gray (Ad Astra, The Yards) who `I think is one of the great living filmmakers. It's a very personal intimate film about his childhood in Queens in the 1980s and a time in this child's life when all of the kinds of formative things happen. It's set against the backdrop of the election of Ronald Reagan and the whole thing is a prefiguration in a way of where we're at in this moment and the sort of hellscape that we find ourselves in as a country. It's a kind of an origin story both of an artist and America, where it is now.

Between that and Succession and The Big Short it sounds like you're really putting together a history of modern-day American hell.
I'm trying, man, I'm trying! Thank you.

Watch the trailer for season 3 of Succession above.

This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.

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