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‘Succession’ Team on What Motivates the Roy Family’s War: Money, Power, and, Yes, Love

It's about to get Shakespearean up in here.

A photo from the production of “Succession” in White Plains, N.Y., on Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020. Photo: David M. Russell/HBO ©2020 HBO. All Rights Reserved


David M. Russell/HBO

When trying to explain HBO’s Emmy-winning drama series “Succession” to a friend, you’d be hard-pressed to sidestep the idea that, at it’s core, it’s the story of one family whose members are perpetually jockeying for position to take over the reins of a multi-billion dollar media empire — a horror story of .1 percenters attempting to secure their financial futures by any means necessary.

But what if it’s never been about the money at all?

Several members of the “Succession” family, including Brian Cox, Jeremy Strong, Nicholas Braun, J. Smith-Cameron, Alan Ruck, Matthew Macfadyen, and Kieran Culkin, as well as creator Jesse Armstrong, participated in a panel on Wednesday morning as part of the Television Critics Association virtual Summer Press Tour (as held on the first day of Autumn) and discussed the show’s upcoming season, due to return October 17.

Then the conversation turned to a question about the corrosive nature of wealth.

“I almost never consider the fact that they’re wealthy. That’s just never something that pops in my mind. That’s not what it’s about,” said Culkin who stars on the show as Roman Roy, the youngest of the greater Logan Roy brood.

Culkin went on to point out that for Roman, money was simply a way of life. Having never been without it, it was, for all intents and purposes, a non-factor.

Armstrong agreed, and pushed the question a step further.

“Is it the money that’s the corrosive thing in the family? Or is it not about the money? Is it about lack of love and affection or something else? You know, is it that that’s the driver? Or is it just a dysfunctional family?”

When last we saw the (extremely dysfunctional) Roy family, during the finale of the show’s critically acclaimed second season, Kendall Roy (Strong) went to war with his father Logan (Cox), accusing him of corporate malfeasance in the midst of a massive press conference. Season 3 loses no time picking things up where the previous season left off.

Both Strong and Cox, as it turns out, have strong feelings about what’s really at play at the heart of the series and what drives all the conflict therein.

“I don’t think it’s any different from any family,” Cox, the elder statesman, said of the idea that money is the corrosive element within the Roy dynasty. “I think the conditions are the conditions, and you have to hold on to the conditions. Unfortunately, people identify with the conditions and sometimes they don’t actually see what’s really going on.”

“There’s something I read when we first started working on this five years ago, something that [psychologist and psychoanalyst Carl] Jung had said that where love is absence, power fills the vacuum,” Strong said. “And I guess I do think about those things, I think about love and power and where they are on the indexes. [With] power, it’s not necessarily in a monetary sense, but there’s something that compensates for lack of love that drives us in different directions sometimes. Which feels quite Shakespearean to me.”

As for what viewers can expect from the rest of the season, details remain sparse — and we wouldn’t want it any other way. For those hoping that Season 3 will be the Year of Greg (Braun), Armstrong gently dissuaded the idea, stating that each of his colleagues was mouthwatering to write for, but they don’t enter seasons with an intent to focus on a single character.

“I think Greg would say that every season’s a Greg season,” Braun said.

“Succession” Season 3 premieres Sunday, October 17 at 9 p.m. ET on HBO. Watch the trailer for the new season here.

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