‘His rage, his ache, his disgrace, they’re all mine’: Jeremy Robust on enjoying Succession’s Kendall Roy | Succession

Earlier this 12 months, Jeremy Robust left his house in Brooklyn, walked throughout the bridge to Manhattan and headed in the direction of the far west facet of the island, the place he was filming the third season of the feverishly adored and closely accoladed HBO sequence Succession. Robust performs Kendall, the alternately bullied and rebellious son of the vilified, Murdoch-esque media tycoon Logan Roy, performed by Brian Cox, and Succession follows the jostling among the many patriarch’s 4 youngsters for his affection and respect, each of which he usually withholds. None of them is as visibly crushed by this as Kendall, who bears greater than a slight resemblance to James Murdoch, even right down to the dabblings in hip-hop. With each timid step Robust makes on display, each apologetic dip of his chin when he begins to speak, he captures the ache of a son who is aware of he has didn’t stay as much as his father’s expectations from the primary time he cried. He received an Emmy final 12 months for the function, beating, amongst others, Cox, in neatly Freudian fashion.

Robust likes to stroll whereas studying his strains, so on that day in New York as he was strolling he was additionally speaking, reciting a speech he would quickly be saying to Cox, wherein Kendall tries to curry favour along with his father, but additionally to be seen as his personal man. “Instantly, out of the nook of my eye, I noticed a ghost-grey Tesla rolling to a cease, so I appeared in it, and there was James Murdoch,” Robust says once we meet in a London lodge. “He checked out me and I checked out him, and there was a flicker between us. Then he was gone. So we had a second.”

Jeremy Robust wears blazer, by Geoffrey B Small, from bluemountain.college. Jewelry all through, Jeremy’s personal. Essential picture: swimsuit, paulsmith.com; shirt, by Dries Van Noten, from selfridges.com. Images: Simon Webb. Styling: Helen Seamons

Robust has a slight tan and, as a result of he occurs to be dressed all in brown (jacket, T-shirt, trousers), he appears a bit of like a glossy, velvety teddy bear. There’s a softness to him, whereas Kendall is all prickles and ache. However even within the telling of this anecdote, Robust takes on Kendall’s tics, the shoulders elevating an inch, his voice dropping a half-octave. After which, Kendall-like, he out of the blue doubts himself: perhaps Murdoch didn’t actually recognise him, perhaps he doesn’t watch the present. At the very least one member of the Murdoch household is a fan, I say: final 12 months I interviewed Cox and he stated {that a} man as soon as approached him to say his spouse loved Succession however “discovered it a bit of exhausting to look at generally”. His spouse, Cox revealed with a mighty cackle, was James Murdoch’s sister, Elisabeth.

In contrast to Cox, Robust stays severe: “Sure, I heard about that. And naturally meaning you are feeling a larger sense of duty.” There’s a pleasingly apt distinction between interviewing the daddy and the son: the place Cox (like Logan) was all devil-may-care swearing, Robust (like Kendall) is quiet and intense. My God, he’s intense. When he arrives, I begin by making small discuss, asking whether or not it’s good to be in London, given he studied at Rada as an 18-year-old. However Robust will not be one for informal chat. “It’s,” he says. “For me, this metropolis may be very related with the mythology of my life. I slept outdoors the Nationwide Theatre to see Ian Holm play Lear in a Richard Eyre manufacturing. It was a kind of revelatory issues that modified my life and I believed, ‘That’s what I need to do.’ So it appears like a talismanic place.”

With Brian Cox in Succession.
With Brian Cox in Succession. {Photograph}: HBO/Kobal/Rex/Shutterstock

Inside a couple of extra minutes, he’s quoting appearing inspiration he gleaned from TS Eliot’s 4 Quartets, Hamlet, Cy Twombly, Chekhov and “Dustin Hoffman quoting Jacques Cousteau – I take into consideration this quote on a regular basis: You must know the way far to go to go too far.” (I feel that is truly a model of an Eliot quote: “I don’t see how anybody can go very far … who will not be able to threat full failure.” However who am I to argue with Robust, Hoffman and Cousteau?) “I keep in mind issues which are instructive. They’re like northern lights for me,” Robust says.

