(Editor’s Note: The following story contains big spoilers for the series finale of “Succession”.)
Jeremy Strong nearly dived into the Hudson River for the sake of playing Kendall Roy.
During the shocking series finale “Succession”, Kendall (Strong) is shown sitting in Battery Park facing the water after her sister Shiv (Sarah Snook) votes against hiring her as CEO, and subsequently agreed to the sale of the their family conglomerate. Strong shared an exit interview from ‘Succession’. Vanity Fair which was inspired by creator Jesse Armstrong’s admiration for poet John Berryman, who died by jumping into a frozen river.
“I tried to get into the water after we cut – I got off that bench and went as fast as I could over the barrier and up the poles, and the actor who played (bodyguard) Colin (Scott Nicholson) is over,” Strong told Vanity Fair. “I didn’t know I was going to do it, and he didn’t know it, but he ran up to me and stopped me. I don’t know if I felt at the time that Kendall just wanted to die—I think he did—or if he essentially wanted to be saved by his father’s proxy.
He added, “To me, what happens on the board vote is an extinction-level event for this character. There is no going back from that.
Instead, the series ends with Kendall solemnly gazing at the water at sunset, subverting the motif of Kendall diving into the ocean during her previous successes at the Los Angeles Living+ presentation and in Barbados after her brothers agree to anoint it new “king” of Waystar Royco.
“It’s a much stronger ending philosophically, and it has more integrity to what is Jesse’s very bleak overall view of humanity — which is basically that people don’t really change,” Strong said. “They don’t do spectacular, dramatic things. Instead, there’s a sort of cycle of fate that we’re all stuck in, and Kendall’s caught in this sort of silent scream with Colin there as both her bodyguard and jailer.
Strong added if the suicide scene had to be filmed, “My God, that would have been hard to do. But I think you also feel an intention or a desire to cross that threshold on a cellular level. The way he (series creator Jesse Armstrong) leaves us with a kind of ambivalence stays true to his vision.
Series finale director Mark Mylod said Variety that Strong was “right in the zone” during the final scene, making the “gravitational pull of the water on the character” evident.
“We reveal that Colin is behind him in this element of Banquo’s Ghost, although I think that’s my innuendo, not the script,” Mylod said. “Jeremy was certainly very anxious to get down to the seaside. So we moved our action over there and then hit what was, to me, a gold theme. We did a 10-minute take with 1,000-foot roll of film and kept rolling. It was crazy cold – it was literally the coldest day of the year. The wind chill was something less in Fahrenheit, and it was absolute purgatory to shoot. Jeremy initially felt nothing but cold.
Regarding the supposed final scene, Mylod said, “There was an element of safety, obviously, with Jeremy stepping into freezing waters. The first thing to do was make sure he was safe. Once we got it back over the railing, we were able to safely continue with the moment because both actors were still involved.