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Succession’s Parking-Lot Scene Was a ‘Top-10 Worst Day’ on Set for Sarah Snook

Photo: Dave Benett/Getty Images for Harper’s Bazaar

The season-three finale of Succession does not end on a high note for Siobhan Roy (Sarah Snook). Following the penultimate episode, in which Shiv engaged in abusive pillow talk with her husband, Tom Wambsgans, and suggested Gerri Kellman would be making a mistake if she didn’t tell HR about Roman Roy’s dick pics, Shiv appeared to be riding a power wave into “All the Bells Say,” the last Succession episode of 2021.

But by the end of that hour, the Machiavellian redhead had, along with brothers Kendall and Roman, essentially been cut out of the family business by their father, who has no compulsions about mocking his only daughter to her face. (Apparently, Logan Roy doesn’t take kindly to Shiv and her siblings using the term supermajority while threatening to take him down in a coup.) She’s also betrayed by Tom, who gave Logan a heads-up about the plan to take him down. It was a lot.

Snook joined Vulture via Zoom to discuss whether Shiv actually loves Tom, what it was like to shoot the scene in which Kendall discusses his role in the death of a waiter, and how some parts of that final scene were improvised.

Let’s start with episode eight. The scene with you and Gerri was parallel to the penultimate episode of season two in which Shiv is trying to convince the woman on Capitol Hill not to testify. Now she’s saying, “Speak up,” but her motivation is the same. Did you try that scene a few different ways? 
Yeah, we did. We were also short on time when we were shooting it, and I guess it gave it that tension and need for pace. Also this is a really horrible thing but fascinating to play as an actor: Shiv’s quite good at compartmentalizing. What she’s saying is not wrong. It’s just not totally right. It’s not the thing you would hope someone does in that moment.

Well, she’s saying the right things but for the wrong reasons and motivations.
Exactly. It’s for the power grab and for the positioning and what it can get her, not what it can do for Gerri. And it’s patronizing, really. I mean, Gerri’s been in the company for many years — certainly many more years than Shiv has been in or around the company or maybe even born. Gerri is a very experienced, capable woman who doesn’t need Shiv telling her what to do or how to handle her own presumed sexual harassment, but Shiv’s entitled. And she’s got her father’s last name.

I was disappointed we didn’t get to see that situation play out further because now it seems like a moot point. But the idea of Gerri against Shiv is very intriguing to me.
Oh, totally. The writers get inspired by what happens onscreen and what collaborations or scenes work in what ways. In terms of the timeline, that’s not really that long ago from that scene to the end of the season. I can imagine a world in which they look at that and go, Oh, there’s groundwork laid. You know?

I hope so. The other major scene in that episode is between Shiv and Tom, when they’re engaging in their — quote, unquote — “banter,” and she says, “You love me even though I don’t love you.” Do you ever have moments where you’re like, My God, this is so awful. I know I’m in character, but …
Oh, totally. I was just saying to Matthew Macfadyen over text, “The scenes next season are going to be so much fun to play.” Because we barely got through them when she was being so horrible to Tom this season. Half the time we’re laughing because there are comedic lines, but mostly we’re laughing because it’s just so unbearable to say that. You’ve got no other recourse but to have a giggle. But that scene as well — they’re always on the miss. They’re miscommunicating in so many different ways. A lot of the time, Shiv thinks they’re on the same page. She’s just not aware of the subtle changes in Tom.

Do you think she meant what she said?
She’s hiding a smaller space in herself that’s scared of loving someone too much. I do think she genuinely loves Tom. I do think he’s the person for her, in her mind. But the scared little girl part of her doesn’t want to be vulnerable given her upbringing, given how she otherwise needs to relate to all the other men in her life.

Let’s talk about the finale. When did you learn that Tom was going to tip off Logan about the coup and that Shiv would realize he had done it?
It wasn’t until I read the script for the final episode. I think I had a similar sort of reaction as I did for the end of season two, which was: God. I had no idea until the end.

The scene where Kendall, Shiv, and Roman have that big conversation in which Kendall confesses to killing the waiter at Shiv’s wedding — to me, that might be the most important scene in the show so far. What was it like shooting that? Was that another situation where you were trying on different emotions and responses for size?
That scene was particularly trying in that you’re combating the elements. I think it was 35, 36 degrees Celsius. You’re getting full sun from the top and then white reflected sun from the bottom with the dust. And I’m in high heels, and it’s a 45-degree incline. There’s rocks and stones. It’s a tight dress, and my makeup is melting off. And now it’s windy. I can’t see through this eye. It was like maybe top-ten worst days on set ever in my entire career.

But I think because of that, you have to battle through and find a way to do something. In the end, that gives you more obstacles, more conflict, more to overcome. You have to double down on what you believe the scene is about for your character. In that scene, she’s got a lot going on. She’s able to compartmentalize, and when it’s useful, it’s great. But this is a really big thing: Great. Sorry, brother. Can’t deal. Dad’s about to screw us over. This is very high stakes now.

My feeling was Shiv was dismissive of Kendall as that conversation began. Once he begins talking about having killed the waiter, I think she starts taking him more seriously and feeling some sympathy for him.
Definitely. Some sympathy for sure, but it’s a tricky thing in that they’re related, they’re siblings. But the buildup of the season and the buildup of the previous seasons, to this point, lean into the distance between the siblings.

