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Succession’s Zoë Winters on Kerry’s Apartment Showdown and Failed ATN Audition

Photo: Miikka Skaffari/Getty Images

Spoilers follow for Succession season four episode four, “Honeymoon States.”

Kerry Castellabate has had a tough few days in Succession land. First, her audition tape for an anchor position at ATN made its way around the office, to the general ridicule of upper management and the Roy siblings. Then her boss and lover Logan died on a transatlantic flight — an event to which she could only grin — and her attempt to get her belongings from his Manhattan apartment got immediately terminated by Logan’s vindictive wife, Marcia.

It’s a rough break for the woman who put all her eggs in Logan’s basket and long seemed impervious to criticism while climbing her way up from his assistant, a role she took on late in season two. But it’s an exciting time for actor Zoë Winters, who got to explore a much different side of her character in the wake of the Waystar patriarch’s death. “In the audition, we saw moments of vulnerability. Then we saw her in shock, and then in four, we saw her in disrepair. It has been so satisfying to get to explore that interior life.”

Let’s start with Kerry and Marcia’s confrontation. Kerry knows Marcia doesn’t want her at the apartment, but she’s still trying to get upstairs. What do you think motivates her?
She’s received this message from Marcia — something along the lines of, “I’m here now and you’re not welcome.” She is broken and also determined to try to salvage anything of her life that she can. She was hugely protected by and reliant on this person that has gone, so she knows she has limited time. I don’t think she’s trying to make a scene. I don’t think she wants to do it on this day. I don’t think she wants to run into anyone. She wants to try to blend in, get up those stairs, maybe get some proof, maybe get some belongings, maybe get some mementos, and get out of there.

Did you talk about what would be in her bag? It’s like it’s a prescription and some makeup and a few other items.
The prop department is incredible in being very specific. You look in your bag and definitely see the belongings of your character. All of those things were very thought out. And then, in the apartment, she’s looking for some jewelry or things she’s gotten through the years of their courtship.

It was interesting how much sympathy Roman seems to have for Kerry as Marcia kicks her out. Maybe he’s just trying to defuse the situation, but he reaches out and tries to get her personal number. How did you approach that dynamic with Kieran?
Roman sees that her single ally is gone. In that moment, I felt him come to me and hold the space for me in this indignant act of picking up your belongings on the ground while everyone’s staring at you. He reaches out for a moment, however brief, and she lunges for it because she has no one else.

Kerry first appeared in the background of the seventh episode of season two. How much did you know initially about who this person would be?
When I came in, she was just his assistant. I had no idea it would turn into anything. With my audition, in one conversation she’s telling Logan that she can book a flight, and then in another conversation she’s telling Shiv that she’s booked the flight. But I had watched the show and was a fan and I wanted to make a choice that I thought would be in line with the voice of the show. I made her have a real point of view and I made her very loyal to him and then very rude to Shiv. And I think that that’s what started this dynamic.

I’ve talked a lot about what it is to be an assistant or in a position where you are keeping the secrets of somebody who’s very powerful and very much on the international stage. If I were to have that job — well, first of all, I wouldn’t work for him — but if I were someone else and I had that job, I would stay out of the way and just try to do my work and not get into anything. I wanted Kerry to get in the way. I wanted her to be inserting herself into conversations and rooms where she shouldn’t necessarily be.

Also, my initial insight with her was that she joined this company at the height of a sexual-misconduct scandal with these Waystar Cruise senate hearings. I was like, who joins a company at that point?

Do you think of her as being a true believer in Logan’s brand of conservatism?
She has terrifying political views. She is even further right than Logan in a way. We saw her in season three pushing this fascist, racist political candidate [Justin Kirk’s Jeryd Mencken] with looks toward Logan across the couch. I don’t know if she necessarily wanted to be a news anchor, and I don’t know necessarily if she still wants to be a news anchor, despite what everyone’s saying, but she wants to be a political commentator. She wants to have a voice in politics and on the international stage.

