DUBAI: There’s a regular lifecycle for a television masterpiece. At first, it’s a sleeper hit, adored by critics and early adopters. As the years go on, if it’s good enough, it grows into something much greater — a phenomenon that becomes so embedded that its quotes and characters become cultural touchstones. All of this has happened with HBO’s “Succession,” which just began its fourth season on OSN+. There’s one step in the cycle, however, that creator Jesse Armstrong is still hoping to avoid — the one where a great show carries on past its prime. And so, with this season, “Succession” will come to an end.
As they filmed this latest season, however, no one knew this (except Armstrong). The cast and crew were shocked and heartbroken. All, that is, except actor Brian Cox, who plays Logan Roy, the domineering and acerbic business mogul whose ‘succession’ plan for his media empire carries the show’s central conflict.
“I’m delighted. I’m very happy that it’s coming to an end,” Cox tells Arab News.
This isn’t to say that Cox is not a fan of the show, or not grateful for the experience. Rather, in his eyes, stories should have endings, no matter how much the world may demand a next chapter.
“Jesse implied to me that it was going to be coming to an end. Everyone else was hopeful that it was going to go on, but I was fine about it. I don’t hang on to things. It wasn’t really decided until around episode six or seven that it was going to be wrap-up time, but in the end, that’s the discipline of (Armstrong),” says Cox.
“A lot of shows go well past their sell-by date. This show will never do that. It’s a good thing that people are mourning the fact that it’s coming to an end. It’s like a death in the family. But I think that’s healthy, and that’s what’s so extraordinary about Jesse — that he had the courage to do it. Never outstay your welcome,” Cox continues.
For his co-stars of course, it wasn’t just a matter of trying to milk out more story. Over the show’s run, while it is often merciless in its portrayal of the Roy family, from its patriarch to his four children and the many hangers-on beyond, it’s also open-hearted to them. The magic of the series is that it takes some of the most unrelatable and unlikable characters ever put on screen and, by focusing on their family dynamics, makes it impossible not to relate to them in some way — and impossible not to wonder who will actually succeed Logan Roy.
“Jesse and the writers realized in the first season, when they had storylines that took the central characters away from each other, that it dissipated the tension and the energy. This family is so addicted to each other and so worried about what the other ones could do behind their back. They don’t fit in anywhere else in the world except with each other. Because of their wealth and elitism, they have no one else to relate to, so it’s family or bust,” says Sarah Snook, who plays Logan’s daughter Siobhan Roy.
The close ties between the characters mirrors the real-life bond between the actors, says Alan Ruck, who plays Logan’s eldest son Connor.
“With all the outlandish things that the writers have asked me to say or do, I think it all comes back to how you relate to the people you're working with,” he explains. “I just have to key into the energy of Sarah Snook, or Kieran Culkin, or Brian Cox or Jeremy Strong, and how much I like them. It keeps me in the room, and in the situation, no matter what crazy things (my character is) saying or doing.”
While Culkin, who plays youngest son Roman, has been in the limelight since he appeared opposite his older brother Macaulay in 1990’s megahit “Home Alone,” what he’ll miss most about the show is the rest of the cast, knowing that it’s unlikely he’ll be working with them again because the show’s popularity would make it difficult for people to get past their character associations. The whole phenomenon thing, though, is a bit lost on him.
“I don’t really have a sense of what a ‘global phenomenon’ is, exactly. My life is small. I do the show, then I’m home with my kids. I never see the scope. I’ll occasionally see a giant poster and go, ‘Oh cool, people are watching it,’” says Culkin. “When we filmed the pilot, I had a lot of fun doing it, but I didn’t know who the heck was going to want to see this show. I still don’t, but I’m glad they did, because we got to do this together.”