chat room

Succession’s Nicholas Braun Feels the ‘Weird Energy’ Between Greg and Tom Too

Photo: Arturo Holmes/WireImage

In this week’s episode of Succession, Nicholas Braun plays chicken. Until now, Cousin Greg has been aligned with Kendall (Jeremy Strong) all season, and he begins this ep by assuring him that he’s a “sturdy birdy” — moments before defecting to Uncle Logan (Brian Cox) under the influence of a morning rum and Coke. Later in the episode, Tom (Matthew Macfadyen) tries to goad Greg into tussling in a last-ditch attempt to overpower somebody, anybody, at Waystar. “Let’s fight like chickens,” he caws, punching Greg in the arm. But Tom’s rebuffed, a first for Braun’s character, who’s slowly growing into his suit this season. Greg the Egg has hatched. We spoke with Braun about deleted takes, romantic prospects, tackling Matthew Macfadyen, and Greg’s special watch.

Greg is torn between two sides this season. He has more leverage than ever, but there’s this anxiety that both factions are setting him up to be a sacrificial lamb. To what degree is he getting played by both sides versus playing both sides? 
I think Greg has a lot of trouble making a decision right now because this is uncharted territory for him. The scenario is really high stakes. But also there are these totally unrelated things, like a friendship with Kendall is great. He gets to go to cool parties and hang out with this guy who’s the hottest, wokest guy in the world. Maybe aligning with him is right morally. But if you have turned on Logan, you’ve turned on him forever; he’ll never let you back in because loyalty is everything. So he’s torn. He knows he does have leverage. He’s worth a lot if Logan can swing him — that removes another thing Kendall claims as his own. I think the decision gets made for him when the power of Logan presents itself.

There’s so much physical comedy in that scene with Brian Cox: the way you’re gripping the glass, wiping a stain, chugging your drink. How many ways did you play that scene? In general, how many of the physical decisions with Greg are yours, versus direction or in the script? 
I haven’t seen it yet. But there was something in there that was like, Greg’s hand is shaky because Logan has to say, “You’re shaking like a leaf.” So some of that comes out of that stage direction, but it’s more that I tried to find behavioral things that help you understand what’s happening in Greg’s head. He’s always trying to do the right thing, so a lot of it comes out of that. Like, I’ll prove that I’m respectful of you so I’m gonna wipe that stain off because I value your home. And I’m going to chug that. So you’re saying the chugging did stay?

Oh, the chugging stays. 
I think he’s like, I’m also a badass, I can I do whatever the fuck I want to, just like you, Logan! A lot of that stuff is improv that happens on the day. I don’t think I was chugging in the script, but they set me up with an energy that Greg is in through the writing. So I’ll try this, try a different ending here; maybe I want to not drink that drink all at once, he is not in my eyeline, I don’t like the drink. When we’re filming, it’s very free and you see whatever works. We shoot enough takes that we always get these freebie takes that are kind of anomalous.

So you’re saying there’s a version of this scene where Logan walks away and you spit your drink back into the glass?
There actually could be. That feels familiar.

At the end of that scene, you say something like, “I don’t know how you did it in the ’60s. Different times … better times? Not for all.” It’s funny, and it kind of echoes Kendall’s “fuck the patriarchy” moment — cringe wokeness attempts from these Über-privileged boys. Do you think Greg still has more of a moral compass compared to the rest of the Roys? Or has he become just as self-(pre)serving?
I think he does. He doesn’t live in the total insulation of the rest of these guys. That’s what’s so great about this writing: Every time Kendall says something about the women wronged at Waystar and what we’ve got to do, it just rings false and feels empty. Every move that’s happening and every conversation about that stuff, it’s all a deeper play for power or just to be liked more. But Greg might be saying these things with actual, real feeling behind it. At least that’s how I feel. I think he does have some empathy.

As a viewer, I’m guarding myself. We’re all sympathetic to Greg, but he could still have a heel-turn and be fully corrupted. 
Overall, that is happening for Greg. His earnestness and his morals are getting chipped away. They’re not serving him so well. If you want to hang around, you have to harden a bit more. He’s been put through enough shit that he’s less puppy-doggish.

You and Tom have one of the most interesting dynamics on any show. This episode’s scene in your windowless office is amazing — he’s a bully at his breaking point, just totally lashing out at you. Can you walk me through filming that scene?
We were locked in immediately, Matthew and I. We did the rehearsal and we found the blocking that felt like it made sense. He comes in and he’s smashing muffins, and then he walks over to me and everything feels claustrophobic in that corner with him looming over my shoulder, and I have to spin toward him in my chair. All those little micro-blocking moves set up the blueprint for the scene to work. Matthew and I know this relationship, and we know how to execute this writing. We tried to bring all the context the relationship has into that scene. It’s really layered at this point.