I want to talk about the scene in which you all confront Logan. There’s this moment when you say, “Hey, we have a supermajority,” and he imitates you. Was that in the script or did Brian Cox improvise that?
No, that was in the script. [Laughs.] Every time, it brought me to tears and sort of a hot flash of embarrassment because it was so, Oh my God, Dad. It’s so cutting and cruel to patronize your child by, “And it’s a supermajority.” It’s like, Ugh, God. You’re a grown man.

It felt like something he would not do to Roman or Kendall or even Connor. The fact that she’s a woman —
Yeah. He might do it to Roman, but you’re right. It’s rare that he would.

It felt very much like, You’re whining.
Yeah. You’re being hysterical.

Why do you think Logan makes this decision to sell the company and cut the kids out of the deal?
I think he kind of says it — because it’s the better deal, because he can win against us. But it’s also that he can still be in control in the way that is appropriate, I guess, for him leaving the company at this point. He’s going to retire, and he wants to know the company is going to be amazing. For Waystar to win, to succeed, it has to be — in his mind, I think — out of the hands of any of his children. Because the worst would be if he hands it to one of his children and then Waystar becomes a laughing stock and an embarrassment and a company that reduces its stock price and quality and descends.

Whereas if he hands it to someone else, he can still be in a semblance of control. And also because Lukas Mattson is not part of the family. If Mattson fails with it, Logan did a good deal and it’s no longer his fault if the company fails. I think there’s a separation of accountability.

And if he did hand it over to one of the kids and they did a better job than he did, that would be bad for him, too. He wouldn’t like that.
100 percent.

Hunter Harris, who was on set for us, mentions in her story about the last scene that there’s a version of the end in which Shiv does not see Logan clap Tom on the shoulder. When you were done shooting it, did you have a version you preferred? 
To be honest, there were multiple different versions. I think in the script, it was, “Logan slaps Tom on the back. Shiv sees.” And then that’s it. There was no Tom entering the room. We were given freedom to perform the fallout: what happens after Logan leaves the room, apart from the backslap that Shiv does or doesn’t see. It was really fun to be able to do that; I think at one point, Kendall threw a phone, and there was more Roman trying to solicit kindness from the top tier.

Seeing the ending as the edit in the episode — and seeing where they cut as well — is like, Oh, I want to know. I want to know what happens to Shiv now. I want to know what happens to everybody in the next season. That’s so juicy to leave it there.

Just so I understand: In the script that you got initially, the ending just stopped after Logan left, basically? 
No, no, no. The script: Logan leaves. There’s the bit with Roman and the top tier, then there’s the backslap. I don’t think in the script there was, “Hey, Shiv,” from Tom.

He comes in, and he’s concerned and all that stuff.
That’s not scripted.

In terms of what was being said by you and Tom, that was up to you to fill in the blanks?
From the backslap on, and from Shiv seeing that, I’m pretty sure the rest of it is improvised. Because originally, if it was just that backslap, and you see Shiv, then that’s it. You don’t see Tom and Shiv come together, and you don’t see them do anything. There’s no proximity.

When you talked to Hunter, you said you like the idea of the finale being a cliffhanger. And it is because Kendall realizes Tom ratted them out to Logan. Obviously, Shiv does. Tom doesn’t know Shiv knows. And Roman doesn’t seem to know anything because he’s too upset to pay attention. Those different levels of knowledge are fascinating.
It’s brilliant, yeah. I think that’s something Succession does really well: the different levels of knowledge everybody has at one time. We love performing them, and I think Jesse likes writing them and the writers like writing them. It is an ensemble show, so when we have these conflicting objectives and differing levels of knowledge at a table with ten people in the scene, it’s brilliant because there’s all these cross-purposes. There’s the cross-purpose between Roman and Gerri that there’s a relationship there. Then there’s the Tom and Shiv bit. It’s a very rich melting pot.

At this point, have you had any conversations about the next season? 

So you have no idea where it’s going to go?
No, which was the feeling when it ended. I was like [gasps], Not even I know. God, I want to know something.

Do you know when they start writing again? I know it just ended, but I’m like, Let’s go. Come on.
Me too. I don’t know even if they’ve thought about that. It would be shooting at some point next year, but who knows if that’s the beginning, end, or middle, you know?

Do you look at how people react online after an episode like the finale? It generated a huge amount of conversation. I have to think you’d be a little curious about what people were saying.
I don’t seek it out, but I’m aware of it in that sometimes things will come on the Succession thread. I’ve heard there are a few memes of that last Shiv look.

There are a ton of the three of you when you have your hand on Kendall’s head. 
Yeah. There’s one I saw that I was like, Oh, wow. That’s very good directing that we were not even aware of: the repetition of the three of us in the scene with Kendall and the dust bowl and then the three of us again at the end.

I think J. Smith Cameron posted this on the Succession thread, on our little message board with each other, about Sporus and how Nero pushes his wife down the stairs. I was like, Oh, man, that’s so clever. I didn’t even think of that. Obviously, the writers know what they’re doing, and they’re feeding those kinds of things in there and layering it all. It’s so smart.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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