He’s eloquent however – initially – self-conscious, though that’s most likely as a result of doing interviews makes him anxious. “I at all times suppose beforehand: ‘What the fuck am I going to speak about?’” he says. Due to that nervousness, he ready for this interview the best way he prepares for a task: intensely. He researched me and comes prepared with questions on my childhood and work. He’s particularly thinking about my current interview with the writer Edward St Aubyn, who was abused by his aristocratic father. It’s not exhausting to see why Robust-as-Kendall would really feel a kinship there: “It was so shifting to me that he stated he was crushed so simply. That world he inhabits is so redolent of Succession,” he says.

As a result of heightened secrecy across the present, I’m not allowed to see even one episode from the brand new season, so I’ve no concept what has occurred to poor Kendall after we noticed him publicly denouncing his father on the finish of season two. The one clue Robust provides is to say that he and Succession’s creator, Peep Present’s Jesse Armstrong, talked loads about F Scott Fitzgerald’s 1936 essay about his breakdown, The Crack-Up. “Jesse stated, ‘It’s like successful a grand slam. Has Kendall freed himself? Or has the disaster of getting what he wished made it worse?’”

Robust doesn’t simply take into consideration his character – he totally commits to him. “I really feel an important duty to know his ache and really feel the burden that’s on him,” he says, and sadly for him, there’s a number of weight on his character. Kendall is so painfully self-destructive that he ended season one trying to purchase medicine and inadvertently inflicting the demise of a younger man within the course of, and season two chopping himself off from his circle of relatives. So it’s exhausting to think about that issues are going brilliantly for him in season three.

I ask Armstrong if he ever worries that he’s placing an excessive amount of on Kendall, given how a lot Robust internalises it: “Truthfully, no. If you’re writing, you want a chip of ice within the coronary heart about taking the character to uncomfortable locations. However on a good friend/human degree, I do really feel for Jeremy. I keep in mind after he’d been doing gruelling stuff within the second season, he got here again to the set someday along with his household and I didn’t recognise him for a beat – he was bodily reworked, again from this form of emptiness to a human being along with his lights switched again on once more, burning.”

Jeremy Strong in The Big Short
Robust checked out footage of aircraft crashes to place himself ‘in the precise place’ for the scenes concerning the monetary crash in The Huge Quick. {Photograph}: PictureLux/The Hollywood Archive/Alamy

They solely completed taking pictures two weeks earlier than we communicate, and I ask Robust how lengthy it takes for him to get Kendall out of his system. “I don’t suppose he does depart me,” he says. “I don’t actually really feel like an actor a lot any extra; I really feel as if I’m me for half the 12 months and I’m Kendall for half the 12 months. I feel while you stay with a task for lengthy sufficient, like Mark Rylance enjoying Rooster in Jerusalem, then it’s in you.”

My tolerance for thespy actor chat is normally fairly low (oh, you suppose appearing is such a profound career? Permit me to introduce you to mind surgical procedure). However, to my shock, I get pleasure from it from Robust, and it takes me some time to determine why. Lastly, as our interview runs on far previous our allotted time, I get it: typically when actors wax on about how they lived amongst sheep for a 12 months to play a shepherd, it feels as in the event that they’re stroking their ego, however with Robust, it appears like endearing enthusiasm. Each dialog with him, regardless of the topic, whirlpools again to appearing, like an individual who can’t cease speaking about their real love, or a baby on their favorite obsession. Additionally, he has the skills to justify the discuss.

Even leaving apart Succession, he has lengthy been making a reputation for himself as a extremely gifted character actor, one who began in New York theatre and shortly turn into a favorite of administrators as diverse as Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Darkish Thirty, Detroit), Adam McKay (The Huge Quick, in addition to the pilot of Succession) and Aaron Sorkin (Molly’s Recreation, The Trial of the Chicago 7). Does their fondness for him recommend he’s simple to direct? “I don’t suppose any of these administrators would say I’m simple, however they know I put all of it on the road,” he says with a wry smile.

