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Succession’s Arian Moayed on Why Stewy Is the Son Logan Always Wanted

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The savviest, smartest businessperson in HBO’s Succession is not Logan Roy, and it’s not any of his kids. It very well may be Stewy Hosseini, the deft negotiator, friend (sort of? maybe?) of Kendall Roy, and, as of this season, major stakeholder in Waystar Royco, played with fabulous slickness by Arian Moayed.

As the preview for this week’s episode, “Chiantishire,” indicates, Stewy will be back in the Succession picture Sunday night as the possibility of a Waystar Royco acquisition of the streamer known as GoJo is debated and discussed. Moayed recently spoke to Vulture to provide some insight into Stewy’s behavior this season, how he feels about Kendall at this point, and why many viewers get such a charge out of the character. The actor also spoke a bit about his role in the excellent second season of Love Life, and on that front, please know there are some spoilers about that near the end of this interview.

At the end of episode four, we see Stewy and Josh (Adrien Brody) hugging each other on the tarmac and Kendall stewing about that interaction. 
No pun intended.

What is the relationship between Stewy and Josh?
That’s the beauty of Succession: What are the relationships with any of these characters? They obviously have a very warm greeting, and it’s obvious that he was expecting me to come the entire time because he kept taking phone calls from me or my people while he was eating with Logan and Ken. I think, like all people that deal with Stewy, there is a real desire to make sure the bottom line is represented best. There’s so much turmoil in the Roy family that a bit of straight-and-narrow Stewy can be seductive for someone like Adrien’s character.

The way they greet each other — we did a bunch of takes of that. There was a little shot that didn’t make it where he had a Porsche, and then we laughed and got into the Porsche, and he skidded off. It was hilarious. It’s like what Stewy had with Kendall: There is a relationship of having a good time and also thinking about that bottom line.

I think seeing the two of them aligned is threatening to Kendall after he has just met with Josh. But also, Kendall is trying to be the cool guy that everybody likes and is easy to get along with, but he’s not. I wonder, too, if there is some jealousy because Stewy is easier for people to feel comfortable with.
Yeah, I think that definitely has something to do with it. I mean, I don’t want to speak for Kendall, but he really wants to be admired throughout the series. He’s so desperate to be loved and thought of as a big deal. That is understandable in this kind of world, but it’s also his downfall. Jesse always does this with Stewy, but at the end of season two, he basically says, “Listen, all this shit that you’re saying, none of this matters. All that’s of interest is that I am going to make more money than your team. And not even that much more, just a little bit more.” One of the things I thought is really hard for Kendall is that he is trying to be someone he isn’t by being cool or saying what I call “business-ese.” He throws in a bunch of business-ese conversations that make it seem like he knows what he’s talking about, but it’s mumbo jumbo.

All the stuff he does, even in this last shareholders meeting — it’s all so cringey. Stewy is allergic to all that. That’s what makes him so likable and hateable at the same time: He tells you the truth. He’s like, “I’m not dealing with any of that shit, dude.” Kendall’s screwed Stewy over two or three times now. It really doesn’t feel like that’s a relationship that’s going to be fruitful. That being said, at the end of episode five, what’s kind of genius is that Stewy is now sucked into the Waystar Royco world. He’s deeply in it now. You’re gonna have to deal with Stewy on a much greater level because now he’s no longer your enemy. He is your “partner” with a lot of stakes and four board seats.

In that episode, in your first scene, the way you entered the room — I laughed because you just glided in. There was such confidence. Was that physicality intentional?
I’ll say this first and foremost: The actor in me is nervous because we don’t rehearse. Walking into a big scene like that with a bunch of cameras that are shooting on film can be nerve-racking, so I really appreciate you saying that. Put yourself in Stewy’s shoes. When they were in Croatia or Greece or wherever the hell they were, Logan and Kendall came to Stewy asking for a deal. They were hat in hand. We weren’t hat in hand. At the end of the day, what do Stewy and Sandy and Sandi have to lose?

Also in that episode, you, Sandy, and Sandi are negotiating with the Roys. The younger Sandi offers a deal where the three of you maintain veto rights over any Roy family member taking over as CEO. I was wondering if, after meeting with Kendall, Stewy might have suggested they block a Roy from being CEO. Am I overthinking? 
No, I could see that. I mean, I don’t know the answer to your question, but I could totally see that. There is a real deep understanding that this is not just a merger but a power grab. I can imagine that both sides are kind of like, “Let’s fucking end this and move forward.” Stewy really does want to make the deal because it would be a stronger political stance for him and Sandi.

