With only two episodes left until Succession is expected to have its big finish after four seasons, both fans and those a part of the Emmy-winning HBO drama series are not exactly ready to say farewell to the Roy family for good.
Kieran Culkin, who plays Roman Roy on Succession, shared with me some of the early conversations he had with show creator Jesse Armstrong during pre-production for season four. “He basically laid out the entire season for me and I went Well, that kind of sounds like the end and he goes Yeah, or… and he just threw out like three different ideas of what season five could. I went That sounds great. Then we got through it – we did the table read for 10 [season four episodes] and then [Armstrong] said this was the end. It feels like there could be more, but it also feels like it could be the end. Both feel right.”
Throughout the series, Culkin has played the rather outspoken and often sarcastic adult child of business giant Logan Roy, the longtime owner of right-wing media empire Waystar Royco. Since the series first premiered in 2018, I wondered if Culkin had ever based his character Roman on any family members of power and privilege within the real world.
Culkin said, “That doesn’t work for me with what I do. I think the process I have with what I do for a living does always change but I don’t like that. I don’t like the external. I don’t even like wardrobe. I kind of wish I could just do everything in a t-shirt and jeans. I don’t want to think about that stuff. That doesn’t help me. If I try to use somebody as the source material, it feels like I’m working from the outside in.”
The 40-year-old actor went on to say that he even made a specific point not to look into nor base his character on anyone from the Fox Corporation-owned Murdoch family. Culkin said there was something in Succession’s writing that initially clicked with him when he first joined the cast, adding that he finds it better for the development of Roman to have come from “some sort of truth in my stomach.”
Being a working actor since childhood, first playing his actual brother Macaulay Culkin’s on-screen cousin in the 1990 Christmas comedy Home Alone and then acting as a young adult in such films as 2002’s Igby Goes Down and 2010’s Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, I asked the Succession star how his experiences on the HBO series have been different from his previous projects.
“It’s been very different, just in terms of how we do the work – how we put it out there is completely different. If the words tumble out differently, I’ll ask Hey sorry – for some reason, the words are coming out like this. They’re like Yeah, that’s fine. There’s a lot of freedom. You’re not restricted to anything. It never worked like that on anything else. It’s a huge change – I don’t know if it’s how I’m going to approach the work from now on or if it’s just this one wonderful, little bubble the way that we worked on the show. I’m not sure.”
Culkin said that he has felt a bit of a family sense with his co-stars off-screen over the past four seasons, but added that in-between seasons, everyone lives so far apart and would return to their own lives, including Culkin with his own kids. While reminiscing about the final days filming on-set for Succession, he took a moment to reflect on the real-life bond he has made with his on-screen brother and co-star Alan Ruck.
“There was one day where Brian [Cox], Alan, Justine [Lupe] – there were a couple that wrapped all in one day and that was just brutal. In particular, Alan was such a punch to the gut because he’s one of the most lovely guys – so much fun to work with, just I think an amazing scene partner and underrated talent. Getting that feeling of Oh my god, he’s done and I wept like a baby and hugging him.”
As I concluded my conversation with Culkin about his time on Succession, he took a moment to summarize the far-from-perfect relationship between the Roy siblings and the one thing he believes has kept them together after all these years.
“They need the business,” Culkin said of the Roys. “They need Waystar to hang out, because otherwise, they’re not going to like get together for lunch. They’re not going to just hang out. Roman is not going to call up Kendall and be like I want to hang out with your kids. How are they? They’re not going to do that. They need the business and the drama that surrounds that, so they can hang out because they don’t know how to be like Hey, I love you. Let’s kick it!”