“Didn’t you get the message? I’m not letting you Neanderthals in to rape my company. Ever!” is the first true insult lobbed on Succession, seven minutes into the series premiere. “You’re a bunch of bloated dinosaurs who didn’t even notice the monkeys swinging by till yesterday. Well fuck you, daddy’s boy.” The blood is drawn by Vaulter CEO Lawrence Yee (Rob Yang), roasting premiere failson Kendall Roy (Jeremy Strong), after turning down Kendall’s attempted acquisition of Vaulter. Since Yee’s first takedown, HBO’s best boy Succession has transformed insults into status symbols, tools for domination, and entire language systems. At the red-carpet premiere of Succession’s fourth and final season, which airs March 26, we asked some of the cast about what they think about the show’s calling card.
Arian Moayed, who plays Stewie, is among the most acclaimed abusers of wit, often aimed at Kendall. “[Stewie] insults people by going under,” Moayed says. “I throw it underneath, so it’s an insult, but it’s also a power play.” A man of many words, Stewie uses insults “so that everyone in the room knows that he’s a big dick.”
Alan Ruck, meanwhile, constantly swings, but struggles to land a jab as oldest sibling Connor Roy. “They often don’t make sense,” Ruck admits of the presidential candidate’s attempts. “The others are a little sharper that way.” It’s not that Connor is the dumbest Roy. It’s that his malapropisms come from deep within. “He gets all bottled up in his emotions and things come out sideways.”
But the value of the verbal takedown is maybe best shown by the people who are uncomfortable in the big leagues of maligning. Juliana Canfield, who plays Kendall’s assistant, Jess, says that it creates a bit of a hierarchy within an already extremely hierarchical situation. “I think she’s a little impressed by it,” she says. “You have to be really smart and quick on your feet to come up with these turns of phrase, so she’s maybe jealous that she can’t do it quite like they can.” While the rest of the cast of characters can throw out lines about their compatriot’s idiocy and small dicks without a second thought, Canfield imagines Jess “walking down the hall muttering, practicing insults, and then she gets in the room and she’s like, Oh I can’t do it, it’s too mean.”
Kendall’s ex-wife, Rava Roy, who is played by Natalie Gold and gets far too little screen time, however, goes against the grain. While Kendall is obsessing over his own public image and access to celebrity, “I don’t think Rava gives a shit,” Gold says. Instead of knocking people down a peg, she leads with her “bullshit-detector face.” But Rava still gets it in when she’s pushed. In the third-season premiere, after seeing Greg (Nicholas Braun) and Naomi Pierce (Annabelle Dexter-Jones) open an expensive bottle of wine in Kendall’s bunker of shame, Rava tells them, “It’s like when someone breaks something beautiful, and it reminds you that nothing lasts.” That line, Gold says, “Is one of the best insults, and one of the best-written lines of all time. I was very pleased with that.”