“Jeremy takes his work extraordinarily significantly,” says Rafe Spall, who acted with Robust in The Huge Quick, the difference of Michael Lewis’s guide concerning the 2008 monetary disaster. “After we have been filming the scene once we uncover that Bear Stearns has tanked, Jeremy was sitting subsequent to me and I noticed he was his cellphone loads. I requested what he was and he stated, ‘Footage of aircraft crashes.’ He advised me they put him ‘in the precise place’.”

Jeremy Strong and Sacha Baron Cohen being photographed leaving a courtroom in The Trial of the Chicago 7.
Robust, centre proper, with Sacha Baron Cohen in The Trial of the Chicago 7. {Photograph}: AP

When Sorkin forged him in The Trial of the Chicago 7 as Jerry Rubin, the countercultural activist, Robust ready by “taking all these gummies [edible cannabis], going to Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago and listening to the Grateful Useless. It was a palate cleanser after Kendall.” Throughout the courtroom scene, wherein Rubin, fellow activist Abbie Hoffman (Sacha Baron Cohen) and others have been accused of crossing state strains to incite anti-Vietnam riots, Robust, within the spirit of Rubin, introduced an “assortment of interval noisemakers” to disrupt proceedings. After Sorkin irritably requested him to please cease clanging his cowbell, he slipped a fart machine on the chair of Decide Julius Hoffman, performed by Frank Langella, who was lower than amused when he sat on it.

“I felt, that is guerrilla theatre and that’s what these guys would do. However Sacha turned to me and stated, ‘You’ll be able to’t try this!’ I used to be like, ‘Dude! You’re Sacha Baron Cohen!’” And it did the trick: the take wherein Langella sat on the fart machine, after which glares at Hoffman and Rubin, is the take that seems within the film.

When he’s making Succession, Robust largely stays separate from the opposite forged members to take care of the dynamic of the present wherein Kendall is emotionally disconnected from his household. “It’s not like I keep in character, however you might want to consider in what you’re doing and take it significantly. I don’t know the way you are able to do that with out going all out. Additionally, for me, the artistic self and social self are fully separate. I’ve a number of armour and anxieties in my social self, and I’ve to strip all that away to have interaction my artistic self,” he says.

The connection between Kendall and Logan is on the coronary heart of Succession and the moments when Logan blows up at his son are virtually unwatchably painful. Is it scary to get a Brian Cox gale power 10? “Typically. I don’t at all times know when he’s going to shout at me,” he says, eyes widening. As soon as, he burst into tears.

Jeremy Strong holding a burning page of the Succession script
Blazer and shirt, by Geoffrey B Small, from bluemountain.college. Images: Simon Webb. Styling: Helen Seamons. Fireplace Specialist: Matt Unusual. Grooming: Sam Cooper at Carol Hayes administration utilizing Kiehl’s. Photographer’s assistants: Sam Brown and Jake Newell. Stylist’s assistant: Peter Bevan

I ask if it’s exhausting for him to take care of a distance from Cox off digicam, given how pleasant he’s in actual life.

“Yeah, it’s exhausting, as a result of Brian is so avuncular,” he says, having fun with the phrase. “We’ve got very totally different processes, and he tolerates me and I’ve inestimable respect for him. However I favor to maintain him in his nook and I keep in mine so we will meet within the ring. It harms my sense of the dynamic when it’s so frictionless and heat between us. That bonhomie doesn’t serve the work.”

In season two, in a typical second of poor judgment, Kendall carried out an unforgettably bizarre rap for his father to indicate him his love, a lot to Logan’s displeasure. Wasn’t Robust tempted to chortle in Cox’s face as he stated strains like “L to the OG, Dude be the OG”? Robust recoils, shocked: clearly I nonetheless don’t get it.

“Oh no! Laughter isn’t even on the playing cards – it couldn’t be! As a result of the rap was honest, it’s dedicated. I don’t really feel as if I’m doing a scene for Brian Cox, I really feel as if I’m rapping for my dad,” he says.

