Jeremy Strong Was Worried That People Would Think The Very (Darkly) Funny ‘Succession’ Is A Comedy

Sunday night’s Succession was a barnburner, even for Succession. The eighth episode of the pandemic-delayed third season went to some extra-dark places, with each of Logan Roy’s children hitting new lows. Who had it worst? It’s a hard one to answer. Maybe it’s a four-way tie. (Or a three-way tie, since even Connor’s ill-advised marriage proposal was far from the worst thing to happen to the siblings.) But when the episode ended, there was one person people were talking about more than the others: On Sunday night, The New Yorker dropped an epic and at times bewildering profile of Kendall Roy himself, Jeremy Strong.

The piece paints a portrait of the thespian as rather intense, to put it mildly. He’s one of those actors who stays in character on set. He doesn’t like rehearsal. (“I want every scene to feel like I’m encountering a bear in the woods,” as he puts it.) He doesn’t consider what he does Method acting, referring to his approach as “identity diffusion.” When the reporter tells him he’s going to ask his Succession castmates what they think of his methodology, he admits, ominously, “I don’t know how popular the way I work is amongst our troupe.” (Kieran Culkin, who’s spoken about him before, seems skeptical, even vaguely dismissive, while Brian Cox, an old pro who can turn acting on and off like a switch, worries about him.)

Strong is so serious that he doesn’t seem to recognize one of the things that has made Succession so beloved: It’s very funny. It’s not a comedy (or at least that’s not how awards bodies, who place in the Drama category, see it). But it’s filled with clever insults, pitch black humor, and, of course, champion cussing. Strong, however, doesn’t seem to see that. Indeed, Culkin tells an anecdote about him:

“He said something to me like, ‘I’m worried that people might think that the show is a comedy.’ And I said, ‘I think the show is a comedy.’ He thought I was kidding.”

But perhaps there’s method (if not Method) to his madness. Adam McKay, executive producer, who directed the pilot, said Strong’s intensity is what got him the gig. “That’s exactly why we cast Jeremy in that role,” McKay told journalist Michael Schulman. “Because he’s not playing it like a comedy. He’s playing it like he’s Hamlet.”

The New Yorker’s profile of Strong became about as talked-about as the latest Succession episode itself. His methodology drew a mix of reactions. Some found him a little too intense.

Others remarked that he was humorless even when talking about the funniest thing that’s ever happened to Kendall.

Others dwelled on how his castmates saw him.

There were other amusing stand-out bits, too.

Others thought Strong simply came off like an actor.

Others praised his working methods, saying, effectively, whatever works.

Then again, maybe the real problem is allowing a reporter to hang around you for a lengthy New Yorker profile.

(Via The New Yorker)