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On Succession, Justine Lupe’s Willa Is Caught Up in the Fun of Connor’s Delusions

Photo: Dimitrios Kambouris/WireImage

Spoilers follow for episode two of Succession season four, “Rehearsal.”

Back in the first season of Succession, an angry Willa told Tom, “At least I’m only getting fucked by one member of this family.” In the seasons since, her relationship to Connor Roy has progressed from “getting fucked” to fiancée. In episode two of the fourth and final season of the show, the younger Roy siblings attempt to attend their brother’s rehearsal dinner, only to witness Willa walking. Apparently she deserts the affair while attempting to give her speech, leaving Connor heartbroken and tracking her every move via phone. “I think they can take it from here,” she tells Roman as she rushes from the venue. “You can’t be jumping for joy the whole time!” But by the end of the episode, she’s home in bed with Connor. “She’s willing to take the ride, as much as she acknowledges that this person is completely insane,” says Lupe. “There’s a part of her that’s endeared to it.”

Are you aware that you have a legion of gay male stans?
I’ve been told. I have a lot of gay friends, and they’ll forward me tweets. Also quite a big lesbian following that’s really rooting for Willa to get with Shiv, or maybe Jess? I’m down for it.

Maybe Kerry?
Wait, Kerry.

The power of the hair in that relationship …
The yin and yang of hair.

How do you imagine Willa and Connor’s first interaction? What were they like back when she was an escort?
Roman describes her as a party girl turned escort — this chick that used to hang out at parties and certain men would pay her to be their date. Alan and I described it as, she was getting ready to go to a party and went to a bar with some friends. They met up at this bar and it quickly became this transactional interaction. She had done this before casually, and then he took it to the next level.

Do you think she was trying to be a playwright when they met?
I imagine she came to New York to have an artistic experience and start a career. And then she realized how expensive it is to live in New York. She probably didn’t have much support from her parents, so she was like, I have to find a way to make this artist’s life work. I need some lucrative opportunity to arise. It was probably something a couple of her friends had done. When I was in my early 20s in L.A., I had a friend who did it. Guys paid her to go on dates and be, like, the best date ever. She was also an artist and an actress. She never ran into any dramatic experiences. It was a casual endeavor on the side that made her some good money.

When does Willa’s façade as the “perfect date” start to slip?
The Thanksgiving episode was the first time I tapped into that. I had this moment at the table with all these people saying these really cruel things to each other. On the first take, I was highly reactive to everything that was happening. Then I had a talk with the director Adam Arkin and he was like, “Remember that she was hired to not let this sway her. This is her job: to come in here and not be rocked by any of this and be a fun, breezy, easy date.” Then there’s the Tom interaction when she bites back. She’s not afraid of being like, “Oh you want to fuck with me? We’ll play.”

Does she still consider herself to be hired?
No. It’s evolved into a real relationship. I don’t think she thinks of it as a job anymore.

The turning point for me with Willa is Mo’s funeral. It played like she was willing to step up to the chess match for the first time, and she’s looking out for Connor.
There’s an uneven power dynamic. She needs his money to finance her career, her life, and you see him helping her fiscally. But as time goes on, you see that she’s stepping into a position of protector for him, like a wolf den mother. They still have this kooky energy between them, but you really see her observing what’s happening and rising into her power.

Does she have a better read on the family than he does?
Her role in this family is sitting on the sidelines and watching what’s going on. She doesn’t get into the toxic banter or these strange relationships. She’s not very emotionally tied into what’s going on between them, whereas Connor has a lifetime of trauma that’s really explored in season three — how overlooked he feels, how beaten down he feels, all the non-action he feels. She has a more objective read since her point of view isn’t skewed by years and years of toxic trauma.

Do you think she tries to explain it to Connor?
I think it was episode one or two of last season where Logan is sitting there telling everybody what their job is and she steps in and asks, “What about Connor?” She does it publicly, and he takes note of it. They probably have heart-to-hearts about the way the family treats him. You see it happening at the end of last season, where he’s venting; that’s the thing that kind of drives her into accepting his proposal. She’s like, “You’re a good guy.” She sees the pain he’s in and she’s like, “Okay, fuck it. Let’s do it.”

It is interesting to hear you call him a good guy. In Esquire recently, Kieran Culkin was asked to rank the Roys from good to bad, and he put Connor as the worst Roy because he bought a person. What do you think of that?
It’s tough because, not to sound too woo-woo, but I’ve been living inside this dynamic for six years, and I would disagree. It might have started in a way that’s a little taboo and bizarre, and yes, it’s not what I would call a perfect relationship, but in terms of ranking the relationships on this show, I’d say they’re sadly one of the more healthy dynamics.