When he says he’d castrate you and make you his wife, shit’s getting psychosexual. Where do you think their dynamic is heading as their power balance continues to teeter? 
He can’t bully him forever, (a) because we’ve seen it a lot, and (b) because Greg sees through some of that now, whereas he used to be more intimidated by it. I don’t know how that scene plays, but I hope it feels like, if Tom is this many rungs above Greg, Greg climbs up a few in that scene. I think Greg gains a little more respect from him, which scares Tom. He needs Greg as the one that’s way below him, who will never get to his level. The threat of that is very real for him. I don’t think it can get more tense or more unhealthy of a relationship than it already has. Things are shifting. And there’s so much comfort in this relationship for them, because Tom gets to be not as wound up as he is around the rest of the family. And Greg has someone he can share certain things with. There’s a lot of good underneath all this weird energy.

Did you film a version of this scene where you did end up wrestling Tom? 
I don’t think we did a full wrestle. I think the most that happened, whether or not it’s in the show, is a football tackle where I pushed him all the way to the other wall. That was fun, trying to move Matthew’s big body. That was the most athletic thing I’ve done in a long time.

In that scene, Greg says he wants to work in parks. Something that’s bugged me since the first episode of Succession is that Waystar Royco is supposed to be this massive, Disney-size corporation, but that theme park looks janky as hell. 
It’s true. It’s a suffering division of the company. Maybe Greg wants to make it less shitty.

That would be a nice diversion of a subplot for season four. 
There was a scene that we filmed once in season one and once in season two where Tom is running a meeting. He asks for ideas, like “What can we improve in parks and cruises?” He fires a guy and is super-volatile to show that he’s not the guy to fuck with, that he’s the new boss. I think it was the season-one spitball session where he’s like, “Okay, who’s got an idea? Greg!” And I was like, “Uhhhh, maybe ‘world’s biggest petting zoo?’ Like a huge, massive petting zoo?” And he’s like, “That’s a fucking terrible idea” and uses me to be a punching bag. But yeah, Greg needs to do some improving in Buffalo Waystar.

Your character has always been the punching bag. In real life, your portrayal of that character has made you extremely not that. There are girls posted up at Ray’s trying to meet you all over my TikTok feed.
I can’t really comment. It’s just a crazy thing. I don’t know. It’s bizarre.

I know it’s weird to bring it up, but it’s a part of the narrative of watching this season: Here’s this HBO show about old white guys in suits doing business with all this baroque dialogue, and the fandom is engaging with it like it’s The Vampire Diaries. There are fancams for it. There’s this really unexpected, maybe unintended, fan relationship to the actors and the characters.
I didn’t realize the extent to which the internet takes a show and invents their own stuff with it. Like, their Twitter names become character names from the show, and they make the fancams. You know, they cut a trailer where Tom and Greg are in a romantic comedy. I don’t know if you’ve seen that one, but that’s a good re-envisioning. These people are really impressive, and I guess it shows their dedication to these characters. It’s just not what I would think loving a show means, that things are GIF-ed the minute they’re aired. The moment something happens on Sunday night, it’s already on the internet being commented on. It’s very 2021, I guess. But more than anything, I am psyched to be a part of something that people watch in a big way. So many things you work hard on, and you want people to love, and you’re like, This is gonna be great and huge! And it’s hard to get people to watch things.

Dasha Nekrasova from Red Scare shares a lot of scenes with you this season. It feels like this Lower East Side meta crossover event. Did you know her prior to filming, and is Greg going to have a love interest this season?
I did not know Dasha before we started filming. I had listened to her podcast a little bit, so it was a crazy coincidence that she got on the show. And she’s just awesome — everyone really enjoyed having her on the show. She’s very much her own energy. I don’t know what to speak on for the rest of the season with our characters, but there’s definitely a mutual … No, I probably shouldn’t say anything. It should be really fun for the audience. I’m not gonna say anything about a relationship.

Last thing: Did you get to keep Greg’s watch? 
No, I didn’t get to keep that thing. But I did buy my own watch recently. I’m not sure whether Greg just stayed in me a little bit, but I started really wanting a watch in the last few months, and I finally pulled the trigger. So now I’m even closer to Greg than I was before.

That’s beautiful. That’s Gregception. 
He’s taking me over.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Nicholas Braun Feels the ‘Weird Energy’ Between Greg and Tom