I ask if he can do the rap for me and he says no. “It’s not a parlour trick,” he says, a delicate rebuke. “However there was one thing fantastic about doing the rap, as a result of it was expressive and never inner. A lot of the time there’s a muzzled anguish that lives in Kendall. However when he convinces himself he’s free, it’s an actual reprieve as a result of he’s not sitting within the burning chair any extra.” Robust typically makes viscerally visible references to explain Kendall’s ache: for the photoshoot, his strategies included him showing to be on the verge of drowning, and burning his script (the latter was safer).


It is Robust’s pure depth – that capability to take a seat within the burning chair – that makes him really feel so completely forged as Kendall, says Armstrong: “I usually suppose I prize doubleness or the power to do two issues without delay. After all, Jeremy can try this and play, say, confidence which is each undermined by a deeper insecurity, but additionally bolstered and pumped up by a must act out the arrogance which is a masks. However what he brings is what I prize most extremely, and that’s single-mindedness. He finds these absolute convictions within the character, and in a world that is filled with all types of phoniness, Jeremy-as-Kendall’s singularity of wanting is essential. Even when what Kendall desires is in some methods bullshit, his wanting may be very pure. And once we see the strings minimize on that wanting, and he’s left flailing and not using a function, that’s very affecting, too.”

Armstrong has at all times insisted the present will not be based mostly on the Murdochs. “Or the Trumps, or the Sulzbergers, or the Newhouses, or any of these dynastic media households,” Robust provides (though he did learn all the pieces he may about James Murdoch when he obtained the half, and sure, he does see the various resemblances between Kendall and Donald Trump Jr). But he has a behavior of showing in movies which are based mostly on precise occasions. In addition to the Bigelow, Sorkin and McKay movies, he performed Lee Harvey Oswald in Parkland. He was particularly good in The Huge Quick, enjoying a compulsively gum-chewing investor who shortly grasps the size of what’s coming. “I’ve at all times been drawn to tales concerning the instances we stay in, and when Adam McKay got here to me with Succession, it felt very very similar to what he did with The Huge Quick and Vice [about Dick Cheney]. He’s made this triptych of American life,” he says. But by signing up for the present, Robust upended what he anticipated for his personal life: “I believed I might at all times be a kind of chameleonic character actors. However with Jesse’s writing, there’s one thing extra bare being requested of me. There’s nowhere to cover. Kendall’s rage, his ache, his contempt, his disgrace, his emotions of inadequacy – all of these issues are mine. And that feels very totally different from simply placing on a humorous voice while you’re a child.”


Strong was born and raised in Boston. His mom was a hospice nurse and his father works in juvenile justice, “so I couldn’t have been additional away from the world of Succession”. As a baby, he says, “I by no means felt capable of take up house within the room.” However when he was on stage, he was liberated: “It was simply this abracadabra the place you’re free out of your inhibitions, the best way you’re perceived by others and even the best way you understand your self. I feel appearing, for me, was a solution to disappear from my regular social self and in addition a solution to seem extra forcefully. Truthfully, I don’t know what I’d do with out appearing.”

He began doing performs in school, inspired by his English academics, and when he was 18, he was accepted on a Rada summer time course. He learn Laurence Olivier’s autobiography and fell in love along with his descriptions of “theatrical braveness” and being daring in a single’s efficiency: “That English custom in appearing which we don’t have as a lot in America, even in movie,” he says. After graduating from Yale, the place he majored in English, he scratched out a dwelling in New York, getting no matter jobs he may in theatre. When he was in his mid-20s, he was employed as Daniel Day-Lewis’s assistant on the set of 2005’s The Ballad of Jack and Rose. I ask if it was Day‑Lewis – famously no slouch in terms of immersing himself in a task – who inspired him to take his totally dedicated method to appearing.

Jeremy Strong sitting on a high stool wearing an olive green jumpsuit
Jumpsuit, paulharndenshoemakers.com. {Photograph}: Simon Webb/The Guardian

“I had at all times had a predilection in the direction of that, however seeing the extent of Daniel’s dedication, his courageousness, his willingness to make a idiot of himself – that had a profound and formative impact on me,” he says.