I love their companionship, as bizarre and strange as it is.

How does Willa’s play flopping change her relationship to Connor? Before, there was the goal of him financing it. But then she stays.
Based on my own experiences of shame and denial and ego burn, you get really vulnerable really quickly. The relationships in your life are the things that anchor you in those moments when you have no control over an artistic endeavor. The only thing you have going for you is your connection to your friends and family. She feels incredibly vulnerable and scared, and it probably draws her even closer to Connor. He is her life at that moment. There is something real there, a reliability, and he cares about her. There’s a sense of affirmation she gets from him when the shit hits the fan.

What does his support look like for Willa beyond financial?
His energy is not terrible to be around. Willa, in my mind, has a little bit of a Scorpio vibe. She’s got some intensity and grittiness and heaviness. And she’s pretty cool in terms of the way she handles the world. Connor is the opposite. He’s really bubbly and not grounded. It might take some of the gravity off life to be with someone who’s so far out and delusional. She has fun with his delusion, even though she judges it.

Then why does she leave during her speech at the rehearsal?
I imagine they don’t have a highly sexual relationship. It’s a real companionship and friendship, and there’s a lot of affection and love, but it’s not the most romantic relationship, and there aren’t feelings of passion. Willa freaks out because it’s a huge commitment. She’s not delusional. She’s actually quite thoughtful and aware of what she’s getting into. She’s like, I need to get away and have a moment where I process this and have a cathartic blowout.

Your big scene is not between you and Connor but you and the three siblings. What is her relationship to them?
It’s funny because that’s the first time you see Willa being vulnerable with them. She never gives them anything. She’s just having a manic spiral. She runs into the wrong people at the wrong time. Probably afterward, she was like, What the fuck was I doing? Why did I go there with these people? It just happened to be the siblings, and you see that they don’t offer her any kind of consolation, and she doesn’t want anything from them. She’s purging on them, and then she abandons them.

They have spent a lot of time together. How do you think she regards them?
There’s a certain level of personal awareness in knowing that, while she’ll be there as a partner and support her dude, this is not her vibe and she doesn’t want to drop into the chaos. She sees that when you get involved with these people, you get torn apart. There’s no safe space in this family. Even watching them, if you put your head into what it must be like to be one of these people, it’s terrifying. It’s anxiety inducing for me to watch them. Willa sees that.

Does she have friends?
They’re not close friends. She’s got her artistic community of actors and other writers and directors that she mingles with.

After the rehearsal dinner, Connor tracks Willa to an aquarium-supply retailer, a dry-cleaning place, and then the Williamsburg Bridge.
My God! Those must have been revisions, because that was not in the script. That’s amazing.

What do you think she does on her night out?
My mind immediately goes to her wandering through the streets of New York having an existential dilemma. Maybe there’s a moment on the bridge. I imagine she probably went and partied a little bit in Williamsburg. What else is there to do in Williamsburg besides go to Whole Foods and the Apple Store? And those are probably shut down at that time. She’s letting off some steam.

Is this tracking something Willa is comfortable with?
I have a friend who’s the personal-assistant–slash–girlfriend of a very huge star. In their relationship, the boundaries are precarious. Her whole life is catering to him and making sure he’s okay and taken care of, and that he does everything he needs to do to function in the world. And that comes with him tracking her phone. She tracks his phone. It’s an incredibly codependent relationship. That’s how I imagine this one. I do feel that there’s room for her to go do her art and theater, but even that is heavily monitored.

He feels like it’s a betrayal when she turns it off.
With anyone else, that would break them. But because Connor’s so loony tunes, he internalizes it but it’s not a deal breaker. Willa comes back and I imagine she’s like, “This is what I needed. Now I’m here and let’s just let it go.”

Can you take me to the moment she decides to come back, as you imagine it?
She sees Connor’s face in her head. She really cares about Connor. There is, weirdly, a certain kind of soulmate thing going on. There is a cosmic thing going on here. I know this sounds far out, but I’ve been in situations like this and it’s like a Bang! This is someone I care about. It’s like, Okay, I’m going to go through with this. I do care about this person. I do love this person. Is it everything? No, it’s not everything. But I’m going back.

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Justine Lupe’s Willa Is in on the Fun of Connor’s Delusions