That being said, I think that Stewy, Sandi, and Sandy do not want the Roys as CEOs moving forward. I feel like there isn’t a true successor. I give all the credit to Jesse, but in Stewy’s first scene of the whole series, he basically says, “You want Shiv to run this thing? You want Roman to run this thing? Connor’s obviously a no, and Logan’s a dinosaur.”

For Stewy and Kendall — and this is where their relationship from their high-school days is really kind of key — these guys have been desperate to win it all one day. They have two different approaches to it: Kendall wants to be upfront and center and be on the news. I think that’s why he does the PR campaigns. Stewy definitely wants to be on the more hidden view of it all. A part of me thinks, at the end of the day, their goal is the same: more money, more power.

But do you think Stewy would still be interested in winning with Kendall as a partner?
It depends. Stewy wants to win. Stewy has said over and over again to Kendall that they don’t love you. He’s just being honest, so I don’t think Stewy thinks Kendall can do it. That being said, I think he is emotionally and physically and mentally and spiritually for anyone who wins. I think that’s why I’m hesitating — because if there’s something that’s on the table at the end of it all that makes Kendall CEO and gets him to be top dog, that’s possible.

I don’t know if you’ve spent any time on Reddit looking at the various threads about Stewy.
Yeah, I have many friends that do that for me. Where are you gonna go with this? [Laughs.]

Some of the names of the threads are “Stewy is kind of a badass,” “Stewy is great.” Why do you think people respond so positively to him? Is it purely his confidence and the fact that he’s more shrewd than some of the Roys?
He’s the son that Logan wanted. Ruthless, cunning. He’s a person of color, even though it’s not deeply investigated in the show, which I love. It’s like, that’s a person of color telling these guys to go fuck themselves. He’s not scared of Logan. He’s not scared of Kendall. He’s just not scared of any of these guys. If you look throughout the show at the moments when Stewy comes in and drops some sort of bomb, the rest of the episode and/or the actions of some of the Roys is to do what Stewy wanted. For example, in episode two of season two: “Vaulter is bullshit.” He says it on the news or whatever, and they get rid of Vaulter.

He’s constantly saying the things that people are too uncomfortable to say in front of them and says it with confidence. There’s something refreshing about that. It takes all of their family drama and says, “None of this shit matters. None of your shit matters.” I’m talking about this from a capitalistic point of view. I think there’s something really sexy for people about that. I think it’s fun for him, this Iranian — second, third generation, whoever he is — to tell these people, “You’re fucking this up, and this is stupid.” [Laughs.]

To piggyback off what you’re saying, I read the Thrillist profile of you where you mentioned that you prefer the specifics of Stewy’s Iranian background to be unmentioned on the show. I was curious why you felt that way. 
This is not about Succession or HBO or anything, but it’s a hard time for television and media to portray someone that has so much fucking agency, has so much fucking power, and is kind of a badass. Also, you’re saying all the nice, calm things that people say about Stewy. There are people that fucking hate Stewy, too. He’s not defined by him being Iranian. He’s defined by being a great businessman. It’s hard for me to parse that out right now. I think Jesse understands that better than anybody.

The other beautiful thing is I don’t think a lot of people know that he is Iranian, to be real with you, which is also fucking badass. Just like people don’t know that the CEO of Uber is also Iranian, or the person that made Google is also Iranian, or that the guy that made eBay is also Iranian. People don’t know that. They don’t need to know that. They just know that they are amazing businessmen. Being Iranian is a part of who they are, obviously, but it doesn’t define them. That’s what I think is kind of powerful about this guy.

I wanted to ask you about Love Life, which I really enjoyed. Maybe you knew this before you got your scripts, but were you surprised when your character Kian and Emily, the ex-wife of William Jackson Harper’s character, got together?
It crosses the Iranian code slightly. I also think it shows how desperate he might have been. How in that episode prior, he basically is like, “No one loves me. I want people to love me. Don’t love me for my money.” Now I’m like, “Fine, love me for my money. Love me for anything.’” I think it’s such great writing.

I know people like that in my life, and I’m sure that you do, too. There are certain people that get older, they’re desperate to have families, and so they immediately jump into relationships that might not be 100 percent, but they really want a family, especially if they start crossing over into their late 30s and early 40s. And you’re kind of like, “I don’t know if this is a match for you guys.” But you’re so desperate. I could see Kian feeling a little bit of that, and I also could see him and Emily really fucking get along. I could see that there’s something really earnest about him that’s like, “I really love her, man. What do you want me to fucking do?”

Love Life focuses on a different character and different relationships every season. Assuming there’s a third season, is it possible Kian could be the focus?
I have no idea. I think if they’re going to do another season, I’d love to see, like, a Black lesbian story. At the premiere, Punkie Johnson got up kind of jokingly on the stage pitching her character I actually would love to see that.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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Arian Moayed on Why Stewy Is the Son Logan Always Wanted