What was he doing for Day-Lewis as his assistant? “Oh, simply mundane stuff.” Like getting his espresso? Robust is amused on the thought: “No, he’s not somebody who wants anybody to get him espresso.” I begin to ask once more, however he stops me: “I really feel very protecting of his privateness.” No matter it was, Robust clearly did such a convincing job of being Day-Lewis’s assistant that he was forged as his personal secretary in Lincoln – one other function based mostly on an actual individual. Certainly that they had fun about that?

“No, no. Perhaps afterwards, however getting that half was so significant to me. Though I didn’t do a lot in that film and, as an actor, you need to go at 200mph – you need to be enjoying Lincoln!” he smiles.

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In 2006, Robust was in a tiny play that was “as far off Broadway as you will get with out being within the river”. Philip Seymour Hoffman, together with the Pulitzer prize-winning playwright John Patrick Shanley, occurred to see his efficiency. On the again of that, Shanley forged him in his play Defiance, and that led to his first movie function, because the lead within the indie film Humboldt County in 2008. Did he keep in contact with Hoffman?

“Not that carefully, however the New York theatre world is fairly small so I’d see him round and he was at all times very form to me. I keep in mind after I was in rehearsals for Turgenev’s A Month within the Nation and I used to be speaking to Phil about my difficulties with it, he advised me to ‘Err on the facet of going for it.’ After I take into consideration him, I take into consideration that, his boldness, his … ” He trails off, his eyes crammed with tears. Hoffman died of a drug overdose in 2014, on the age of 46. I apologise for mentioning one thing so unhappy. “No no, it’s simply – he was a hero to all of us,” he says.

Strong with his wife, psychiatrist Emma Wall.
Robust along with his spouse, psychiatrist Emma Wall. {Photograph}: Getty Photographs

We transfer on to happier topics, specifically, his spouse, Emma Wall, a psychiatrist, whom he by no means mentions with out smiling. The 2 met at a celebration in New York in 2012, whereas Hurricane Sandy raged outdoors. They married in 2016 and stay primarily in New York, however have a house in Copenhagen, and Robust proudly reveals me the Danish labels on his garments. “I really like Denmark. I discover it a really sane and delicate place. It appears like a refuge for me, and it’s nice to have someplace that’s a docking station in any case this work, which I discover very enervating and scary and worrying,” he says. I ask if his love for Hamlet motivated him to purchase a house in Copenhagen. He laughs and says no, it’s as a result of his spouse is half-Danish, however provides: “I’ve at all times wished to play Hamlet, and I could not get to, however I really feel he’s embedded in Kendall, that thwarted will and incapacity to take motion.” He has, in fact, visited Helsingør: “Shakespeare by no means noticed it, however you prefer to suppose, ‘There’s Hamlet’s fort,’” he says wistfully.

Robust and his spouse have daughters aged three, 18 months, and one other born simply after our interview. “So three sisters,” he smiles. He has created a Chekhovian household whereas dwelling in Copenhagen like a Danish prince. I ask how his Danish is and he admits it’s fairly unhealthy. “The reality is – and my spouse is aware of this, so it’s OK for me to say, I feel – I’ve an virtually pathological lack of curiosity about most issues. However in terms of work, I’m inexhaustible. So if I needed to study Danish for a component, I might.”

I ask him if it’s attainable that he does an excessive amount of for his work. Does he actually must tackle all of a drug addict’s ache to play a drug addict?

“There have been instances when it has felt actually exhausting, but when the character goes by an ordeal, and also you need the viewers to expertise that, then you may’t spare your self. I’ve a perception – and this can be a fallacious perception – that it has to value you one thing,” he says. Then he provides one thing that may very well be each Kendall’s private mantra and an outline of Robust’s work ethic: “I want it to be tough.”

Season three of Succession begins on HBO/HBO Max within the US on 17 October, and on Sky Atlantic within the UK on 18 October.

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