My backstory around the ATN audition was that they are selling the company and have to carve out ATN at an extremely important time with this seminal election about to happen and the world holding its breath. I don’t think Kerry is after money; I think she’s after power. From power comes money and from money comes power, so it’s hard to disconnect those things at times, but what she wants is a voice. If Waystar’s gone, we’re left with ATN, and she could be part of delivering this narrative that controls, as we all know, so much of this country.

When you were taping her ATN audition, how did you approach playing something that has to read wrong for an anchor, but right for whatever Kerry thinks she’s trying to do?
Kerry thought that audition was a formality. She didn’t want it to seem like a nepotism grab or a favor hire, so she was like, All right, I’ll do this chore because they all think I have this relationship with the boss. She knows she was uncomfortable, but I don’t think she knows she was as bad as she was. But also, she thinks it’s hers.

Then there’s charm. There’s pressure on women in general to have charm, and it’s definitely magnified if you have a media presence. I studied political presenters and TV hosts, but I wanted that audition to ultimately be Kerry’s idea of charm — her look, her outfit, her hair, and her smile. She’s like, “this is what charm looks like.” Everyone’s like, “Nope!” The discomfort of it is that she’s trying to appeal to an audience and that’s not in her vocabulary. Kerry doesn’t care to appeal to an audience.

In episode three, Kerry is so shocked after Logan’s death that she can’t stop smiling. Karl calls her “Chuckles the clown.” What was going through her head there?
They’ve talked in interviews about shooting the entire boat scene in a take. We did it on the plane as well. The kids called in and were on the phone with Tom as he did the entire scene, so we ran through a number of pages of text in that scene, too. Mostly, the camera’s with the old guard in the back of the plane, but in the front of the plane there was a lot of chaos, a lack of information, questioning, fear, shock, lack of absorption of reality, watching Tom try to deliver this news or soften news that was clearly right in front of us. I got to go through that whole scene. In the finished episode, you don’t see her initially, which I thought was amazing on the editor’s part, because then when she comes through those doors, you’re like, Oh, this person’s here!

So much of what I love about this show and the writing is it’s so human. Grief and shock are so strange. It was written that she’s having this strange reaction and maybe she has some giggles or moments of strange smiling. I loved that. How we process shock and how we process loss can be so disorienting.

It’s interesting to see her react in real time: This is maybe not the appropriate response. And then also, Do I need to be involved? These people are probably going to cut her out because she has so few allies.
Suddenly she’s lost her protector. She sees this barrier of all these people who have probably been putting on a good face because she has this relationship with Logan. She has his ear and now he’s gone. She’s in shock, and then she’s processing that she could be in a lot of trouble.

It’s fascinating to watch that side of her, because so much of what we’ve seen of Kerry is her being in a very protected place.
She’s been impenetrable up until now. In the audition, we saw moments of vulnerability. Then we saw her in shock, and then in four, we saw her in disrepair. It has been so satisfying to get to explore that interior life, because it’s all there. It’s just about what you don’t show.

One choice I’ve made throughout is that she’s kind of been tickled by Logan. I’ve smiled at him a lot, and maybe in the beginning I was scared of him, but then in episode one of this season, I made sure that when he’s having a moment of frustration, she’s not intimidated by it anymore. She’s charmed by it, she’s his fan.

Kerry and Juliana Canfield’s Jess, who’s Kendall’s assistant, are the two big assistant characters on Succession. As far as I can tell, you haven’t been in a scene together, but you’ve both come up through New York theater. Being on this together, have you gotten to talk about the assistant life?
We’ve thought of a whole spinoff series about the assistants. Sometimes our backstories interconnect. Juliana’s a really, really good friend of mine. I would’ve loved to have had some scenes with her. That would’ve been so satisfying. But in our spinoff series, there’s going to be a lot.

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Succession’s Zoë Winters on Kerry’s Apartment Showdown