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‘Succession’: Adrien Brody on Shattering the Charade of Roy Family Unity

"Josh is not clueless."

Succession Season 3 Episode 4 Adrien Brody

Adrien Brody in “Succession”

Macall Polay / HBO

[Editor’s note: The following interview contains spoilers for “Succession” Season 3, Episode 4, “Lion in the Meadow.”]

HBO’s “Succession” has never shied away from embracing the animal kingdom, be it Logan Roy (Brian Cox) going “full fucking beast” in the premiere of Season 3 or a rousing game of Boar on the Floor. In the most recent episode of the series, “Lion in the Meadow,” Kendall Roy (Jeremy Strong) calls his father a bear. But if Logan isn’t the lion referenced in the title of the episode, who is?

Enter Oscar-winning actor Adrien Brody, who guest stars as Josh Aaronson, a four percent Waystar Royco shareholder whose support is vital for the Roys’ ongoing proxy battle fight. Aaronson summons father and son to his remote estate, giving them an opportunity to earn his continued loyalty. He is, in a number of ways, the lion.

In a recent interview with IndieWire, Brody delved into the experience of going toe-to-toe with Cox and Strong, as well as how it felt to best the Roys at their own game. Plus, he touches on why even non-sports fans are going to want to tune in to Adam McKay’s “Untitled Los Angeles Lakers Project.”

IndieWire: Did you have feelings about the show before joining it this season?

Adrien Brody: It’s the kind of show that I would love to be on and would have loved to have been on from its inception, to be brutally honest. I just love it. It is so sharp and so full of richness and depth and nuance and beautiful acting and incredible writing. And so funny and dark and telling of the world around us. It’s just amazing. They really nailed it.

So I’m really honored that they’ve asked me to be a part of it. It was really fortuitous that they came to me, and I’m very happy for all of them. It’s really wonderful to see people do great work I’m thrilled for all the accolades that they’ve received. They were wonderful to work with and I have nothing but but respect and enthusiasm for the project.

Did you speak with Jesse Armstrong about the role beforehand?

Jesse had a really wonderful point of view about the character, which was very informative to me. And I had a point of view, of course. I had certain ideas in my head that were based on individuals that I’ve encountered, some are friends and some people that I’ve met in my lifetime, Jesse and the writing team were very, very receptive to that. They really built this for me, which was so generous of them. It was already great, I mean, I do not take anything away from what they delivered but the fact that they were open to the conversations and they gave me room to be much sharper, I think, and much more in tune with something that I felt I can do more authentically.

How do you see Josh Aaronson? How would you describe him?

I felt it was important to convey some layers of his personality within this glimpse into his character. Not just play him as a shrewd competitor, but to see the human being there. To see someone, who I feel, is much more youthful and present in his position on this planet. Whether he’s a good or a bad guy, that doesn’t have to be determined. I think he’s a better guy in a lot of ways. And he enjoys his position here immensely. I think there is a frankness to him because he’s an equal in many ways and he’s heavily invested and he has the right to put his finger on what he sees is ailing. I think he’s very calculated.

He’s someone, I think, who’s in touch with his environs. I tried to add to that by have him dressed for the adventure. And that’s not just on a superficial level. It’s being prepared to go get his boots. All of that is a preparedness and an advantage over the the other two because he’s taking them into an environment they weren’t really prepared for and coming to take this business meeting. He’s watching what unravels, not necessarily sure what will, and determine how he will proceed.

Do you think he has already made his decision before the Roys show up?

I don’t think he has, no. I think that would be presumptuous of him. I think he’s prepared to make a decision and he’s indicating one thing and perhaps has another on his mind, but settling on a final meeting is not a decision, it is an option.

There’s very little preamble introducing Josh to the audience before he immediately goes head to head with Kendall and Logan.

[laughs] That’s kind of what it was. That’s all there was time for, it was really amazing. That was reality.

Tell me about that.

It’s exciting to have to show up. I was prepping for a completely different character, I was prepping to play Pat Riley on Adam McKay’s show [“Untitled Los Angeles Lakers Project”] and that’s kind of how this came about and I was so grateful at this opportunity. [Jesse and Adam] distracted me from the main event, offering me something that has a lot of material to learn and a lot of work do and a lot to man up to against Brian [Cox] and Jeremy [Strong] who have been steeping in these perspective roles for years now and, and ready to kill me. Like, let’s go.

It’s such a thrill to work with talented people and it elevates you because they’re so good. We all do our thing. And I’ve been doing this for a lifetime. Even if there is pressure, I’m so used to having to handle my responsibilities that it kind of just fuels that interaction. It’s what we do, but it sure is exciting.

They gave me such wonderful material. It wasn’t like I came in with a meaningless bit and they got to walk all over me, it was a chance for us to really go head-to-head and swim with two very big sharks that knew that body of water. I was new in the neighborhood and they’re gonna have to get used to me.

What kinds of conversations were you able to have with Jeremy and Brian before diving in?

Brian and I had worked together when I was 26–

On “The Affair of the Necklace”! I was going to ask about that. Did you two share any scenes?

We did share a scene. I remember seeing him act and I told Brian when I saw him again, that he impressed me so much. Seeing him then, he just had such gravity and strength. When I watched him when I was in my 20s, I thought to myself, “Wow, this guy is a strong fucking actor.” And he sure is and has been. It was really wonderful to reconnect.

And Jeremy was really great to me. They’re so different in their approaches but they’re both so strong and it’s fun to see how they interact and where I fit in with that, how I am as an actor and watching how they are as actors. I admire all that work and it’s really fun. I really got a kick out of it.

I don’t know that I’ve seen anything quite as unnerving recently as that endless walk back to the house. It’s nightmarish, this sense that you’re lost and surrounded by hidden danger. Could you feel that energy during filming? 

There was a part of me that always tried to keep a sense of Josh’s awareness of his land. Josh is not clueless. I don’t feel that he was genuinely lost. He may have intentionally gotten way off track, but there was no danger for Josh and there was no no sense of him being lost. He wanted to convey his disorientation because he wanted [Logan and Kendall] to further unravel this charade of them being all good. [laughs] They were clearly not all good.

Well, you really sold it because it scared the shit out of me.

Actually, the first time I read the script, it’s funny, I didn’t know where it was headed. And it really felt a little foreboding. There was a scene where [Josh] was actually foraging and he took out a knife and I thought, “Ooh, this is going to get this is going to get fun. This is gonna be really interesting.”

Few people have bested the Roys so thoroughly. How did it feel to be a bit of a giant slayer?

I definitely feel like I manned up. It felt good. It’s Josh’s doing that makes them face each other, the first time they’ve seen each other in a long time, in person, and I think it’s a good catalyst for change. It was really fun stuff.

One last question before you go: Even though I’m not a Lakers fan, I remain incredibly excited for that series. How has working on that project been?

You might become a Lakers fan by the end of it. It’s another era but people will appreciate the lives and the trials and tribulations of all these people in their lives. That’s what so fascinating. I was saying to the team on the show, it doesn’t matter if you’re a sports fan or not, people are gonna love these characters and feel so much for them and what’s at stake. All the infighting and drama, it’s like life. Sports is just mirroring life and all that’s at stake. It’s just brutal.

“Succession” premieres new episodes Sundays at 9 p.m. on HBO.

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